Is This "The World's First Solar Powered Air-Conditioning Unit"?

Solar panels on a roof with an HVAC system.

alacatr / Getty Images

Inhabitat calls it the "World's first solar powered air conditioning unit", as does the Shandong Vicot Air Conditioning Company. That is a rather grand statement, given that another Chinese company, BROAD, has beendoing it for years, and there are direct solar powered air conditioners installed from Brooklyn to Dubai.

From the looks of it and the description, it appears to be a direct-fired absorption system, where the reflector supplies heat that vaporizes a refrigerant, which absorbs heat when it condenses. Propane fridges work this way.
According to SolarServer, "The company claims an 85% thermal cooling efficiency and the ability to deliver 24-hour continuous cooling, heating and hot water. If there is not enough sun, it can run on natural gas. Since the unit generates heat, it can also supply hot water and heating. Unfortunately, it does not appear to be sized for domestic use. More at Inhabitat
If It's The First, What Are These?

Solar Air Powered Air Conditioning Comes To Dubai

solar air conditioner dubai image

One of the reasons we have been so dubious about Dubai is the energy consumption required to keep people cool there; they even air condition the beaches. But if there is one thing they have lots of, it is sunlight; that's why we have always considered solar powered air conditioning the holy grail that will make places from Dubai to Phoenix sustainable.

1. Solar Powered Air Conditioning Just Makes Sense

solar air conditioner china photo

Some concepts just make sense- like when the developer of a solar powered pontoon boat pointed out-"Since most recreational boating is done when the weather is nice, solar power is particularly well adapted to the task." We were thinking that way while looking for a solar powered air conditioner- when do you need it? When it is hot and sunny. We looked at Justin's SolCool but we knew that natural gas fired AC units or propane fridges existed and thought heat is heat- there must be one somewhere, and put google to work. This is the first of a series- the Direct-Fired Absorption system.(DFA)

2. Challenge: Build the Solar Powered Air Conditioner

Migrated Image

We continue to be fascinated by the idea of a solar powered air conditioner, particularly after reading this in Alternet. Until central air became common, Florida and Arizona were barely habitable- you went in winter and cleared out. Now 20% of our energy goes to power air conditioning, and it defines the peak loads. 5.5% of our gasoline goes to power our car air conditioning, and four southern states-California, Arizona, Texas and Florida, account for 35% of it. Clearly if we are going to use less energy we have to address this problem. So here is a challenge to all you Lifehacker and Make types- build it for us. And not a lame ice-cooled pretend air conditioner but the real thing. Here are some ideas and parameters:

3. The Sun Lizard - Solar Air Conditioning

solar air conditioner australia

Asks an Australian if they've been busy or not, and they might reply, "Mate, I've been flat out. Like a lizard drink'n." Colin Gillam, CEO of Alternative Fuels and Energy may well give just such an answer regarding his Sun Lizard solar heating/cooling project. Especially as he has been working on it for the past 16 years. His persistence finally paid off when last month he was scored both the judge's vote, and the people's choice vote on the ABC New Inventors TV show.

4. Coolerado Coolers: Getting Close to Solar Powered Air Conditioning

coolerado coolers

We are intrigued by the idea of solar powered air conditioning; it is just so logical as you need it most when the sun is blazing. Right now the heavy-handed approach is to spend a lot of money on photovoltaics to run conventional units; there has to be a lower cost, more efficient way.

5. Small-Scale Solar Powered Air Conditioning Is Here (in Spain, Anyways)

rotarica solar air conditioner photo
Migrated Image

For years we have been saying that solar powered air conditioning just makes sense- if you are boiling in Phoenix the sun is probably shining really hard. We have seen big units, evaporative units that won't work in humid climates, a few vaporware units and even home-made absorption chillers

Now it looks like a Spanish company, Rotartica, has put it all together, by combining evacuated tube thermal collectors with a water-heated absorption chiller, and sized it at 4.5Kw (1.28 tons) for residential use, all packaged in a neat little box.

6. Finally a Solar-Powered Air Conditioner: 6 Tons of A/C Using 4 Solar Panels

coolerado solar package unit

Finally a Workable System to Replace Current Energy Guzzling A/Cs?
In 2007 we covered a Coolerado A/C system with the headline "getting close to solar powered air conditioning". Back then, the unit produced 5 tons of cooling using 1,200 watts, getting within the range of what some people and small businesses could afford in solar panels. Now, the new Coolerado design can produce 6 tons of cooling using 600 watts, quite an impressive improvement!

7. Steinway Installs Solar-Powered Air Conditioning

Solar-powered air conditioning just makes so much sense; it is usually hottest when the sun shines brightest. Now piano maker Steinway has installed an 80 ton absorption chiller that is powered by hot water from tracking solar panels. In the winter, the solar collectors provide water for heating.