About Solar Energy and Solar Power Plants

About solar energy and solar plants we can find a lot of information. Nowadays, many people are aware of their respective contributions, making use of them in their businesses or calling their governments to put them into practice. However, some people are unaware of the positive environmental impact of their use.

solar panels on a rooftop

It is very clear that, now more than ever, solar energy has played a positive role in generating electricity in homes and rural areas. However, it never hurts to know more about solar energy and solar power plants, including the importance it implies as well as other topics that may be of interest to the community.

In this post, we want to share basic, but important aspects regarding solar energy and solar plants as a whole. In this way, you will be able to know in advance the impact generated by its use in homes, urban and rural areas, and more!

The importance of solar energy and solar plants

In recent times, a positive outlook on clean energy has begun to emerge. And, when it comes to solar energy and solar power plants, their respective importance is neither left behind nor neglected by their community.

The use of renewable resources, which are obtained from nature, has become more meaningful due to the origin of this type of energy. In it, we can attribute different useful applications equally, as for example, in the home, being able to enjoy not only electrical appliances, but also hot water.

On the other hand, and as a second example, we have the installation of electrical network with solar energy in buildings, institutions or a special environment.

Solar energy in Lthuania Solet Technics.

The importance and contribution of solar energy and solar plants to our lives

Now, how important is the use of solar energy?

With the implementation, use and installation of solar energy frameworks and solar power plants, any city, town, home, institution and others, either independently or collectively, will be able to enjoy almost unlimited electricity. The best thing is that we will not only be stopping the use of fossil fuels, which are responsible for environmental problems, but we will also be improving the quality of life of the planet.

Did you know that using solar energy prevents cancerous diseases? That’s right! This is an important fact to understand its contribution to the planet. And, to better understand this we have to put ourselves in context.

CO2, as well as toxic gases generated by burning fossil fuels not only has an impact on the excessive use, cases of carcinogenic or respiratory diseases (such as asthma) have skyrocketed.

With the installation and greater use of solar energy, photovoltaic, thermal and others, we can exponentially improve our health; we can have better air and environmental quality as we add more solar panels to urban areas, rural areas, buildings, schools and institutions.

What is the global outlook regarding solar energy and solar plants?

Due to the great importance that has been generated and needs to be further disseminated regarding the use of solar energy, it is worth asking the question: What is the global outlook? The truth is that the global photovoltaic market remains in rapid expansion, which has been maintained with some ups and downs for a decade.

Due to the booming and competitive market, many countries have opted to generate a global production of solar energy, not only for their inhabitants, but also as “extra” capital. In the last ten years, the efficiency of commercial silicon modules, which is the technology on which this energy is based, has increased from 12% to 17%.

This represents very promising figures, and we can see how there are continents or countries that maintain an almost constant installation. In Europe we have 28% of installations worldwide in just 2018, while China has installed 32% of this technology globally.

Let’s hope that the figures regarding the use of these renewable energies continue to increase, being able to leave the exaggerated use regarding the burning of fuels and save our planet.

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Solar Air Conditioning And Heating

Almost everyone is feeling the pinch of the rising electricity costs across the country, and this means that many people are looking into alternative energy sources. You are probably aware that you can reduce your power bill by installing a solar hot water service and even a larger solar panel system on to the roof of a house. However, one of the biggest electricity usages in Australian households is for heating and cooling. Newly developed solar heating and cooling options are now available and can lead to a reduction in electricity costs. Solar air conditioning and heating are a new and exciting initiative which will not only save you money, but reduce your environmental footprint as well.

Solar Air Conditioning

A series of solar panels installed on a household roof.There are a number of different options that you can explore if you are thinking about installing solar air conditioning. As with ordinary air conditioning systems, solar air conditioning options come in the form of split systems (with the latest inverter technology) and ducted systems. The choice of these options will depend on your heating and cooling needs, energy usage, budget, house/room size and a number of other factors.

Split system/ inverter tech

An inverter air conditioner modified to run on solar power.A split system can be modified or designed to run from solar panel/s. The modern day split system air conditioning options use inverter technology to allow the air conditioner to turn off the compressor, but continue to keep the room cool. They are designed to be able to quickly adjust the room temperature so that the compressor is not working for long periods of time. This is achieved by heating the gas through a solar outside unit to highly pressurise the gas. This is an advantage when trying to save power as normal air conditioners lose a lot of energy during heating and cooling. Solar air conditioning units can save up to 50% in power. Solar split systems also generally run quieter than conventional systems. Modern low watt inverter units are also available and are perfect for running from solar power. However, these units do come with a premium price tag.

