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Solar Panels For Air Conditioning

Summer is probably the time of year everyone is looking forward to. With the ideal sunny days, clear skies, and warm weather. You’d be hard-pressed to find summers dull. However, one uncomfortable part of summer is the high heat and humidity that can make some days unbearable. Air conditioning is a great way to beat the heat and humidity, but also adds more to your electricity bill. Summer is also ideal for solar energy, which can help reduce your electricity bills when running air conditioning. We’ll explain how solar can cut down your electricity bills if you’re running air conditioning, or planning to install a unit for your home.

Running an air conditioning unit; usage and cost

Whether you’re planning to install an AC unit into your home or have one already installed, you will need to know how much energy your AC unit consumes. This will help give you an idea of the estimated cost of running your solar energy system. If you have a solar energy system, you will be able to figure out if your solar energy system can cover the added load of the AC unit or requires additional panels. If you’re looking to install a solar energy system along with an AC unit you can plan your solar energy system to support the load of your new AC unit.

Finding the power draw of your air conditioning unit will be straightforward, as it is listed on the nameplate of your air conditioning unit. This will be a number listed in watts (W) and will be used to calculate how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy your AC unit will use throughout the day. Your electricity rate will also factor into the cost of running your air-conditioning unit.

To give you an idea of the cost of running an air conditioning unit, we’ll give an example. The home has a ductless air conditioning unit that consumes roughly 2000 watts of power every hour of use. The household has this AC unit running for roughly 7 hours per day. The household is located in New Mexico, with an average electricity rate of $0.13 per kWh.

To calculate the cost of running this AC unit daily, we’ll take the 2000 watts of power and multiply it by the number of hours used. This value will then be divided by 1000 to get the kWh value. We’ll multiply the kWh by the electricity rate to get the cost of running the AC unit.

(2000W * 7 hours)/1000 = 14 kWh
14 kWh * $0.13 = $1.82 for 7 hours of use.

Factors to consider when purchasing an AC unit for your home

On the other hand, if you have a solar energy system and are looking to purchase an AC unit for your home. There are different factors to consider when selecting the right unit for your home.

Price

Air conditioning units tend to fall into the pricier side of household appliances. AC unit types tend to fall into different pricing categories. As different air conditioning unit types have their price ranges:

  • Window Air Conditioners – $150 to $300
  • Through the Wall Air Conditioners – $400 to $700
  • Portable Air Conditioners – $250 to $500
  • Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioners – $700 to $2500
  • Central Air Conditioners – $1000 to $3500

Your budget will determine which AC types you will be able to purchase. Keep in mind that you might need to factor in additional installation costs by hiring professionals for larger and more complicated AC unit installations.

Energy consumption and running cost

As mentioned in the previous section, the power consumption and running cost of an AC unit will factor in your choice of units. Larger units like central air conditioners will consume more power compared to the window and through-the-wall air conditioners. Ductless mini-split and portable air conditioners tend to be in the middle when it comes to running costs.

Physical and Structural Restrictions

You will need to consider the physical space you have, along with the structure of your home when deciding on your AC unit. The size of your air conditioning unit will need to match the size of the rooms you want to be cooled. You will also need to consider if the installation of the AC unit will be possible. Legal restrictions and/or your building structure can prevent certain types of AC units from being installed. Whether due to safety and structural concerns, or lack of compatibility with your home’s existing ductwork. You will need to know if your AC unit can suit your needs and can work in your home’s structure.

Personal needs and use case

You of course need to consider if a particular AC unit will fulfill your needs. Whether you want an AC unit that is portable and easy to deal with or complete cooling for your home, the use case for your AC unit will be important when making your choice.

Suitable for Complex Installations

If your solar energy system has a complex layout, AC solar panels are a suitable choice for these types of installations. One problem with complex solar energy installations is orienting the solar panels to work efficiently with the centralized inverter. As centralized inverter systems are tied to the lowest-performing solar panel in a string.

If your system’s design requires solar panels in different orientations to generate enough electricity, separate inverters will be needed for each string of solar panels. This is to keep each string of solar panels running efficiently, and unaffected by the conditions of the other panels in different orientations.

AC solar panels perform at an individual level and have their inverters. This reduces the complexity of the installation work and design of the system. The solar panels can be installed and oriented in whichever way to produce enough power for the home, and maintain a clean look.

Can my solar energy system handle air conditioning?

Whether you have a solar energy system installed, or planning to purchase one for your home, you will need to plan for the extra electricity needed to run the air conditioning unit. The example calculations done in the earlier section will help you figure out the estimated electricity usage of your AC unit. You can multiply the daily kWh usage by the number of days your air conditioning unit will be used throughout the year. With that, you’d know how much-added load you’ll be adding to your home and your solar energy system.

With that information, you can now figure out if you need additional solar panels added to your solar energy system, and if so how many panels are needed. Even with the additional solar panels, it’s important to consider the different factors that affect the energy production of your solar panels. 

We can calculate the amount of additional solar panels to support your solar energy system by first calculating the additional capacity your system will need, then dividing that by the number of panels. We’ll use an example to explain the calculations.

In this example, an AC unit will add about 3600 kWh to the annual electricity usage of the home. We’ll take that amount and then divide it by the average production ratio of your solar energy system’s area. Which is the amount of power your system produces with its size. In this example, we’ll use a production ratio of 1.65, which is the solar production ratio in the Southwest. Although your production ratio will depend on your solar energy system and location. We’ll divide the added load by your production ratio to find the additional solar capacity needed.

3600 / 1.65 = ~2182 W of added solar capacity needed.

We’ll take this added solar capacity needed and then divide it by the wattage of the solar panels you have in your system or planning to install. For this example, the solar panels have a size of roughly 325 W.

2182 W / 325 W = ~ 7 additional solar panels needed.

Keep in mind that panels with higher capacities will be more space-efficient than panels with lower capacities. With lower capacity panels, you will need to install more of them to handle the added load of the AC unit. Adding solar panels to your existing solar energy systems will require the same, if not similar solar panels to those already used in your system. We have an article that explains adding solar panels to an existing solar energy system.

With this information, you will find that even with the added load of an air conditioning unit, you’ll be able to use solar to save bills and make your summers that much more comfortable for the years to come.

Get started with solar energy today

If you are looking to start your transition to solar energy, we are here to help. Our website also has a free online estimate tool that generates a personalized report for you from a simplified questionnaire. That report will contain the potential savings you can net, and the cost of a solar energy system installed on your property. You can also contact us directly via phone at +1 (602) 363-8919 or via email at Scott@elitesolarenergy.org for more information regarding solar energy for your property.