Using Sunlight for a Cooling System
When it comes to solar energy applications, it is widely known that traditional electric air conditioning systems are severely inefficient; since these machines spend too much energy compared to other more crude and simpler methods of temperature control. That is why solar energy advocates seldom suggest using a solar array for electric cooling or heating.
But apparently however, there seems to be another way to use the power of sunlight for cooling without having to simply connect your air conditioner to a battery bank. Let’s look at the idea of solar air cooling systems.
What Makes Solar Cooling Systems Feasible
A sustainable and economically efficient solar cooling system can be achieved in many ways. Fundamentally, the principles used for cooling is quite similar to other methods of controlling temperature. However, as mentioned earlier, it does not rely on the current efficiency rating of solar power, and would absolutely not use the standard compressor technology that makes traditional AC systems costly to use. Instead, it would simply provide cooling using these basic sustainability guidelines:
- The energy used by the system must be significantly lower than traditional cooling systems
- The system should apply the energy for a different technical operation or procedure
- Multiple energy change and transfer should be kept at an efficient minimum
With these guidelines, even if the solar cooling system does use solar PV energy to generate the electricity, as long as it is not used inefficiently like when it is used for a regular air conditioner, then it still passes as a sustainable solar cooling system.
How Solar Cooling Systems Work
There are two popularly used methods in building a solar cooling system that is closely based on the three guidelines that we have previously mentioned. These methods, when used and applied properly, could even provide better cooling than your standard AC unit.
Using Desiccants and Dehumidifiers – these materials control the ambient temperature of the surrounding air by manipulating the moisture in the air. Typically it is difficult to lower down temperature on humid areas because of the heat naturally held by water vapor. By removing moisture in an area using a desiccant, we then consequently lower the temperature. The role of solar energy in this system is to provide a small, but adequate amount of power to fans and ventilators, as well as to the rotating container the holds the desiccant.
Using Absorption Chillers – absorption chillers are temperature control machines that uses heat energy to “power” itself. What exactly comes to mind when we speak of solar energy and heat? Solar thermal energy. That’s right, a solar cooling system that uses absorption chillers do not use direct sunlight, but instead uses its heat. No solar panels, as heliostats take their place in this system. As with standard a solar thermal energy system, it holds the advantage of using “residual energies” (heat) with great efficiency, and can easily store collected heat in thermal oils. The feature image of this article is an example of a solar absorption cooling system. This one is used at the Ecobuilding of the Arizona Army National Guard.
Needless to say, the most efficient application of solar cooling systems is in places and situations where it could be used in tandem with passive cooling systems. Since it already uses energy efficiently, just imagine what it would be like to even lower down the energy costs further due to its combination with another cooling system (that does not cost a penny to operate).
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