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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Sourcing Cheap Solar Panels

Whether it be a backyard project or a full solar install, many people attempt to source cheap solar panels. These discount solar panels come in many forms, from kits for DIY creations through to complete systems. There are also other ways of saving money on solar panels, such as purchasing direct from the manufacturer, buying in bulk (a group buy is commonly used) or purchasing used/second hand solar panels. The following guide will give you some ideas for sourcing cheap solar panels so that you can save money without compromising on quality.

Cheap New Solar Panels

New solar panels.New solar panels are very rarely offered with a discount, but there are still ways to save money when buying solar panels. As with any purchase, it is important that you carefully research the panels to ensure that they are good quality and come with an appropriate warranty. You should become familiar with solar panel specifications such as power tolerance, module efficiency and temperature coefficient. It is also a good idea to read as many reviews as possible so that you are aware of any potential issue/s with the panels/manufacturer. It is also important to factor shipping costs and insurance into your budget.

Direct from the manufacturer

Many solar panel manufacturers offer to sell their panels direct to the public. This is a great way to save money because it cuts out the middle man. You are still covered by the full warranty and support offered by the manufacturer. The downside to this method is that you will need to pay for shipping and insurance which can be expensive for a bulky item. You also need to carefully research the panels and the company to ensure that the offer is legitimate and that they are selling a quality product.

Factory seconds/refurbished

Factory seconds and refurbished solar panels are like new, but may have a minor defect or fault. In many cases the shipping carton has been damaged and the actual panel is in perfect condition. These panels are far cheaper, but are often offered with limited or no warranty and support.

Bulk buy discount (group buy)

Another great way to save money is to get together with other people are purchase a bulk order of solar panels. A bulk order will receive a discount and the cost of each panel is substantially reduced. The downside of this method is organising other interested people (and making sure they pay their share on time) and managing the transaction.

Second Hand/Used Solar Panels

A used solar panel with minor damageSecond hand and used solar panels are also a great way of sourcing cheap solar panels. However, it can be difficult to source enough used panels for a whole house solar system so this option is best for those with smaller solar projects. In addition to this, it is important to remember that a full solar system must be installed and connected by a qualified electrician. In our experience we have found that many electricians will not install a second hand system if you are planning on connecting them to the grid.

Things to consider when buying used panels

Used solar panels are a viable way to source cheap solar panels for a project or home energy production use. However, it is important that you take the following considerations into account when making a purchase.

The age of the panel

The age of the panel will affect its production. This is especially true for thin film panels. A PV panel can degrade as much as 1% per year.

The type of panel

Try to source a monocrystaline or polycrystalline panel because they are not as badly affected by the age of the panel.

The condition of the panel

Is the panel in good condition? You should check for any hairline cracks or chipping (see the photo above). You should also check the seals because once moisture gets into a panel it begins to degrade the performance. Also be on the lookout for any signs of oxidisation.

Its performance

It is a good idea to test the panel if you are able to. Check for any voltage drops throughout the day. This can point to corrosion or damage and you should avoid any panel that doesn’t appear to be working properly unless you have the skills (and patience) to fix them. It is a good idea to have the panels professional tested where possible.

Has it been used in a marine setting

The saltwater environment is harsh on solar panels (or any electronics for that matter). It is best to avoid any panel that has been used on a boat or other marine setting.

Sourcing used panels

There are a number of places to search for used solar panels. One of the best ways is to search online auction and classified sites such as eBay and Gumtree. You can find almost anything this way, from single panels through to complete off-grid systems! Another great option is to ask around at your local road city and government departments or equipment hire company. Many of the roadside signs and lighting utilise solar panels and they often discard broken or damaged solar panels. These can often be repaired to produce a fully functioning panel. You can also contact solar installers in your area as they sometimes have spare panels that have been removed from buildings or replaced due to age, warranty or damage. Retailers often receive damaged panels that you can purchase and repair for the fraction of the price of a new panel. You could also advertise in your local classifieds, community notice board or online portal so that others know you are on the lookout for used solar panels.

