Solar Air Conditioners
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An air conditioner, or more properly, an air conditioner unit is a mechanical-electrical system that treats air in an enclosed area through a refrigeration cycle in which warm air is removed and replaced with cooler air.
The most important process in the operation of air conditioners is the 'refrigeration cycle'. In the refrigeration cycle, which is similar to what happens in a refrigerator, a pump transfers heat from a lower temperature source into a higher temperature heat sink. In other words, warm air is 'refrigerated' and then with the help of fans, pumped out and circulated in a closed space. This is the most common type of air conditioning.
Conventional air conditioner units when used as part of a central solar power system use up too much of the electricity generated. The average air conditioner uses between 1.3 to 2.5kw of power which in most cases is about 40-50% of the total power of the average solar system.
How Solar Air Conditioners Work
There are are number of different types of solar air conditioning technology, but the two that are found in the local market include:
1. Solar photovoltaic air conditioners convert sunlight captured by a solar array into electricity. The air conditioning unit works the same as a typical split system, but is powered by energy provided by the sun. When solar energy is not sufficient, conventional electricity charges the systems battery, often incorporated into the system, and at night when there is no sunlight, power is drawn from the battery to keep the air conditioner on.
An air conditioner of that type looks like this:
2. Solar thermal systems use a plate to capture the sun's heat which turns an electric generator. They work like solar water heaters. (Read about solar water heaters here.) Unfortunately these have been found to be relatively less efficient and are slowly exiting the market. A type of this solar-based air conditioner looks like this:
They are sold as 'thermal solar air conditioners'. The use sunlight but in an entirely different way, and are not photovoltaic systems.
In Nigeria, at almost all periods of the year, air conditioning is a necessity. However, air conditioners are rather symbols of affluence than necessities. This is obviously due to the high cost of acquiring and installing air conditioners.
Though more efficient and environment-friendly, solar air conditioner are far costlier than conventional air conditioners. Regardless, SolarKobo helps its clients and customers make the best possible choices of all types of solar-based power systems and products and manage the financial burden by spreading payment for any installation for up to twelve months.