Solar powered air conditioning is finally here, and it's totally boring
Instead of fancy new technology, it's all about combining improved efficiency with low cost solar panels.
For over a decade we have been writing about how solar powered air conditioning was the holy grail. AC is a huge energy suck and is needed most when and where the sun shines brightest. We have looked at absorption technologies and all kinds of fancy solutions and alternatives to traditional AC units.
But it turns out that solar powered AC is not some new technology, but simply a result of grinding out improvements in existing heat pump split units, combined with the continuing drop in the price of conventional solar panels, with a dollop of building energy efficiency improvements that reduce solar gain and resultant cooling loads.
It simply uses a dedicated 1kW solar PV array to drive the air conditioner, greatly reducing the energy required from the grid. In full sun, the unit can draw as little as 30 watts from the grid while producing its rated 3.5 kW cooling/ 3.8 kW heating capacity.
EcoWorld claims that you can “stay cool or warm without the huge energy bills. Use it more often without regrets.”
Passive house or Grandma's house?/Public Domain
What is so cool about this (sorry) is how it is not a revolution but an evolution. For years we went on about designing our homes so that we could live without air conditioning like Grandma did, which is hard when Grandma didn’t have a choice, and when we live in a warmer, more crowded world.
Now we know that a combination of solar panels, better mini splits and radical building efficiency can keep us comfy all year round.