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Rheem Solar Hot Water System and Heater Reviews

Rheem has been an Australian household name in hot water systems for many years. They produced their first water heater in 1939 and fast became the gold standard in the industry. What many people don’t know is that Rheem have also been at the forefront of solar and other renewable energy water heating for over 25 years. The following are the current models available from Rheem and we find out if they manage to meet our high standards.

Roof Mounted Solar Hot Water Heater

A Rheem roof mounted solar hot water systemThere are four roof mounted solar hot water systems in the current range. The roof mounted direct and indirect steel solar water heaters are the traditional design that has been popular in Australia for decades. The main difference between the two models is the way the water is heated. The indirect water heater uses a system of anti-freeze fluid and a heat exchange system to heat the water, and in the direct system water passes through the collector and is directly heated. This means that the indirect system is suitable for cooler climates that are prone to frost. Both of these models are available in a number of colours to suit any house design.

The other two roof mounted models (the Hiline and Premiere Hiline) combine the traditional system with an in roof water tank, which is designed to free up space at the ground level (where the traditional solar water heater tank is installed). The two models are similar, but the Premier model is suitable for cooler climates and frost prone areas.

There are two types of solar collectors that are currently used by Rheem. The Australis collector and the Titan. The Australis is constructed of copper and aluminium and is the most popular choice. The Titan has been designed for high performance and uses advanced titanium coated copper. This makes it one of the most efficient solar hot water systems available.

SystemInstallationCool climate/frost compatibleWarranty
HilineOutdoorNo5 Years
Hiline PremiereOutdoorYes6 Years
Roof Mounted DirectOutdoorNo7-10 Years
Roof Mounted IndirectOutdoorYes7-10 Years

Ground Mounted Combined/Split Systems

A Rheem Loline hot water heater.These systems are very similar to the traditional solar hot water heaters, but they are specifically designed with a slim profile in mind. This reduces the structural load on the roof, which means that they are suitable for some non standard installations. They also have a low profile, which means that they provide a better visual impact on the roof (they can even be hidden in some cases). As with the other models, there are two options available; the Rheem Premier Loline and the standard Loline. The Premier Loline is designed to work in all climates, including frost prone areas.

SystemInstallationFrost compatibleWarranty
LolineIndoor/OutdoorNo5 Years
Loline PremiereIndoor/OutdoorYes5 Years

Alternative Options

Rheem also offers a number of alternative options for water heating including gas, split system heat pumps and energy efficient electric models. In the event that a solar system is not suitable for your property, then these models provide a low energy and environmentally friendly option. There are times when a solar hot water system is not available, such as if your roof space is unsuitable for install or if your property is surrounded by shade (other properties, trees etc). As with all solar hot water systems, the Rheem models feature electric or gas boost for times when a little extra heating is required.

Prices

Price, including installation, for a solar hot water heater depends on the model that you are installing and the difficulty/complexity of the install. A standard model combined with a standard install averages about $3000-$4000 before rebates. You can expect to pay anywhere from $2000 through to $10000. A replacement is likely to be cheaper because the existing pipework may cut installation costs/tine. The only way you can get an accurate figure for your home is to arrange a free quote. It is a good idea to ensure you obtain as many quotes as possible to ensure you get the best price. It is also important to consider that you may be eligible for government incentives for installing a solar hot water system. To confirm your eligibility you should speak with the manufacturer and/or installer before signing a contract or purchasing a new unit.

Our Thoughts/Review

Rheem remains one of the most trusted brands in hot water systems and their products are generally known for high quality and extended warranties (the shortest warranty on the solar products is 5 years). The solar systems have had some teething problems over the years, but most customers report that they are satisfied with the service they have received from the company when a warranty claim is required. The solar water heaters are a great way to reduce your power bill as well as reducing your impact on the environment. If you are considering installing a solar hot water system in your new home, or are replacing an old system, then the Rheem range of solar products should definitely be a part of your considerations.