Some other great advantages of solar air conditioning are that you can purchase the air conditioning unit before the solar panels and have these installed at a later date. You are also able to use a mix of solar and mains power to power your units.

Ducted Systems

A vent installed with a ducted air conditioner.Solar air conditioning can also be achieved through a ducted system. Many new houses can have piping installed in the flooring through which cool water can be pumped via solar water systems. Solar powered fans can also be installed in the roof to pump cooler air into the house and pump warm air out of the roof cavity. The reverse can also be achieved with the solar heated air in the roof cavity used to heat the house on cooler days.

Cost of Installing Solar Air Conditioning

TypeCost
Inverter systemsThese range in price. A standard unit costs about $500 -$1,000. Specialised solar systems can be upwards of $2,000. Remember that installation of the system will also add to the cost of the unit.
Ducted systemsThese range in price from $3,000 to $10,000 depending on the size of the unit and how many vents you require.

Solar Heating- (Solar Hydronics or Solar Thermal systems)

As well as providing air conditioning options you can also use solar power in a heating capacity. There are two common solar heating systems that are installed in Australia. The first system enables you to have the benefit of both solar radiant heating and solar hot water.

Solar Hydronics

Pipes used in the installation of a solar heating system.Large evacuated tube collectors are placed on the roof of the house (or they can be installed on the ground if need be). The water is passed through these tubes where it is heated and then stored in a specialised hot water system. This water can then be circulated throughout the house expelling heat through radiators. The benefit of this system is that two systems of heating are not operating in your house drawing twice the power. The solar hydronic system also provides allergy free heating that is silent and reliable. The radiator units are also safe to have around children as the ambient temperature of the water is 65 degrees or lower.

Another option is to have piping installed under the flooring in new house for ducted heading. These systems often come with a digital control system allowing the owner to monitor and control the temperature and water storage rates. This system is also a good option as it provides allergy free and invisible heating. This system requires little maintenance as there are no moving parts or filters than need replacing. These systems usually come with a 20-30 year warranty and you can expect them to last even longer than this.

Solar Heating- Evaporative heating

A heating vent.The second option for solar heating is to use the solar panels on your roof. Air from the house is pumped through the solar collectors where it is heated and then pumped back through the ducted heating system of the house. The pumps in these cases can be powered by solar power or by mains power depending on your preferences and the amount of power that is generated. If your panels are not generating enough power, mains power may be accessed to power the fans. This system is also said to be allergy free and is very flexible and can be installed in numerous ways to suit the size and style of the house.

An Exciting New technology

The latest and newest solar heating and cooling option has been developed by CSIRO. It combines solar hot water, heating and cooling. The water is heated via a panel of solar collectors on the roof. A portion of this hot water is then used in the specialised heating/cooling air conditioning unit. It can be used to heat the air during winter and cool the air during warmer months. For more information see the following video clip produced by the CSIRO.

This technology is said to reduce greenhouse emissions and also cut the cost of power bills and lower your overall power consumption. It is not yet available to the general public, but a select number of households are currently using the system on a trial basis. If this goes well then this technology will hopefully become available for use in new and existing homes!

Cost of Installing Solar Heating

TypeCost
Solar Hydronic/Thermal SystemThe general cost of installing a Solar Hydronic/Thermal system ranges from $7,500- $10,000.
Solar Evaporative Heating SystemCan cost anywhere from $3,000 to $8,000 depending on the size and scope of the installation process.

Subsidising the Cost of Installation

There is no doubt that these products are more expensive than conventional air conditioning and heating options. However, many people find that the overall savings are worth the initial investment. There are ways that you can apply for subsidies for the cost of installation of these systems, particularly as the Australian government is committed to reducing energy use and environmental damage. Solar air conditioning and heating options can be expensive to install but there are some excellent ways to subsidse the costs. There is solar air conditioning, heating and hot water rebates available through government initiatives. You also have the option to buy a system outright or work out a payment system with the provider. It is also possible to buy a cheaper air conditioning unit and run it off solar panels that you have installed on the roof.

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Solar Roof Tiles

Solar power is more popular in Australia today than ever before. Government rebates and incentives, as well as some generous feed-in tariff rates (although these have now been reduced for new customers), helped to boost the industry in this country. New solar panel developments are occurring all the time and one development that has many people excited are solar roof tiles. These tiles are very similar to standard roofing tiles except that they are made of photovoltaic panels – turning the whole roof (or part of a roof) into one large solar system. This is an emerging market and as such there are many misconceptions about solar roofing tiles. The following is an up-to-date guide to help you decide if solar tiles are right for your needs.

