Answer: Yes – an air conditioner can run on solar power ~ provided your solar array has been sized correctly and adequate sunlight is available.
In order for an air conditioner to run on power that has been produced by means of photovoltaics, there are a few requirements that need to be met.
For this article, we will use the MIDEA 5000 BTU air conditioner, as an example.
- Enough power – The MIDEA 5000 BTU air conditioner shows a rated input of 537 W. That is not to say that the air conditioner will demand this much power the entire time it is running, but if it would be wise to at least match this rated input to ensure that enough power is available.
For example, if your solar panels were rated at 320 W per panel, then you would need at least 2 panels (640 W) to adequately provide for the air conditioner.
## Remember, you may not achieve maximum output from your panels on less than perfect sunshine.
- DC versus AC power – Solar panels produce energy in the form of DC, or Direct Current. Our example air conditioner runs on AC or Alternating Current. This means that the power generated via solar panels must be converted to the necessary AC form in order for the air conditioner to run properly.
In photovoltaic systems, this conversion happens by means of an inverter. In other words, you will need additional hardware over and above the actual panels.
- Standby power – Even with adequate power provided by having enough solar panels and the means of converting DC to AC power, your air conditioner will only work while adequate sunshine is available.
Many people utilize their air conditioners in order to help them sleep comfortably. So unless they are sleeping during uninterrupted hours of sunlight, some sort of energy storage will be required for consistent cooling.
There are many kinds of batteries available on the market to do this, with cost usually being defined by type of battery and amount of energy they/it can store.
Small Scale Off Grid
The idea of using solar to power air conditioning is not uncommon among certain users. RV’s, tiny homes and even small cottages can benefit from a small home power system. However, the expense to provide this power is usually far more costly than the purchase price of the above mentioned window unit.
Consequently, if you were looking to go this route, it might be wise to consider sizing your system for additional loads – such as a fridge or water pump in order to fully utilize your investment.
Grid Tied Use
Should your home already be connected to the grid, then you are ill-advised to try and build a solar power unit in order to power your air conditioner. Point of fact, depending on where you live, it is most likely illegal to connect any kind of external power supply without the express permission of your utility. And there is good reason for this.
In the event where utility workers are needed – either for maintenance or repair – your panels can back feed into the grid and cause them significant injury… or worse.
Large Scale Off Grid
For us, we have been living off-grid since December of 2015. Our solar array is currently at 7.8kW and has never had a problem running our entire house. This includes the 2 mini-splits we use for air conditioning.
When it comes to providing your own power, ‘Technology has outpaced awareness’
Today’s solar power is more than capable of providing for our daily needs, and this includes running your air conditioner.
*Specs were taken from the MIDEA website – seen here.