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Gas Powered Split System Air Conditioning

Are you looking for an alternative to standard air conditioning systems, but solar power isn’t an option? Maybe a gas powered air conditioning system would suit your needs and work towards lowering your power bill. This is a great option for homes and businesses with access to natural gas because this cooling option is far cheaper to run than a standard electric air conditioner. These air conditioners are also very effective and have virtually the same cooling (and heating) ability as the electric powered models. Read on to find out if this type of air conditioner is right for your needs.

Gas Powered Split Systems

A gas powered split system.A gas powered air conditioner is virtually identical to an electric split system air conditioner. However, in the gas powered model a small gas engine drives the compressor in the outdoor unit instead of an electric motor. The gas motor can automatically change speed to regulate the temperature inside the room. The outside unit is sometimes called a gas heat pump and are commonly used in other parts of the world.

Gas powered split systems are extremely efficient and are available in multi-room configurations. This means that a single outside unit can run a number of indoor units. This is a perfect way to cool and heat a family home, office, school or other type of building with multiple rooms. For example, an 85kW gas powered outdoor unit can easily cool 8 separate rooms while using minimal electricity. The efficiency to power usage ratio of these units is unmatched. The added benefit to this is that the inside units are standard split system models, which means that the cost is comparable to the standard split system install.

Installation

A tradesman installing a split system air conditioner.Installation of a gas powered split system is no more complex than a standard split system. However, the gas fittings must be installed be a qualified and licensed installer. Installation costs vary with the installer, but it should cost about the same as an electric air conditioner installation. Some parts of the installation, such as mounting the air conditioner units, are suitable for DIY, but we always recommend a fully qualified and experienced installer.

Benefits of a Gas Powered Air Conditioner

Long Servicing PeriodA gas powered split system only needs to be serviced once every 5 years (or every 10,000 hours)!
Reduced Energy Bills and Environmental ImpactUsing a gas heat pump system cuts the amount of electricity the unit uses by up to 90%! You can even combine solar power and gas to remove the need for mains power at all. It is estimated that a gas powered unit is 30-50% cheaper to run. Government rebates may be available in certain states and territories.
Multiple Room Cooling AbilityA single gas outdoor unit can be used to run a number of inside heating and cooling units.
Mostly Off the ShelfThe inside unit/s used in a gas powered air conditioning system are standard units.
Work in Extreme ColdA gas heat pump uses waste heat from the unit to remove ice from the condenser coils. An electric system needs to run de-icing cycles before it can begin heating.
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Solar Ventilation and Heat Extraction for Your Roof Space

A large roof area can act link a giant solar collector, and this transfers heat into your house. This might be welcome in the depths of winter, but during summer your house can heat up like an oven. This not only creates an unpleasant temperature in your home, but it also means that you need to use more energy to cool it down. Fortunately, there are many options for reducing the temperature in your roof space and venting the hit air. One of these is solar ventilation and heat extraction, which is designed to draw hot and moist air from your roof space. The following guide provides everything you need to know about this type of ventilation system as well as comparisons with other popular heat extraction options.

How Solar Ventilation Works

A solar ventilation systemA solar ventilation system is similar to many other types of ventilation/heat extraction systems. The basic unit consists of a motor and fan which pulls the heat and moisture out of roof space. This is an extremely simply, yet effective, system and can be installed on most houses. The main difference between this and other systems is that the solar system uses energy from the sun to power the motor, which then turns the fan. This is a great way to power the unit as it is operating with free energy from the sun. This means that once it is installed there are no ongoing costs to run a solar heat extraction unit!

The following video shows how this type of ventilation works and how it can benefit your house.

Benefits

  • Reduce the amount of hot air in your home and reduce your energy use for cooling.
  • Remove excess moisture which can damage your ceiling and cause mould and mildew to grow.
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Very effective
  • No ongoing running costs
  • Fully sealed to prevent water leakage

Wind Vents (Whirlybirds) Compared to Solar Ventilation

A whirlybirdOne of the most popular non-solar options are wind vents, also known as Whirlybirds. These are also very effective at removing heat from the roof space. However, they do have some downsides that must be considered. The first drawback of the Whirlybird system is that it is powered by the wind. This works fine when there is enough wind to operate the system, but they can fail to operate effectively on some very still days. Other disadvantages of wind vents is that they have been known to allow water entry into the roof cavity and they can also become quite noisy in some situations. On the other hand, solar heat extraction systems will work when there is no wind blowing and continue to run even on cloudy days. The solar systems also offer a flatter profile and look great on any room. In terms of efficiency, a good quality solar venting system, such as the Solar Star RM1600, is equivalent to about 15 Whirlybirds!

