Solar Air Conditioning refers to the tapping of solar energy for the air conditioning systems. Solar Energy being an eco-friendly source of energy is more efficient and harmless than the traditional means of energy. An average solar air conditioning can easily save up to 90% of the energy used by the conventional sources of energy. Moreover they can be installed with ease and used flexibly. Plus the maintenance costs are not an issue.
Solar Air conditioners use the ubiquitous sun as its source. Therefore during the hotter parts of the day, the sun itself provides the energy to drive the cooling systems.
Working of Solar Air Conditioning
There is more than one way of tapping the solar energy. Solar energy can be either converted to electricity first or it can be used directly through solar thermal collectors. The two different way are further elaborated below:
- Indirect usage – Solar Energy can be used indirectly through conversion to electricity first. This can be done through construction of solar panels or the use of solar cells. Moreover the solar based electricity is complemented with the conventional electricity. The solar energy can account up to 80% of the total usage of electricity by the air conditioning systems. However this is dependent upon various factors like environmental factors and the area available.
- Direct Usage – Solar energy can be used directly for air conditioning purposes rendering the use of conventional Air conditioners useless. This is done using Solar Thermal Collectors.
Working of a typical Solar Air Conditioner
Benefits of Solar Air Conditioning
Solar Air conditioners majorly provide a better alternate to the traditional air conditioners. Not only is it environment friendly, but it also helps in reducing electricity bills. Thus Solar Air conditioning is reliable, efficient and cost sustainable. The major benefits of the technology are-
Environmental Benefits – Solar energy is a renewable energy with an omnipotent source. Solar Air conditioners are emission free and do not cause any air pollution.
- Sustainability – Sustainability of solar air conditioners originates from the fact that the conditioners work from the energy provided by the sun. Therefore in an average Climatic area, the Air conditioners are sustainable and reliable.
- Pollution controlled – Unlike their conventional counterparts, the solar air conditioners are free from causing any pollution or emission. This also helps in decreasing the degradation of the environment.
- Global Warming reduced – Solar energy reduces global warming as there is no emission of greenhouse gases.
- Saving Electricity bill – Solar air conditioners have a major benefit of saving electricity as the energy is derived from the sun. Through solar panels around 80-90% of electricity consumed by a conventional Air conditioner can be saved. For solar cells this comes down to 25-30%. But this saving of electricity is a substantial step towards the increasing usage of renewable resources.
- Sustainability over a period of time – Although Solar Air conditioners have a high installation cost as compared to the conventional cooling systems, the Solar Air conditioners tend to pay back through Electricity cost reductions and heating- cooling cost reductions. A normal pay-back time is estimated by most to be around 3-5 years. Though this depends on the climate of the place and the scale of use of the project.
Limitations of Solar Air Conditioning
A major issue related with the Solar Air Conditioning technology is the fact that the technology’s usage is still not as dominating as anticipated. This problem arises due to the fact that the efficiency and conversion percentage of the source is an issue that has to be dealt with. Some of the major issues related with Solar Air conditioning are:
- Cost related issues – cost of installation of the solar air conditioners can be as high as 10 times the conventional one. This is a major setback as people become skeptic regarding the technology due to the involved costs. However the costs of maintenance and reduction of electricity and heating costs helps in compensating for the one time installation investment.
- Water consumption problem – Solar Air conditioners may reduce the electricity consumption but it increases water consumption of the place.
- Installation and maintenance issues – As solar energy is still at the premiere stages of implementation there is a scarcity of efficient and sound installers. Maintenance professionals are also not easy to find for a solar air conditioning system.
- Suitability in climates – Solar air conditioning has a major drawback of being less effective in areas where the solar energy might not be that potent. There is a major requirement for increasing the magnitude of energy being utilized by the technology. Therefore the percentage of help that the solar energy provides may not turn out to be satisfying.
Case Study : How Solar Air conditioning is being used today
Kellenberg Memorial High School
A heating and cooling system was established in the Kellenberg Memorial High school on the 15th December 2011. 115 SPP-30A tube solar collectors made by a leading company are used by the school for their cooling and heating system. The solar thermal collector project was also expected to heat cold water and also maintain a warm weather in the premises in winters. Now with the summer around the project should operate even more smoothly.
The investment to start the project was estimated to cost around $944,755. In a 3 month time, it has already saved $25,000 of utility costs. Therefore with increasing usage of thr project, the pay-back time does not seem to be a problem. More over the authorities involved are satisfied with the efficiency of the solar thermal collectors.
Summing it all up..
Solar Air conditioning is one field which is growing rapidly. With usage of the technology increasing with time, the inertia of using a new technology is also decreasing. Also with increasing number of suppliers, the cost of installation of the air conditioning is also decreasing leading to more customers being able to afford it.
Some of the companies providing solar thermal collectors are – Apricus, Solaren, Solimpeks and PSE AG. These companies provide solar thermal collectors to commercial customers as well as domestic home-based customers.