How Many Solar Panels To Run An Air Conditioner? | Green Life Zen

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If you are trying to offset your energy consumption, the first place to start is your air conditioning. Air conditioner units and systems are among the biggest power users in your entire home. 

Calculating the total energy consumption per unit, how solar energy and grid-connected homes can offset your power usage, and how many solar panels to run an air conditioner is essential to saving money and helping the environment. 


how many solar panels to run air conditioner

Can You Run an Air Conditioner off of Solar Panels?

Air conditioners are what keep us cool during the summertime. Without these units in our homes, regulating the temperature and keeping ourselves cool would be extremely difficult. However, with the ever-changing eco-friendly practices in our houses, workplaces, and schools, the focus is turning towards renewable energy sources.

Instead of burning electricity and gas to power our air conditioners, lights, and appliances in our home, solar panels can harness the means required to run an air conditioner. Solar energy uses the sun to convert sunlight directly into electricity to run our appliances, electrical loads, and air conditioners.

Since solar panels are versatile and easy to use, they are smart electrical swaps that are good for your home and the environment as a whole. Versatile to use for remote power systems, solar electrical systems, and air conditioners, solar panels can efficiently run your grid-connected home with much less environmental strain. 

So, can you run an air conditioner off of solar panels? In short, yes, you can! After recognizing the benefits of using solar energy to help cut costs and provide ample power to your house, you can make the switch to power your electrical appliances via solar energy in no time at all. Turning your house into a grid-connected home is the first step. 

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Grid-Connected Homes

Grid-connected homes are arguably the wave of the future. Renewable energy systems can power homes by using solar electricity instead of putting excess strain on the environment. 

Grid-connection offers many benefits over other electricity grid power systems, allowing individuals to power their homes or businesses with renewable energy, recycle energy back into the power source, and eliminate excess electricity expenditure. 

Making the switch to a grid-connected home is easier than you think—and it is one of the major cost-saving measures you can take in your home. 

Using the air conditioner is one of the biggest energy wasters in your entire house—think of all the items you leave on in your house during the summer months, and you leave the AC blasting at 65 degrees so you will be cool and comfortable when you get back home. All of these wasted hours of the AC utilizing energy in your house is costing you money and ruining the environment in the process.

How can you feel better about your energy usage and cut down on excess costs? Installing solar panels is an efficient way to cover your ENTIRE house’s energy requirements! 

Using new technologies and solar appliances, like rooftop solar electric systems, turbines, and fuel cell systems are all effective ways of producing natural heat, power, and air conditioning. But what is the case if you have an off-grid home? 

Off-Grid Homes 

Can you still offset your power usage in an off-grid home by using solar panels and interconnected energy-efficient appliances? In short, no—using grid-connected homes is the best way to reduce energy consumption. 

With off-grid housing, the only option for producing power is using battery power banks or the ever-flowing electricity used when your AC is running. 

Heating/Cooling Incandescent 100 Watt 100 Box Fan 200 Ceiling Fan 120 Central Air Conditioner – 24,000 BTU NA 3800 Central Air Conditioner – 10,000 BTU NA 3250 Furnace Fan Blower 800 LED Bulb – 100 Watt Equivalent 23

As you can see, every appliance in your home uses electricity—your lamp light bulb, hair straightener, and air conditioning/heating system all pull various amounts of electricity from your off-grid system. To consistently supply the necessary amount of power, you will have to ensure you have battery power banks that can provide enough electricity.

If you are trying to incorporate solar panels into your off-grid house, it can end up being a tedious process. You will have to install more solar panels to offset the off-grid technologies. 

Although this is doable, it is less efficient and costlier than creating a grid-connected home. Processes are in the works to decrease the cost of solar cell installation, but the price of silicon is still higher than other materials. 

Since the number of solar panels required will vary between grid-connected and off-grid homes, it can be helpful to calculate the necessary number of required solar panels needed to run the air conditioning unit in your house before setting up the installation. 