Cost

The cost is one area that Whirlybirds beat the competition, but solar heat extraction systems are becoming much more affordable. In addition to this government subsidies and grants may be available to you if you are installing this technology in your home.

Installation

We recommend that you have your solar ventilation system installed by a professional, but many people have chosen to install the unit themselves. They can be installed on new or existing homes. The existing home installation takes a little bit longer, but can usually be completed in less than a day. Installing lower intake vents inside the house is also a good idea and makes the system even more efficient at extracting heat from your home.

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Evacuated Tube Solar Hot Water

Heating water can be one of the largest household expenses. In fact, electric hot water systems can cost in excess of $1000 a year to run. It is for this reason that many people are switching to solar hot water systems, which are more expensive to install but have lower overall running costs. Solar hot water systems have been used in Australia for many years, but a recent development in solar hot water has created a more efficient system that costs virtually nothing to run.

Evacuated Tube Solar Collectors

evacuated tube solar hot water installed on a roof frame.An evacuated tube hot water system is made up of glass tubes that are fused at the top and bottom. The air from the tubes is evacuated (hence the name) to create a vacuum, which reduces the heat loss to the environment. The tubes contain a thin heat pipe made of copper (this runs through the centre of the glass tube) that is connected to a slow flow pump. Water slowly passes through the tubes and it is heated by the sun. This water is then pumped into an insulated storage tank, which can be used during the day or night. Depending on the size of the system the hot water is constantly available without the need for an electric booster.

Development of the technology

Evacuated tube technology was developed in Australia in partnership with the New South Wales government. Once the technology was developed it was sold to China and it is now the most common form of solar hot water in this region.

Advantages

Superior Heat ExtractionThis is the main advantage of this type of solar hot water system. Evacuated tube systems can heat water in almost any conditions and they don’t require constant direct sunlight. The vacuum system creates a very high efficiency system, which means that an electric booster is required less often!
Non-standard InstallationDue to the higher efficiency these systems can be installed in areas where the sun is not an an optimal angle. They can also be installed in a stand alone ground installation with a specially designed frame.
DurabilityThese units are extremely durable and can be used in almost any area. They are capable of working to -12°C.
RepairThese units are far cheaper to repair than other solar systems should they be damaged.

Cost and Rebates

The cost of an evacuated tube solar hot water system depends on a number of factors such as eligibility for government rebates, size of system and tank, brand of system, as well as the difficulty of install. For example, a standard install and added government rebates you may find a supplier offering a special price of about $1000 for a 30 tube and 250 litre system. On the other end of the scale a difficult install of a 40 tube and 350 litre Apricus system, without government rebates, can easily cost upwards of $5000.
There are many state and federal government rebates for these systems and it is important to ask your installer about which rebates you are eligible for before installing. You also need to understand Small-scale technology certificates (STCs), which you may be eligible for when installing a renewable energy system such as solar hot water. This is part of the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme and there are many benefits for home owners available. See the Clean Energy Regulator website for more details.

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What is the Most Efficient Air Conditioner?

Air conditioning is not known for being overly energy efficient, but air conditioners are the most effective way of cooling a space down. There are many different types of air conditioning systems and each type has a different efficient rating. Due to the increases in the cost of electricity, the energy efficiency of an air conditioning system is becoming an important purchasing consideration. This means that manufacturers are attempting to improve the efficiency of their products and this means that there are more low energy models to choose from. In addition to this, solar powered air conditioners are providing a genuine air conditioning alternative for homeowners.