Advantages

Curved solar roof tiles

  • You can turn your whole roof (or large parts of it at least) into a solar collector.
  • No need to pay for both tiles and solar panels. Less materials are used when constructing a home.
  • Can be used on almost any structure and the strength of the roof is not an issue because there are no racks to install.
  • More likely to be protected from strong winds.
  • Most people find that they are more aesthetically pleasing than traditional solar panels.

Disadvantages

  • Wiring each tile is time consuming and adds to the cost.
  • The efficiency of solar roof tiles is generally reduced when compared to a standard solar panel.
  • Roof integrated solar panels can get very hot without adequate ventilation and this can lead to problems with efficiency.

Types of Solar Tiles

TypeDescription
Roof tilesThese tiles are a replacement for regular solar panels. They can be used just like a standard roof tile and can be installed on new buildings or as a replacement for existing tiles. They are still subject to the same limitations as standard solar panels and the orientation of your roof remains very important. Each panel produces a relatively small amount (most produce somewhere from 20-50W each) so you will need many tiles to create a large solar system.
Integrated panels These panels are mounted flush with the roof (instead of being installed on racks). Some people find that these are preferable to a standard solar panel install, but this type of installation generally costs more because the tiles have the be removed and replaced with solar panels. It is for this reason that this type of install is most common in new homes.
Flat roof tilesThese are sometimes referred to as solar tiles, but they are actually a specially designed solar panel system for a flat roof.

Viability of Solar Tiles

Flat solar tiles installed on a roof.The market for solar tiles remains very small because most people choose the cheaper option of a standard solar system. Solar tiles are far more expensive in terms on initial cost and installation, although this cost difference is somewhat reduced for new homes. They remain very popular with heritage properties as they are more aesthetically pleasing and this factor should not be dismissed. There are many improvements being made to photovoltaic panels, including solar tiles, and this option may eventually become the standard in the industry. However, the standard solar panel installation will remain the dominant force in the renewable energy sector for some time to come. In the majority of cases a standard solar install suits most situations and costs less as well.

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Best Caravan Air Conditioners

Most people choose to travel with an air conditioner and many modern day caravans include an air conditioner as standard. Not only is an air conditioner is a great way to keep cool on a hot summer day, but a reverse cycle unit also provides heating capacity when required. There are still many models that do not have an air conditioning unit, including older caravans. Fortunately, it is easy to retrofit an air conditioning unit to your caravan or recreational vehicle. The following is a guide to help you choose the best caravan air conditioner for your needs.

Heating and Cooling Capacity

The heating and cooling capacity is the most important factor when choosing an air conditioner. Choosing the correct power can be difficult, but in general it is better to choose a slightly more powerful model than required. An underpowered unit may not perform to your satisfaction and will have to work harder to achieve the desired results (using more energy to do it). The cooling and heating capacity should be measured in kilowatts and the most common sizes range from 1.0 to 3.2 kW. If you are unsure about the capacity you require then it is best to speak with an expert. It is also important to ensure your air conditioner offers reverse cycle heating capacity. This is very effective and much more efficient than a traditional electrical element heater.

Roof Top Air Conditioner

A roof top air conditionerA roof top air conditioner is most popular option for a caravan. These are low profile and do not take up much internal space. There are two main sizes of roof top air conditioner units: 360mm (European style) and 400mm (US style). These units are efficient because warm air is drawn into the unit and then the cool air sinks into the van. The most important considerations when installing a roof top air conditioner is ensuring you have enough space available and ensuring your roof is thick/strong enough to accommodate the weight of the air conditioning unit. The main downsides of this type of unit are the increase in height of your van and the running noise.

Split System

split system caravan air conditionerA split system is another great option for installation in your caravan. These units are similar to the standard split systems that are installed in homes and offices. They consist of a compressor unit, which can be installed in a hidden location, and a cooling unit. They are very efficient and provide high quality heating and cooling for your caravan. They are quiet and can be completely built in to the van or motorhome. These units are more suitable than roof top air conditioners when the roof cannot take the weight. However, the downside of a split system is that it will take up valuable cupboard space, where the air handler is installed.

