Solar-Powered Air Conditioners – The Wave of the Future?

solar array powering a home air conditioning system

With all of the focus on the environment, people are continuing to do their part to reduce emissions and the consumption of energy. There are dozens of energy efficient air conditioners on the market these days, too. Solar air conditioning has yet to really take off in the United States, however. Some people wonder whether or not such an idea is a feasible one.

Statistics and Numbers

In order to determine whether or not the implementation of solar-powered air conditioners would be beneficial to the environment, it is important to take a look at some facts and figures. In this country, more than $15 billion is spent each year for the sole purpose of cooling various spaces. What’s more, 5% of all of the energy consumed is spent on conventional air conditioners. In fact, major cities in the US have faced energy crises and have even experienced blackouts due to the strain placed on the grid. Finally, it is estimated that some 140 million tons of carbon dioxide, a harmful greenhouse gas, is released into the atmosphere per year as a result of all of these cooling efforts.

Cause and Effect

The greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere have increased by 25% in the last 150 years, and all of these gases cause the surface of the Earth to grow warmer over time. It is already happening; in Europe in 2003, more than 35,000 people actually died from a heat wave in an area where modern air conditioning was previously not considered a necessity. As such, more and more people worldwide are installing conventional units and these units consume more fossil fuels that are processed in plants that release more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It is a downward spiral and one that must be inevitably interrupted.

Reducing the Effects

To prevent this cause-and-effect cycle from continuing, people once believed that the only thing they could do was turn off the air and find other ways to keep cool. However, with all of the focus on climate change, there are scientists and engineers who are turning their attention toward using renewable resources for cooling even the largest of spaces. Solar powered air conditioning is a relatively new concept but is one that actually makes sense; the hotter and brighter the sun is shining, the harder the unit can work to keep the inhabitants of a building cool.

Pannelli solari illuminati dai raggi del soleConcerns

For those who want to go green when it comes to cooling, solar absorption chillers – or the units that have been designed up to this point – do have a downside. Because they use water to remove heat from a building, they will cause water consumption to skyrocket as they decrease the consumption of fossil fuels. Something else to consider is the cost since it is about much more than simply installing the panels. In fact, a single unit can cost triple that of a conventional one and that doesn’t even include the installation fees. However, for many people, the idea that they are enjoying savings for the planet and their wallets in the form of energy costs is very encouraging.

Whether or not solar air conditioners will ever truly become mainstream remains to be seen. There are some out there in use today that are electric/solar hybrids, and people seem to be embracing this technology with open arms. In time, it is hoped that people all over the world will be able to keep cool without the need for electricity that is produced with fossil fuels.