Choosing the Most Efficient Air Conditioner

An inverter air conditioner modified to run on solar power.Choosing a new air conditioner can be confusing because there are so many different models on the market. The most efficient air conditioner for your usage will depend on a number of factors such as:

  • where you live (including the climate)
  • the size/area that you are cooling
  • how many rooms you are trying to cool
  • your budget
  • the energy usage and cooling capacity of the air conditioner
  • the temperature the air conditioner is set at
  • if you require heating as well

It is important to consider each factor before making a purchase. It is a good idea to conduct an energy audit of your home so that you can work out the added costs of running an air conditioner. You will then be able to decide which type and model to install in your house/commercial building. The government energy rating system, also known as the star rating system, is one way that can help you work out the most efficient air conditioner. However, it is still important to complete you own calculations because your situation may not be the same as the testing scenario. For example, if you purchase a smaller capacity air conditioner than required then it will be working harder to cool the larger space and it will use more energy.

Split System Air Conditioners

Traditionally this type of air conditioner is one of the least efficient. However, recent developments have led to a decrease in energy usage. They are now very efficient at cooling and also also one of the best ways to quickly heat an area in winter. These factors mean that split systems are now becoming more popular with homeowners. Inverter technology split systems, which feature a variable speed compressor, are much more effective at regulating the temperature in a room. This not only keeps you more comfortable, but it also means that you will be using less power as well! Ultra low energy split systems have also been developed and many of these are designed to be used with solar power. An alternative hybrid solar split system has also been developed and this uses a thermal collector to heat and pressurise the gas in the unit.

Ducted Air Conditioners

A vent installed with a ducted air conditioner.These air conditioners are considered to be one of the most efficient ways of cooling a large home. This system is made up of the standard unit, usually installed on the roof, and a series of ducts that run throughout the roof space with vents (pictured) entering each room. Most ducted air conditioners used in residential premises use evaporative cooling technology. This is relatively energy efficient and provides adequate cooling in most cases. The downside to this type of air conditioning system is that evaporative cooling does not work well in high humidity. Solar ducted air conditioners are also available and these are extremely efficient. The main downside to a solar system is that they are expensive to install.

Commercial Air Conditioners

Commercial air conditioning falls into two main categories; small spaces and large buildings. Small spaces, such as a stand alone office space, can use many of the same cooling systems that are used in the home. Larger buildings, such as an office tower, require large air conditioning systems. Traditionally these have not been overly efficient, but some manufacturers are now producing more efficient models. It is important to compare the systems to find the most efficient model for your commercial buildings.

Tips for Maintaining Air Conditioner Efficiency

A workman cleaning and servicing a split system air conditioner.There are a number of things that you can do to make sure that your air conditioner is performing as efficiently as it possibly can. It is important that an air conditioner is properly maintained at all times.

Clean The UnitKeeping the air conditioner clean is a key way to maintain efficiency. Ideally, you want to remove unwanted dust and moisture from the unit. If you are unsure how to clean your unit then you should consult the user manual or hire a professional air conditioning cleaning company. Cleaning the unit also prevents a build up of bacteria or mould, which can be harmful to your health.
Gas/Coolant/Refrigerant LevelsCertain air conditions require regassing, refrigerant or coolant replacement at specified intervals. If your unit is not serviced then it may become less efficient and have to work harder to cool your home. This not only uses more energy, but it can also cause damage to your air conditioner. Servicing should be completed by a certified air conditioning specialist.
Set the Temperature HigherYou can increase efficiency by setting a slightly higher temperature on the thermostat. Your air conditioner will not have to work as hard and this not only saves energy, but also increases the life span of the unit.
Use a TimerA timer is a great way to increase efficiency. For example, you can set the air conditioner to begin cool the house before you arrive home from work so that you don’t need to rapidly cool your house to a comfortable temperature.
Use FansElectric fans are cheap to run and are fantastic at distributing the cool air from the air conditioner into a room.

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A Solar Carport Or Garage Install

A home solar installation is a great way to reduce your power bill and is also one of the most environmentally friendly sources of power. In most cases a solar system is installed on the roof of a house, but solar carport or garage installs are also very popular. These installs can require a little more planning and procedure than a standard install, but the potential advantages outweigh the drawbacks. As with any type of solar install it is important to consult a professional before conducting any install.