Other Options

Underbunk ducted systems are the main alternative option, but these are relatively rare. One of the past alternatives was to install a built in box air conditioner, but these are no longer sold on the Australian market and there are better options available. If your van remains in a fixed position then it may be cheaper and more suitable to install a home quality air conditioner unit.

Solar Options

Many caravaners choose to run solar power to charge batteries and power appliances. This means that you can take advantage of this by choosing an air conditioner that will run from the solar panels or battery unit. A 12 volt air conditioner is a great option for a caravan and will run from a solar panel or battery. If you decide on this option then it is a good idea to choose an air con with the best energy efficiency possible.

Installation

A worker installing a roof top air conditioning system in a caravan.You can have your air conditioner installed by a professional or simply choose to do-it-yourself. There are many installation guides on the internet, including this great guide for installing a roof mounted air conditioner to a caravan. If you take the DIY option then you need to make sure that you use a qualified electrician for the 240 V wiring. A professional installation is not cheap, but it is the recommended option if you have little DIY experience.

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Solar Garden Lights (that actually work)

Solar garden lights utilise the suns power to charge a small battery, which powers a light after darkness. These are great for garden areas and other outdoor spaces. Unlike other garden lights, they use no electricity and do not require regular battery changes. This means that they are a great environmentally friendly lighting option for your outside areas. Unfortunately most people have had negative experiences with solar garden lighting, simply because many models on the market are poorly made and have poor quality solar cells. However, a good quality solar light will produce light for many years, is completely safe and costs nothing to run!

Are all cheap solar garden lights poor quality?

A poor quality solar lightCheap solar garden lights are usually poor quality and do not give off enough light to be useful for safety purposes. This means that you shouldn’t rely on them for things such as lighting a path or an entry area to your home. Despite the fact that they will not light up a large area, they can be used for marking footpaths, garden edges and other obstacles. They are also suitable for decorative uses and can actually work out cheaper than other types of decorative garden lights. They can also be left running indefinitely without impacting significantly on their performance. Most solar lights, even cheap models, will run for at least a few hours into the night. More expensive models have the ability to auto switch on at night and off once the sun rises to begin a charging cycle.

A Choice review of solar lights in 2009 concluded that solar lights are purely decorative.

What are the best solar lights?

A high quality solar garden lightIf you want a solar light that is capable of lighting up an area after dark you should choose a light with the best light intensity rating possible. Most solar lights use LED’s, which use little power. In addition to this the battery is also an important consideration and it is always best to choose a battery technology that copes well with regular discharge and charge cycles. One of the best type of batteries for this purpose is LiFePO4 (also called LiPo or Lithium Polymer). This type of battery copes well with the constant charge-discharge cycle of a solar light, but the downside is that LiFePO4 batteries are quite expensive. Each solar light is rated for nightly run time, but most cheap lights fail to deliver this because the capacity of the low quality batteries deteriorate quickly. Another great option is the motion sensor solar light because these only work when they are needed. Another important consideration is the quality of the solar cell, because a high quality solar cell is capable of providing enough charge to power your lights for many nights. However, these features do not come cheap and this means that the best solar garden lights cost upwards of $100.

Installation and Maintenance

Solar lights are a simple DIY install and most require screwing or pushing the lantern into the upright post and then simply pushing the unit into the ground until it stands upright. Some solar lights come with mounting brackets and screws so they can be fixed to existing surfaces, but these lights are also relatively simple to install. Some solar light manufacturers have begun to use a separate solar panel, which have a cord running to the lights. Not only does this allow for a larger solar panel to be used, but also allows you to install solar lights in shaded areas. The most important factor when installing any type of solar light is that the solar cell is placed in a position where it receives the most amount of sunlight possible. Your light will usually come with a recommended hours of sunlight rating and it is best to exceed this if possible. Another important consideration for installation is the security of your solar lights. These lights are targets for thieves because they are easily removed, so some kind of permanent anchor is a good idea.

solar light battery replacement

Changing the battery is simple.

This type of light requires very little maintenance. The LED globes will run for many years without needing to be changed. The batteries should last 2-3 years and they are very simple to change when desired. It is also a good idea to clean your lights from time to time. This increases the efficiency of your solar cell and the brightness of your lights.

