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Solar Powered Air Conditioning

Solar Powered Air Conditioning is the perfect solution to the deadly summer heat and rising cost of grid electricity.

When endless summer days are almost there, all you can think of is the unbearable indoor heat! Of course, the first solution that comes into your mind is air conditioning! But then you start worrying about the increased electricity bills that you'll be paying if you keep your air conditioning system on all day long.

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So why wouldn't you try a less conventional method that can help you keep the indoor temperature around a supportable limit, without raising your electricity bills? Why wouldn't you try solar powered air conditioning?

What is solar air conditioning and how does it work?

Solar powered air conditioning is exactly what the name suggests - an air conditioning system that uses solar rays in order to generate the electricity it needs to work.

Sounds pretty simple and you could imagine this can be done by simply placing a solar panel on the roof of your house, capturing the solar rays and then use the generated electricity to run your old air conditioning system. But the truth is things aren't this simple!

A solar powered air conditioning system is a complex device that works based on daylight or solar rays. The mechanism can be composed of:

  • solar collectors
  • a controller
  • an absorption chiller
  • a back-up chiller
  • a heat exchanger
  • a cooling tower
  • circulation pumps
  • an insulating hot water storage tank

From the above list, there are four components (solar collectors, chillers, cooling tower and hot water tank) that are included in any solar powered air conditioning mechanism.

So let's take each of these components and see what their role is in the entire cooling system.

The solar collectors are placed on the roof and they are responsible for absorbing the solar rays and heating the water available inside the system. Once heated, the water is pumped to a highly insulated storage tank, which acts like a thermal battery, producing the necessary heat for driving the absorption chiller.

An important aspect is that, in order for these collectors to be effective, they must operate chillers with minimum heat loss, so that they'll operate efficiently even when sunlight is weak and during nighttime. In some solar powered air conditioning systems, these collectors can be placed on the ground away from the building.

Depending on the type and design of the solar powered air conditioning system, these roof collectors can activate single effect or double effect absorption chillers which generate cold water for cooling.

From here, the chilled water is pumped to fan coils to be air-conditioned. Single effect absorption chillers are powered by hot water at around 100°C, while double chillers require steam at 8 bars and 170°C.

These chillers are suitable for large buildings, where requirements are above 300kW. The great thing about these components is that they don't rely on compressors as regular air-cooling systems do. Compressor-driven air conditioning machines usually require high levels of electricity in order to function properly. Compared to these, solar powered chillers require no electrical energy to operate.

Another component of the solar powered air conditioning system is the cooling tower.

A cooling tower is a heat removal device which transfers waste heat to the atmosphere, based on either the evaporation of water or on air.

Most cooling systems use evaporative towers that allow a small percent of the cooled water to evaporate into a moving air stream, providing cooling to the rest of the water. The heat raises the air's temperature and the cooling tower discharges this warm or hot air to the atmosphere.

Cooling towers can be found in various sizes, from small roof-top units to larger mechanisms, used mainly in industrial and commercial applications.

Why should you buy a solar powered air conditioning system?

Solar air coolers are extremely practical devices. Not only they provide free air conditioning for your entire home, but they also keep the electricity bills low during hot summer days.

By shading the roof, solar powered coolers are also great protection tools for your attic, as they keep it from overheating! They have a high adaptability to various location constraints due to their structure and they're usually light weight, so you don't have to worry about your safety!

These air cooling devices are also powerful, as they can generate up to 170°C steam at 8 bar pressure, in order to activate the system. At the same time, they provide enough energy to cool the indoor air during the day.

With solar powered air coolers, you don't have to worry about power failures as they only require solar rays in order to function. So it's obvious that these machines can substantially reduce the power costs. Not to mention they are also environmentally friendly, so they're a great choice for those looking for devices that prevent depletion of Ozone layer.

Although the price varies from one device to another, a standard solar powered air conditioning can range from $2,000 to $3,000, while for larger units the price can climb to almost $30,000.

Now you might say this is almost 10-15 times of the normal price for a regular air conditioner and you are surely right.

The price is actually the biggest disadvantage of a solar air conditioning system, but you have to think of it as a long term investment. In the long run, the cost per kWh becomes low in comparison to regular air coolers. For an average house, the monthly costs of electricity used for air cooling systems are reduced with over $75!

If you are not yet convinced of the multiple benefits that solar powered air conditioning devices can provide, allow me to add one more thing.

By installing a solar system on your home you can turn it into a great deal for prospective buyers, as they'll see it as an energy efficient home. We can surely say that these devices are also able to raise the value of your property and perhaps this is another reason for the increasing demand for solar powered air coolers!

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