Potential advantages

Additional space for solar panelsA carport or garage roof is a great place for a full solar install or to add to your existing solar system.
An alternative to difficult house installThere are some cases where a house is not suitable for a traditional solar install. For example, a double story house can cause headaches for a solar install and add to the budget, but a garage or carport install is much more manageable.
A specially designed spaceIf you do not currently have a carport/garage you can actually have it designed and built with a specific thought to your solar panel install. This means you can create the best roof pitch and direction for your solar panels. There is also the option of using solar panels in on a specially designed lattice system as a complete replacement for a standard roof!
Electric vehicle chargingThis is a niche area, but some electric vehicles can be charged by solar panels and what better place to place these panels than on the carport or garage roof!

A new carport

a solar carport with panels on the roof.Incorporating the use of solar panels in a new carport design is one of the best ways to create an alternative household solar install. This type of carport is constructed in a similar way to a traditional carport, but instead of a standard roof being added to the design a series of solar panels is attached to the frame to act like a roof of the structure. This not only provides power from the sun, but it also protects your vehicle from the elements. The main downside of this type of carport is that it requires a special design and cannot be built from an “off-the-shelf” design. Another potential concern is the cost of this type of carport, which is considerably higher than a traditional carport. However, a traditional carport does not create power from the sun! As with any new building project you need to make sure it meets all building codes and ensure you have local government approval.

Installing Solar Panels on an existing Carport or Garage

It is certainly possible to install solar panels on a carport or garage, but whether this is a viable option does depend on a number of factors. It is a good idea to have a qualified solar installer inspect your property and give you a professional opinion/report regarding the viability of this option. The first thing you need to consider is the direction that the carport faces and whether it receives full or partial sun. You also need to know whether any trees, buildings or other structures throw shadows onto the roof of your carport/garage. In addition to this the pitch of the roof is also an important factor. The roof area of most carports is built flat or with only a slight incline. If this is the case then a greater pitch may be required by using a specially built frame to install the solar panels. Lastly, and most importantly, you must ensure that your carport is built to accept the weight of the solar panels and that you receive proper local government approval for the install. Many people plan on having solar panels installed on their carport/garage, but end up discovering that it is not a viable option.

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Solar Pool Heaters for Quality Water Heating

Many Australians have a swimming pool in the backyard and most see plenty of use during the warmer months. However, the number one reason that the backyard pool becomes deserted is cooler weather, which reduces the water temperature. This can occur at any time of the year, especially if your pool is in a shaded spot or you live in the southern parts of the country. There is a solution to this problem – a water heater. These are a great way of bringing the water up to a comfortable temperature for swimming and extending your swimming season throughout the whole year. Although there are many types of water heating options, one of the cheapest and most efficient is a solar pool heater.

Solar Pool Heating

A pool area with solar collectors installed on the roof.The basic idea for solar pool heating is to heat the water in specially designed panels on the roof of your house and then transfer this heated water into your pool. The water from the pool is pumped through a solar collector, which are usually installed on the roof of your house or shed, and it is heated by the sun as it flows through the collector. This water is then returned to the pool. This can be installed as a fully automatic system, with a digital controller, and you can even have it set to achieve a desired temperature. On average you can expect a 5 -7 degree increase in the water temperature during the warmer months and 2-4 degrees in the cooler months. The running costs of this system are virtually nothing, because the existing pool pump is used to pump water to and from the solar collector. If you don’t have a roof space to install this system they can be installed on a specially designed frame. The cost of this type of system depends on how large your pool is and whether you need an automatic or manual system. The cost of installation also needs to be considered, but DIY kits are available. The following are some of the advantages of solar pool heaters compared with traditional gas or electric water heaters.

  • More economical
  • They work on cloudy days as well (without the same efficiency)
  • Very quiet, even under full operation
  • Simple to install and can be installed almost anywhere
  • No power is required
  • Extend swimming season
  • A quality system will last 20-30 years
  • Can be used together with other water heaters
  • Automatic or manual control
Solar collectors installed on a roof.

This solar pool heating system in installed on the roof of a house.

Frame mounted solar collectors.

