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

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

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.