Solar power moving into the mainstream is a growing trend as discussions about fossil fuel, short-term gain, and long-term consequences rage on. But, what is driving this movement toward alternative energy beyond that? Who is leading it? And to what solutions are homeowners turning when it comes to regulating temperatures in their homes?
Solar energy and alternative energy enthusiast and writer Jason Nelson is here to talk us through the broad strokes.
Scientists have explored alternative energy sources for decades. For the consumer, wind and solar power hold numerous possibilities for creating a workable and renewable energy supply. It is no secret that modern society is gripped tightly by an outdated an inefficient energy infrastructure that either pollutes too much or taps are already limited natural resources.
The average homeowner wonders what he or she can do to greatly reduce the cost of heating, cooling, and powering a residence. So much is being made about the possibilities of using a specialized solar panel grid to heat and cool the home, many folks are wondering exactly how they work and what the initial costs of installing such a system are likely to be. In other words, is solar power feasible in the long run?
An Overview Of Solar Air Conditioning Systems
There are two main types of solar power air conditioning systems. The first is merely a traditional heating and cooling unit that uses directly generated electricity from the sun. An array of panels is attached to the roof of the home and uses sensors to track the movement of the sun.
An enormous panel of photovoltaic cells absorbs sunlight and generates a modest amount of electricity. This power can be stored in batteries or converted into alternating current. It can run a good-sized air conditioning unit so long as there is adequate sunlight for a certain number of hours per week or month.
The second type of solar powered air conditioning system is more revolutionary in its design and has the potential to be a true money saver. This system uses a special combination of solar panels, coils, and gel packs. The unit functions without the need to condense the air inside the home through the use of a heat pump.
The sunlight is absorbed by special silica gel packs that remove the moisture from the surrounding air. The fan system sends the cool air throughout the home while the solar energy striking the gel packs removes the heat and moisture from them. The gel packs cool down quickly and are ready to draw more heat energy from the surrounding atmosphere.
Costs and Maintenance
The first type of air conditioning system mentioned here requires the setup of a rather expensive cell array on top of the home or office building. The initial cost of a large solar cell panel is prohibitive, as is the storage of the energy produced.
The second type of solar powered air conditioner is also expensive but uses far less energy to actually move the cool air throughout the building. The sun rays used to cool the gel packs also strike a large number of photovoltaic cells, producing sufficient energy to run the fan system.
One alternative is to use water pumped by a solar powered motor over a large, flat surface. This type of evaporative cooling mechanism draws heat away from a surface, making it much cooler than it was before being covered in water. This system is not as efficient as a chemically operated cooling system, but costs less to build and maintain.
Wait For The Government?
Amidst the bickering in Congress, one hears much about the future of energy production. However, many homeowners are not going to hold their breath, and they are keenly interested in the technology available today for efficiently cooling the inside of a smaller structure.
It is expected that within the next decade, homeowners will be able to install a rooftop system that will not only save money over a period of years, it will automatically qualify the home for tax deductions.
Jason Nelson contributed this article on behalf of Kanetix, with their Toronto comparison service.