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How Many Solar Panels Do I Need to Run an AC?

Before you can determine how many solar panels to run an air conditioner all year round, you need to calculate the various factors that influence the power requirements of your AC system. 

  • What size of solar panels do you want to use?
  • How long will you run your air conditioner system every day, week, and month?
  • Do you need extra batteries to run your AC system (for off-grid housing)?
  • What is the surge number and the power required for your AC system?
  • What are the required kilowatts for your air conditioning unit?
  • How much energy will each solar panel generate for our AC system? 

Once you have these necessary data points, you can begin the manual calculations to figure out the cooling capacity of your AC unit. The basic premise of these calculations is to determine the amount of heat the air conditioner gets rid of in one room (i.e., how efficient the AC unit is at cooling a space). 

There are three basic “must-know” facts to determine before beginning your calculations:

  • Air conditioner wattage: The consumption/hour
  • Hours using the AC: Hours running per day
  • Electricity charge: How much does your provider charge you per AC unit? 

Individuals can guesstimate their power consumption by using the average American household numbers and the average electricity tariff. However, if you want a more precise number for your AC consumption to determine the number of solar panels, you should convert watts into tons for an accurate calculation. 

Converting Watts Into Tons

1 Watt = 0.000284 tons of refrigeration or 1 ton of refrigeration = 3516.853 watts. Using this calculation, you can determine the number of energy usage your AC unit has in a specific space. 

The first step is to understand what type of air condition unit you have in your home—the most common types are either a 1-ton AC, 1.5-ton AC, or window unit. A 1.5-ton air conditioning model uses 1709 watts of electricity/hour, whereas a window AC unit uses 1745 watts/hour.  

Individuals will have to calculate the kilowatt power x hours to determine the total AC consumption units. Using this calculation is the best way to determine how many solar panels are needed to run an air conditioner. 

How Many Watts Does a Solar Panel Produce

A solar panel ranges between 250-400 watts. The efficiency of the solar panel typically depends on the following: 

  • Panel efficiency 
  • Solar panel square meter area
  • Sun’s energy 
  • Angle of the solar panels
  • Solar installation 

The power a solar panel produces directly relates to the number of solar panels needed to cover your entire AC consumption. Individuals must determine how many watts an AC unit uses to divide the total power usage/number of solar panel units. 

How Many Watts Does an AC Use?

Determining how many solar panels are needed to run an AC unit is directly dependent on the watt usage of the air conditioning system. However, the answer varies depending on the type of system you use—some houses have window units, whereas others have larger, portable units. The amount of watts used per hour depends on the size of the unit: 

  • Small AC unit: Approximately 500 watts
  • Medium unit: 800-1000 watts 
  • Window unit: Up to 1,440 watts
  • Mid-sized air conditioners: 2,800-3,000 watts
  • Large air conditioners: 3,800-4,100 watts 

Central Air

A central air cooling system is among one of the most power-consuming appliances in your house. Since this unit is widespread and covers the entirety of a building, it requires more energy to do its job. Using a compressor, electronic controls, and fans, this central air conditioning unit requires more energy than a smaller unit.

The average size of a  central air condition system is 3.5 tons, using around 3,500 watts per hour when running. To put the amount of energy this unit uses into perspective, this hefty system uses around 10-12x more energy than a ceiling fan! 

A central air conditioner uses 3,500 watts per hour when on the ‘cool’ setting to rid the hot air within the bundling and uses 750 watts per hour on the ‘fan’ mode. 

If you are trying to save energy, consider turning this system off when you leave the house to avoid excess consumption. 

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Large Window Units

The average power consumption of a large AC window unit is usually between 1,250-1,440 watts per hour. The amount of power necessary per window unit will range depending on the energy efficiency of the unit—the majority of window units range from 8-12 on the scale of EER ratings (energy-efficient ratings). 