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Solar Water Features and Fountains

Adding a water feature or fountain to your outdoor area is a fantastic idea that can really add something special to your garden. However, the running costs and electrical requirements of using an electric pump can be off-putting. That is why many people are choosing the solar powered water feature/fountain option. This removes the costs of running an electric pump and removes all of the electrical requirements and potential dangers. A solar water feature really is the best option in most cases.
A solar water feature

Advantages of a solar water feature

There are a number of advantages of a solar water feature/fountain and these include:

  • There are no running costs for a solar pump. This not only benefits you in a financial sense, but also means you are having less of an impact of the environment.
  • A solar powered garden pump can be used almost anywhere, as long as there is enough sun.
  • No concerns about running an extension cord/electricity out into your garden and/or having the electricity exposed to the elements.
  • Does not require direct sunlight to operate. They will work in cloudy and overcast conditions.
  • Some solar pumps come with a battery backup for times when the solar panel is not providing enough power.
  • These pumps will continue to run for many years with little to no maintenance.

Types of solar water features/fountains

There are many different types of water features and fountains and solar models are available in almost any size and shape that you can think of. However, in terms of a solar setup there are three main options, which are listed below.

Readymade kit

A solar pump kit.A readymade kit includes everything that you will need to install your solar water feature/fountain. This will include the water feature itself, the pump, the solar panel and all wiring required. These kits are a great way to get started and you can usually have the entire system setup and running in under an hour. These are really easy to install and there is no knowledge of electrical components required.

Individual parts

You can also choose to purchase the individual components separately. This means that you will need to find a separate pump and then a solar cell that is capable of running your pump. This is best for those with some experience working with electrical systems. The advantage of this method is that it usually works out cheaper to source each part individually rather than purchasing a complete kit. It also allows you to only purchase what you need. For example, if you already have a pump then you won’t need to purchase another one.

Solar Conversion

A converted solar water fountainThe third option is for those that already own an electric water feature and want to convert it to run on solar power. This means you will need to purchase an appropriate solar cell and create new electrical connections. A solar conversion is best handled by a professional if you have limited experience.

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Solar Water Pumps

A farmer using a solar pump to draw water from a bore.A solar powered pump is a great alternative to a electric or diesel powered pump. They are not only more economical to run, but they also have far less impact on the environment. They can also be used in places where electricity is otherwise unavailable and where wind power is not suitable/does not produce enough energy. Solar water pumps come in range of sizes and can be used for anything from a small outdoor aquarium or swimming pool through to pumping water from a bore providing for a domestic water supply, irrigation or livestock.

Advantages of a Solar Pump

  • A solar pump reduces electricity/petrol usage and is environmentally friendly.
  • A high efficiency solar pumps will also work in many low light applications, such as early and late afternoon sun and also on cloudy days.
  • Solar pumps can be used for a wide variety of applications.
  • Many solar pumps feature digital monitoring and control, which means that they are easy to operate.
  • Submersible solar pumps are available and can be used the same way as a standard submersible pump.
  • Solar pumps are very reliable and require very little maintenance.
  • A solar pump kit is easy to install and comes pre wired and ready to run!
  • Are a great replacement for windmills and any electric or petrol pumps.
  • Solar pumps are very efficient and powerful. They can pump water from up to 230m below ground level!
  • Solar pumps are eligible for various government rebates and incentives such as Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).

Disadvantages

There are also some disadvantages over more traditional forms of pumps. The main disadvantage is the higher initial outlay cost of a solar pump. This can be offset somewhat by the solar rebates as well as the long term savings, but the higher initial cost remains a concern for some people. Solar power also requires enough sunlight to power the pump. This means that solar power may not be suitable in applications where sunlight is restricted, such as under the shade of a tree, or where your pump needs to run during hours of darkness. This can be managed by using a hybrid solar/electric or solar/petrol system.

Solar Pump Kits

A solar pump kitSolar pump kits are available for almost any situation and take the hassle out of installing your new pump. They come pre wired and ready to install and most people are able to install the system by themselves. A basic solar pump kit contains solar panels (photovoltaic array), motor and pump. A fully featured kit will also include digital controllers, isolation and low level switch/s, all cabling and plugs, solar panel frame and more. Regarding the warranty period, it is important to know that most solar panels have a 15-25 year warranty period, but the other components in a solar pump kit may have far less warranty coverage.

Choosing a Kit

The size of your solar panel, motor and pump depends on your needs. If you are unsure about what will work best for you then it is best to speak with an industry expert. Many solar pump providers will be happy to make a visit to your property to better assess your needs.

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The Best Cheap Portable Air Conditioners

If you are unable to install an air conditioner in your home or office then a portable air conditioner is a great alternative cooling (and even heating) option. There are many reasons that people are unable to install an air conditioner in their residence, but the most common reason is renting a property. Renting a house or office building without air conditioning can be uncomfortable during the hottest months and a portable air conditioner really is the best way to solve this problem if you can’t install a split system or central air conditioning system. This guide will help you choose the best portable air conditioning unit for your budget.

