Like most Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines experiences hot and humid weather for the greater part of the year. Air conditioning is a necessity in many Philippine homes and places of work. Air conditioners also account for a big part of the energy bills because air conditioning runs for most hours in the daytime. But photovoltaic panel powered AC has the potential to bring energy costs down and provide clean energy.
Conventional vs. Solar Air Conditioners
An air conditioner has a refrigerant that absorbs heat in a building and releases it outside the building. The AC’s refrigerant is pumped into the building as a liquid below the freezing point. The fluid absorbs heat as it expands into a gas. The gas passes through a compressor that turns it back into liquid, which releases the heat, and the process starts all over.
A conventional air conditioner uses an alternate current (AC) to power the compressor and blower. It can also be powered by a solar energy system with inverters and batteries to convert DC power to AC power. This setup is said to be 100% off-grid.
Direct Current (DC) Solar Air Conditioners
A solar air conditioner uses solar photovoltaic panels to generate energy in direct current (DC) to power the air conditioning unit’s compressor and other components. Modern DC air conditioners generate power that is plugged directly into the system without the need for batteries or inverters.
A solar air conditioner Philippines installation can also generate energy to power other appliances in the house. This is possible with the additional installation of batteries and an inverter. Additional solar panels are sometimes required to meet the additional power requirements. This setup is ideal for 100% off-grid use.
The biggest disadvantage of DC solar air conditioners is that they can’t operate when the sunshine is less than optimal for the solar panel to generate adequate power.
Hybrid Solar Air Conditioners
Hybrid solar air conditioners work with both AC and DC power to run uninterrupted. These air conditioners run on solar energy and draw power from the mains when necessary. A hybrid solar air conditioner installation can have inverters and batteries for longer running. It can also operate without them, for lower installation costs.
Hybrid solar air conditioners have the potential to cut energy bills drastically. These air conditioners use solar DC power as a priority, switching to AC power in the evening and night. The Philippines sees an average of 12 daylight hours, out of which 5 hours see full sunshine. With most families going to bed by 11 pm, AC power is needed from 7 pm to 11 pm. A hybrid solar air conditioner can have huge savings in this setting.
High-Efficiency Solar Air Conditioner
Efficiency in energy use is a big factor in energy bills. The traditional solar energy system loses efficiency in transmitting, storage, and conversion. The energy generated by the solar panels is transmitted to the batteries for storage.
The battery’s efficiency can vary from 60% to 90%. This efficiency determines the actual power that can be drawn from the battery. Lead type batteries are inefficient, more so with age. Lithium-ion batteries achieve over 90% efficiency, but power losses in heat can bring down this efficiency. There are also conversion losses as the inverter converts DC power into AC power.
A hybrid solar air conditioner achieves high efficiency because it can channel power directly into the AC without the need for inverters and batteries. This is also crucial in bringing down equipment costs at the installation stage.
Are Photovoltaic Panels Multipurpose?
Photovoltaic cells convert light energy into electricity. This electricity can then be used on any appliance that uses direct current (DC) power. Ordinary appliances use this energy after it is converted to alternate current (AC) power.
This means that solar panels can be installed to supply air conditioning and other uses in the home. Power generation is increased by installing more solar panels. A solar air conditioner will fit easily into an existing solar energy system.
How Easy is it to Maintain Solar Air Conditioners?
Solar air conditioners are relatively easy to install in an existing solar energy system. These air conditioners are plug and play. A competent technician can install a solar air conditioner kit in one working day.
A Photovoltaic panel powered AC has almost nil maintenance costs. The power generation side has no moving parts. Maintenance needs become practically non-existent If the AC does not have an inverter or batteries.
Photovoltaic panels are changing the costs and efficiencies of solar air conditioner Philippines installations. They have great potential to reduce energy bills for both residential and commercial premises. They are part of the clean energy renewable revolution that also holds much potential for a sustainable environment.