You can calculate the exact watts required per window unit by analyzing the cooling output and energy rating of a window unit. A rough estimate to determine the wattage of a large window unit will use 10 as the EER Rating and the cooling output (based on the size of the unit). A large window unit is typically between 15,000BTU and 25,000 BTU (cooling output rating). 

BTU: Watts: How many watts does a 5000 BTU AC use? 417-625 W How many watts does a 6000 BTU AC use? 500-750 W How many watts does an 8000 BTU AC use? 667-1000 W How many watts does a 10000 BTU AC use? 833-1250 W How many watts does a 12000 BTU AC use? 1000-1500 W How many watts does a 15000 BTU AC use? 1250-1875 W How many watts does an 18000 BTU AC use? 1500-2250 W

Medium Window Units

Medium window units usually range between 10,000 BTU and 15,000 BTU. The average power draw of a 10,000 BTU unit is 1,000 watts. 

Small Window Units 

Small window units usually range between 5,000 BTU and 10,000 BTU, directly correlating to between 500 watts and 1,000 watts on the power draw scale. 

Number of Solar Panels Needed AC 

Are you trying to calculate how many solar panels to run the air conditioner? Here are the most common air conditioning units and how many solar panels are needed to offset the energy consumption. 

  • Central air: Since a central air conditioning system uses between 3,000 and 5,000 kW per hour on average, you will have to install at least 3kW of solar panel energy to cool your house efficiently. To completely power your air conditioning unit in your house with this power consumption, you will have to install 30 x 100W solar panels to power your home. 
  • Large window unit: Since the large window unit usually uses between 1,800 and 2,500 watts per hour, you will have to install at least 2kW of solar panel energy to cool your house. To completely power the air conditioning in your home, you should install 20 x 10W solar panels.
  • Medium window unit: The medium window units draw between 1,000 and 1,800 watts per hour, showing you need to install at least 1kW of solar panel energy to cool your home. You should install at least 10 x 10W solar panels to power your air conditioner unit.
  • Small window units: The smaller units only draw between 500 and 1,000 watts power per hour, requiring .5kW of solar energy to cool your eyes. Those who want to power their entire home should consider installing 5 x 10W solar panels. 

The number of oscar nails also directly correlates to the production ratio in your geographical area. The typical production ratio range is between 1-1.8, which can drastically alter the energy requirements. 

Region Typical Production Ratio Range Southwest (e.g., TX, NM, AZ) 1.5-1.8 West Coast (e.g., CA) 1.4-1.8 Mountain West (e.g., UTC, CO) 1.3-1.6 Southeast (e.g., FL, GA, NC) 1.2-1.5 Mid-Atlantic (e.g., MD, DC, PA) 1.1-1.35 Midwest (e.g., MN, IL, MI) 1.1-1.3 Northeast (e.g., MA, RI, CT) 1-1.15

To accurately calculate the number of solar panels needed to offset air conditioner use, individuals will have to consider electric energy consumption, sun hours, temperature loss, inverter efficiency, and system derate factors. Here is an example calculation of how to determine the total solar power required to offset all electrical appliances per a 6,000-kW household:

Avg. daily PV production (kWh) ÷ Avg. sun hours/day ÷ Temp. losses ÷ Inverter efficiency ÷ General system derate factor = PV array size (kW) 19.2 ÷ 6.5 ÷ 0.88 ÷ 0.96 ÷ 0.774 = 4.52

Overall, the simplest way to calculate how many solar panels to run an air conditioner is by determining the watts required by the AC unit, the watts each solar panel unit can produce, and the efficiency of the solar panel (ex: angle of the panel, total sun hours, production ratio, and sun’s energy). 

Watts (per hour)  Tons # of panels (10W)  Central Air  3,000-5,000 .85-1.42 30-50 Large window unit 1,800-2,500 .51-.71 18-25 Medium window unit 1,000-1,800 .28-.51 10-18 Small window unit 500-1,000 .14-.28 5-10