Modern air conditioners can both cool and heat your home, acting as an alternative to central heating. We assume one element of air conditioning in summer which is to cool the room and this requires more energy than usual. The number of solar panels you need for summer cooling depends on several factors:
- Energy consumption of the air conditioner: Before buying an air conditioner, it is wise to look carefully at its energy consumption. Energy consumption is currently measured in Watts (W) or kiloWatts (kW). An air conditioner would require approximately 1,200 watts of solar panels for each ton of cooling capacity. This assumes that the solar panel is exposed to 4 hours of peak sunlight per day.
- Daily Energy Consumption: To cool one room in a house, you can run the air conditioner at low power for an entire day. A modern air conditioner uses about 1 kWh per hour. Assuming your air conditioner is on for a total of 8 hours per day, the consumption is 1 kW x 8 = 8 kWh.
- Air Conditioner Efficiency: The efficiency of your air conditioning unit is a crucial factor. More efficient systems will require less energy to cool your space, reducing the number of solar panels needed.
- Climate & location: The amount of sunlight your location receives throughout the year is essential. Sunnier regions will generate more solar power, requiring fewer panels to run your air conditioner effectively.
- Professional Assessment: For an accurate assessment of your specific situation, it’s recommended to consult with a solar installer or energy expert. They can analyze your energy needs and available sunlight to determine the optimal number of solar panels for your air conditioning system.
In general, a typical residential air conditioner can consume anywhere from 1.5 to 5 kWh per hour of operation. Solar panel systems can vary widely in their energy production, but a rough estimate might be that one standard residential solar panel (about 320-350 watts) can generate around 4-5 kWh of electricity per day in a sunny location
*Please note: this is an example calculation. No rights can be derived from this.
With the data listed above, we can get to work on determining the number of solar panels you are expected to need. Here, it is important to note that the power and efficiency of solar panels depends on the supplier. In particular, the peak power of a solar panel, expressed in Watt peak (Wp), determines the performance of your solar panels per year.
If you only want to ‘cool down’ with air conditioning, you will need at least three solar panels to compensate for an (extra) consumption of 984 kWh. This corresponds to one solar panel’s output of 378.4 kWh (430 Wp x 0.88 (average output) = 378.4 kWh per year). If you also want to use the air conditioner outside the summer season, for example to heat your home, your power consumption is usually a lot higher. You will then logically also need more solar panels.
Tips to save on your energy consumption
Want to get the most out of your air conditioner in the summer and still be energy efficient? Discover our tips for saving energy with air conditioning:
- Choose an air conditioner that fits the space in your home. Need to cool a smaller room? Then you may need a lower capacity;
- Desired temperature: Determine your desired indoor climate. Do not set the air conditioner lower than necessary to save energy;
- Energy label of the air conditioner: Take a critical look at the energy label of the air conditioner. A higher grade energy label indicates that the air conditioner – within its product group – can still be energy efficient; and
- Sneak consumption: Make sure you turn off the air conditioner when you are not at home. This is basically the same as lighting in the home.
Why not an all-season air conditioner?
More and more households are opting for an all-season air conditioner, which allows you to cool and heat your home in all seasons. This has one major drawback: heating a home costs the air conditioner a lot of energy. And because the output of your solar panels is lower in the winter, you cannot really compensate for the higher consumption of the air conditioner. This means that you often have to rely on the power grid anyway.
The situation is however different in the summer. Your solar panels are usually ‘overcompensating’ then. This means that, in practice, you often generate a surplus of solar energy (power demand is lower, efficiency is higher). Despite the fact that you can inject that portion of green energy back into the grid, and receive compensation for it, consuming it yourself for air conditioning is a great solution. This way, you invest in extra comfort and are still largely independent from the energy grid.