Advantages of a Portable AC Unit

A Soleus evaporative portable air conditioner

  • A portable air conditioner requires no installation and is suitable for a rental property/office.
  • A portable air conditioner can be moved around inside your home/office and can be used to cool/heat any area.
  • This type of cooling device is far more effective than a simple fan on a hot summers day.
  • Available with many features such as build in fan and air filer/purifier, which cleans the air for you.
  • Available in reverse cycle, which means they can be used as a heater in winter.

Disadvantages

  • Are less efficient and effective at cooling/heating when compared with a fixed air conditioner.
  • Some portable units require constant maintenance and care, such as removing water from a drain bucket or cleaning filters.
  • Portable AC units are usually nosier than a fixed air conditioner.

Types of Portable Air Conditioners

There are three main types of portable air conditioners and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

TypeDescriptionAdvantagesDisadvantagesCost
Evaporative cooling An evaporative cooler draws warm air through a filter into the unit where it is water cooled and then blown back out into the room. These are the cheapest type of portable air conditioning unit.The least effective cooling option. Increase humidity in the air. Must empty the water and clean the filter often (although self evaporating models are available).Between $70-400
CondenserA condenser air conditioner is often mounted in a window frame and works in a similar way to a standard split system.They are efficient at cooling and are the best portable model for cooling.Expensive. They must be placed in a window frame or have a duct that expels the unwanted hot air outside.$400+
Reverse cycleReverse cycle simply means that the unit can be used for heating and cooling.Good for summer and winter. Don't need to purchase a separate heater and air conditioner.More expensive.$500+

Choosing the Right Size Air Conditioner

Understanding kW and BTU

A portable condenser air conditionerIn Australia you will find that most air conditioners are rated in term of kilowatts (kW). However, some sellers still quote a BTU (British Thermal Unit) rating, which is used in Britain and the US. In this case you can convert the figure by following the one watt equals approximately 3.41 BTUs rule.

Calculating the size

It is essential that you choose the right size for the area that you intend to cool. If you air conditioner is underpowered it will have to work harder and will not cool effectively. Alternatively, an air conditioner that is too powerful comes with an unnecessary initial cost and it could leave your room damp and humid. Getting the balance right is essential and you should carefully consider your needs before making a purchase. A larger area will require a more powerful air conditioner and the general rule that you should follow is 80-125 watts per square meter, but this calculation assumes a standard roof height. If you are unsure about the size of air conditioner that you require then you should seek the advice of a specialist.

Considering Energy Efficiency

Delonghi reverse cycle PAC W160HPAs a general rule portable air conditioners are not very efficient, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider energy efficiency when making your decision. The government energy rating scheme makes this decision easier and it is a good idea to check the labels for the star rating. Try to choose an energy efficient model that will have enough cooling power for your needs. It is also important to remember that a reverse cycle unit will have two star ratings: one for cooling and one for heating. You can also run your own rough energy calculations by multiplying the kW rating of the air conditioner by the cost of your power per kilowatt hour. This will give you the cost of running the unit for one hour.

Other Factors To Consider

Noise

Portable air conditioning units can be quite noisy and, if possible, it is a good idea to test the noise level of the unit before making a purchase. This is especially important if you are going to be sleeping in the same room as a running unit!

Filter

Some portable units require constant filter changes or regular cleaning. Other units have air filter/purifier systems that also require cleaning from time to time. With regular use you should inspect the filters once a month.

Heating

Do you need a unit that is capable of heating as well? This will cost extra, but save you from buying a separate heater.

Maintenance

You need to know if the unit requires regular maintenance and how easy it is to maintain.

Warranty

Although the failure rate for portable air conditioners is fairly low, you should always try to find a unit with a 3 year+ warranty.

Drip or non-drip

Condensation is a factor with any type of air conditioner. A drip model expels all of the excess water into a bucket, which you will have to empty each time you use the air conditioner. Non-drip models recycle the moisture and it is evaporated into the air, but they are far more expensive to purchase.

Solar power

Some portable air conditioners are designed to run on solar power, while most models can be adapted to run on solar power if you choose to do this. Always consult with an expert before making any modifications to your unit.

