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Airco: offsetting consumption with solar panels

During the heat of the summer months, many people look for a way to cool their homes. Air conditioning is an effective method to keep the heat out. Unfortunately, an air conditioner consumes a lot of electricity which has a negative effect on your energy bill. What’s more, an air conditioner is not great for the environment. Fortunately, you can compensate for this higher energy consumption with extra solar panels. The question is: How many solar panels do you need to keep your house nice and cool during the hot summer months?

Calculating the number of solar panels for air conditioning

The number of solar panels you need for an air conditioner in summer depends on several factors, including the typical energy consumption of your specific air conditioner, the efficiency of the solar panels and the average number of sunshine hours in the area you live. Here is how you can estimate the number of solar panels you need:

  • Determine your energy consumption: Check your air conditioner’s specifications or manual to establish its power consumption. This is usually represented in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). As an example, let’s say your air conditioner has a power consumption of 1.5 kW.
  • Calculate the daily energy consumption: Multiply your air conditioner’s power consumption by the number of hours you run it each day. For example, if you have your air conditioner running for eight hours a day, your daily energy consumption will be 1.5 kW * 8 hours = 12 kWh (kilowatt hours).

Suppose you run the air conditioner for eight hours every day from May to August (123 days, four months), your air conditioner’s power consumption will be (123 x 12 kWh) = 1,476 kWh.

*Note: this is a calculation example. In practice, the above figures are an extreme representation of the actual use and consumption of the air conditioner.

Offsetting power consumption

How many solar panels do I need?

Keeping the above in mind, we can get to work on determining how many extra solar panels you need to offset the energy consumption of your air conditioner. We will assume a fixed multi-split air conditioner with several indoor units and one outdoor unit. This allows you to cool several rooms in the house during hot summer days. To determine the efficiency of solar panels, we will use Soly’s solar panels that have an output of 430 Watt peak.

Computation

Compensating solar panels for air conditioning

The efficiency of a solar panel is 430 x 0.88 = 378.4 kWh per year. We set this against the power consumption of the air conditioner (1,476 kWh). That means that for an air conditioner – one that you are using explicitly to cool the house – you will need to install at least four to five extra solar panels to offset your air conditioner’s power consumption.

Sustainability

5 tips to save on your energy consumption with air conditioning

Want to save a bit on your energy bill, without having to buy extra solar panels? Check out our five tips to get through the hot summer days comfortably and energy-efficiently with an air conditioner in your home:

  1. Use the right power rating: Make sure the power rating suits the room. Do you use a lower output? That means the air conditioner has to work harder (and longer) to cool the room cool which consumes more power.
  2. Check the energy label: When buying a new air conditioner, look at the energy label and make sure it is as high as possible. Currently, an air conditioner’s energy label is still given in the old representation, with the A+++ label being the highest and most durable.
  3. Use natural refrigerants: The refrigerant in air conditioners enables the device to cool the air. Manufacturers often use synthetics for this. These substances can leak into the air, which is harmful to the environment. Instead, opt for an air conditioner with natural refrigerants which are more environmentally friendly. In fact, these are often already mandatory in new (mobile) air conditioners.
  4. Set the ideal temperature: Avoid setting the temperature of your air conditioning lower than necessary, this increases electricity consumption.
  5. Switch your air con off: To avoid increasing your energy bill unnecessarily, turn off the power of the air conditioner completely when you are not using it.

Cooling and heating with air conditioning and solar panels
These days, a modern air conditioner can cool as well as heat. This is handy, as it can provide an alternative to your central heating and relying on gas. However, there is also a downside. The air conditioner will consume a lot of electricity to heat your home in winter, and you won’t be able to rely on your solar panels to compensate for it. This is because your solar panels generate very little power during the winter months when there is fewer hours of sunshine. So with an air conditioner, you are even more dependent on the energy grid.

Possibilities

Air conditioner or heat pump for home heating?

Your air conditioner cannot replace a heat pump. While both devices can control the heat in the home, a heat pump is directly connected to the delivery system. This means that the heat is delivered to the water in the pipes, radiator and underfloor heating tubes. This is not the case with an air conditioner. So, while an air conditioner can’t replace a heat pump, they can work together to help you heat or cool your home faster.

Cooling benefits with air conditioning and solar panels

When you use air conditioning explicitly to cool your home during the summer months, solar panels can easily compensate for that extra power consumption. This is thanks to the high efficiency of solar panels during the summer months when there is plenty of sunshine. You can compensate for the higher power demand from your air conditioner with the extra output of your solar panels.

Background

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