This pool heating system is mounted on a custom frame.

Thermal Swimming Pool Covers

Thermal pool cover.These covers are designed to retain the heat in your pool. They are essential for owners who already have pool heating installed because they help retain the heat from the heater so that water heating is required less often. Thermal pool covers are available in the traditional bubble cover and the newly developed thermal cover designs. Bubble covers are great for retaining heat, but they don’t last as long or look as good as a modern thermal blanket. Thermal blankets cost about $25-35 per square metre, which means a standard pool cover costs about $1000. You also need to factor in the costs of installation and a roller for your cover. Some states offer rebates for installing a thermal cover and they are actually mandatory in some locations. You can expect a thermal swimming pool cover to last approximately 10 years and a bubble cover to last 6 years. The following are some of the main advantages of using a thermal pool cover.

Save Energy If you use gas or electricity to heat your pool then a thermal cover can help you save money on your power bill!
Save WaterEvaporation is the number one cause of lost water in Australian swimming pools. They can actually lose more than a pool full of water each year -this could be as much as 200 litres per day! A thermal cover not only keeps the water warmer, but it also reduces evaporation.
Increase Swimming TimeA warmer pool means more swimming time and a longer swimming season!

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Solar Split System Air Conditioners

A split system air conditioner is a type of air conditioning unit that is separated into two parts. The inside part of the unit, also known as the air outlet unit, is mounted on an interior wall and this is where the cool air passed into the room. The outside unit is the condenser and contains a compressor. These units can be separated by some distance. They are commonly seen mounted back-to-back, but they can actually be placed many meters apart from each other. This means that the outside unit can be placed in a less conspicuous position and in an area where the noise from the unit isn’t going to be an issue. Another major benefit of this type of air conditioner is that up to eight inside units can be run from a single outside unit! Many models also contain a heat exchanger and can also be used for supplying heating in the cooler months. What many people don’t realise is that many split systems can be run directly from a solar panel installation and some are even designed with low energy usage for this situation.

Hybrid Split Systems – Thermal Unit

Thermal Units for Hybrid Solar Split Systems

Thermal Units

A hybrid solar split system is a fairly new development in the world of solar powered air conditioners. These units feature a thermal collector (pictured here), which looks just like a solar panel. The thermal collector uses the heat of the sun to super heat and pressurise the gases. This takes over from the compressor unit and reduces the amount of time the compressor in running (and power it is drawing). This means that less power is used as less energy is required to run the compressor. These systems are not fully solar powered, but can cut more than 50% of the power usage compared to a standard split system!

Dual Power Systems

These are very similar to hybrid systems but, instead of being a product designed for solar input, they use a standard split system. This system is then professionally installed to run on both solar and mains power. This means that the upfront costs are reduced, a standard split system can be purchased for as little as $200, while retaining the ability to run the unit on both forms of power. The downside of this type of solar air conditioning installation is that it requires a professional installer, along with an already existing solar installation, which is more complex and far more expensive.

Inverter and Low Power

An inverter split system

They might not look different from a standard split system, but the technology inside is certainly more advanced!

These split systems are designed for those who require a quality air conditioner without the normal power usage. Inverter air conditioners have become standard for most newer split systems on the market. These use a variable speed compressor to match the air temperatures more closely and regulate the power required. This means lower temperature changes and a more comfortable home. They use about 30% less energy and are also more efficient at heating and cooling. These make excellent air conditioners for running from a solar panel installation. In addition to this, some manufacturers are now producing ultra low power split systems (again based on inverter technology). These can be run directly from a solar panel and can even be used in caravans and motorhomes. Both of these options cost a little bit extra in the initial outlay, but they are one of the best options for solar powered split systems.

Fully Solar Powered

A series of solar panels installed on a household roof.These are the latest in models in the range and feature a complete solar powered split system. These come with the unit as well as a dedicated solar panel to run the air conditioner unit. These are the most expensive in initial cost, but are also the cheapest to run in the long term. The only other downside, other than the initial cost, is that they will only run while the solar panels are receiving enough light. This means that they wont work for heating your house in winter after dark!

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