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Portable Solar Panels for Camping

flexible camping solar panelsThe type of power generation you use while camping is one of the most important considerations you can make, especially if you are spending a considerable amount of time away from home. Generators were once the only viable option, but today portable camping solar panels have become affordable for everyday use. Coupled with a battery system and inverter you can power to almost any device you bring with you. However, choosing the right solar panel and accessories can be a difficult decision to make. Many people make this mistake of thinking that all solar panels and accessories are equal, but nothing could be further from the truth. The following guide will help you understand more about choosing a solar panel for your next camping trip.

Camping solar panel kits

A solar camping kit is an all-in-one package designed to have you generating power without any additional accessories. They usually come with a solar panel (a folding solar panel is most common in camping kits), regulator, all the required electrical connections and wiring, stand and a carry kit. All that you will need to provide is a 12v battery and inverter if you want to power AC appliances, and some manufacturers even include these in their kits for a total package solution.

Create your own solar panel system

Those with experience in solar/battery technology, or those with the time to put in hours of research, may want to construct their own portable solar panel system. This is a good alternative because you only need to purchase what you will use and you can usually put a kit together for cheaper than an all-in-one package. This is a good option for those that enjoy DIY projects and all you need to get started is a folding solar panel . You can build your own frame to save even more money.

What you need to know when choosing a solar panel for camping

The following are the most important things to consider when choosing a camping solar panel system.

The type and size of the panel

Ideally you should select a panel that is designed to charge a 12 volt battery. Judging the size of panel that you require depends on your intended energy usage. You should conduct an energy audit. A simple way to do this is to find the watts used by each appliance and then multiply this by the hours it will be used per day. This gives you the daily watt hour rating. Then divide this number by the average number of peak sun hours for a rough calculation of required watts.

Panel mounting options

Panels can be directly mounted to a caravan or vehicle, but most campers opt for portable panels that are free standing. This means that they can be moved to capture the most amount of sun.

Portability

The best camping solar panels are foldable, which makes for easier storage. They are also relatively lightweight so they can be setup and moved into place easily. Some manufacturers now make flexible solar panels, which are becoming more popular with campers.

Battery type

fullriver agm battery (115 AH)You cannot expect that any 12 volt battery will work with continual deep discharge, in fact it is the fastest way to kill a standard car battery. Ideally, you want a deep cycle battery that is rated in Amp Hours (AH). A deep cycle battery is designed to be charged and discharged often and will last several years with proper use. The best batteries for this type of use are AGM batteries, which are fully sealed and cope well with the charge-discharge cycle and even the occasional over discharge. However, as a general rule this battery should never be discharged further than 70% of capacity. A great alternative to the AGM are LiFePO4 (lithium Iron Phosphate) batteries that have the added benefit of being far lighter and coping with even deeper discharge. This main reason these are not more popular is that they cost more than 3 times as much as AGM batteries!

Battery capacity

In general, the higher the rated Amp Hours the better. You need to ensure you have a battery capable of providing enough power for each day as well as being able to cope with additional days without charging if you are on the road or when the weather is not conducive to solar generation. You can use two batteries in series for a 24 volt system or two batteries in parallel for a 12 volt system with additional amp hours. Many people choose a two battery system because it provides a backup if a battery becomes faulty.

Regulator and Inverter

We recommend a solar regulator (charge controller) for all camping solar panels above 10 watts. An inverter is only necessary if you plan on running AC appliances. A pure sine wave inerter is the best option, but is also more expensive than other inverters. Using an inverter is not 100% efficient and you should calculate for about 20% power loss.

Our recommendation

A solar panel on a custom stand.If you are new to solar power and want a simple kit to get started then a Suntech Freedom kit is our top pick. They come with everything you need and have a very good reputation in the industry. They are covered by a 25 year warranty (the regulator has a 5 year warranty) so you can expect that this kit will continue to perform well for many years of camping. They come in a range of sizes and capacities from 20 watt through to 140 watt. The 80, 120 and 140 watt kits are also available in 24 volt configuration. We currently recommend AGM batteries, but LiFePO4 is the best option if you can afford it.

Paul Sawyer is a camping and outdoor expert. He runs a number of well regarded websites in this area such as

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    Panasonic Air Conditioner Reviews

    Panasonic have been manufacturing air conditioners for many years and they produced their first room air conditioner in 1958. Technology has changed much since this time and Panasonic has becoming one of the leading names in air conditioning. The current range of Panasonic air conditioning systems includes cooling only and reverse cycle inverter split systems, ducted and cassette air conditioners. There are 33 different models on the market, but many of these are simply variations in capacity/cooling ability (rated in kW). We are going to take a close look at the current range and share our thoughts about each model.

    Split Systems

    A Panasonic split systemSplit systems make up the largest proportion of Panasonic’s air conditioner range. There are currently 17 split system models on the Australian market. The current range features five cooling only models, five reverse cycle models and seven new energy efficient reverse cycle models. All Panasonic split systems in Australia use inverter technology, which makes them more efficient that the older style split systems.

    Review

    We were very impressed with the new Panasonic split system air conditioners. They were whisper quiet and very efficient at cooling out test environment. The settings allowed for many adjustments to the running and operation and the remote control was very responsive. The main downside was found in the reverse cycle models, which were not as effective at heating a room as we would have liked. Overall the products we tested were very good with only minor flaws, but if heating is important to you it might be worth considering a different brand.

    Ducted

    Panasonic ducted air conditionerThere are eight models in the ducted range, including three models that feature three phase operation. All of these air conditioners feature inverter technology. The smallest unit is the 60PE1R5, which is a 6kW system, and the largest model is the 140PE1R5, which is a 14kW system. A ducted system is a good choice because it can cool a whole house and air outlets can be placed where needed. The outside unit can be placed almost anywhere and provides whisper quiet operation.

    Review

    The ducted system that we had the opportunity to test was very efficient at cooling both the smaller rooms and larger living areas. It was quiet and any operating noise quickly blends into the other household background noises. The energy use of the new inverter ducted system was phenomenal and Panasonic told us that the inverter technology saves more than 50% of the total energy usage. We have nothing negative to say about the ducted systems and if you are searching for a total house air cooling and heating system then you should consider this model!

    Cassette

    Panasonic Cassette Air ConditionerThere are eight cassette air conditioner systems in the current Panasonic Australia range. Three of these models are three phase operation. They are available in the same kW ratings as the ducted systems and all models feature inverter technology. They offer high airflow and can be installed in almost any ceiling height. These have a maximum pipe length of 75 m, which means that they can be used in almost any building!

    Review

    Cassette systems are best known for their ability to pump out some serious airflow and the test model that we had access to didn’t disappoint. Again, noise was minimal and under normal operation the sound was not an issue. The inverter technology helps save 50% for cooling and 64% for heating. The heating and cooling both performed adequately. This would be a great option for those needing high airflow and/or with high ceilings.

    Suitability for Solar Operation

    Panasonic have also recently introduced reverse cycle inverter split systems with patented ECONAVI technology. This is a system of dedicated intelligent sensors that cooperate to reduce energy usage. The manufacturer states that as much as 38% (cooling) and 45% (heating) of energy can be saved with this technology. This means that the ECONAVI range of Panasonic air conditioning systems would be perfect to operate with a whole house solar install. Many standard Panasonic air conditioners can be converted to full solar or hybrid solar, but this is almost certainly going to void any warranty.

    Warranty

    Panasonic offers a generous 5 year warranty on their air conditioners from the date of purchase (not from the date it was installed). Panasonic offers a home service warranty, which means that an authorised and qualified repairer will come to your home to make repairs. However, it is worth noting that you may be charged a travelling fee if your home is outside the operating area of a Panasonic Authorised Service Centre. As with any warranty there are some restrictions and you should carefully read the conditions of warranty before making a claim. You can make a warranty claim by calling Panasonic on 132600.

    Wrap-Up

    Pricing

    The MRRP for the various split system models ranges from $1154 for the 2.6kW cooling only model through to $3487 for the 8kW ECONAVI reverse cycle. This pricing does vary and discounts are offered by large retailers from time to time. Pricing on the ducted and cassette systems vary depending on the type of install and should be confirmed with your local dealer.

    Pros

    • Inverter technology throughout the range.
    • Many models to choose from.
    • Eco focused model (great for those with a solar system).
    • Whisper quiet.
    • Long 5 year warranty.

    Cons

    • Priced at the more expensive end of the market.
    • Heating capability of the reverse cycle split systems could be better.

    Final Thoughts

    Panasonic is offering a great range of air conditioners in the Australian market. The quality and long warranty mean that most buyers are satisfied with their purchases. The Panasonic reverse cycle air conditioner was awarded the best Air Conditioning Product of the Year at the Product of the Year Awards 2014. It just goes to show that almost 50 years experience in the market has made Panasonic a top name in air conditioning. If you are searching for a new or replacement air conditioner then the Panasonic range should feature in your considerations!

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