It’s easy to feel indulgent for using an air-conditioner come summer but if you live in the blistering heat of southern California it might be more like a necessity. If air conditioners use up a lot of power, why not use the sun to your advantage to power it?
SolCool One LLC of Redlands, California, is marketing an air conditioner that uses so little power it can be run from the power generated by no more than four solar panels, the company says.
This unit will operate without any power from the grid, says Clifford Sutton, vice president of global marketing and sales for SolCool One. Also, if there’s no power being brought to it at all, it will still operate for 24 hours on battery backup.
Its efficiency is put at 30 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating), a government measurement. The federal standard for new air conditioning units is a minimum of 13 SEER the higher the number, the greater the energy savings.
But there is a trade off for that 30 SEER number. The air conditioner is rated at 1.5 tons. A ton equals 12,000 BTU (British Thermal Units) of cooling per hour. As a rule of thumb, that would normally be enough to cool about 750 square feet of living space in a typically insulated home.
The air conditioner uses less than 400 watts of power, allowing it to run off the power of four or fewer solar panels, or a wind turbine. If you’re just looking for a low-energy air conditioner, it can also be plugged into a socket in your house to be run on energy from the grid.
The SolCool system uses all direct current (DC) circuitry rather than the ubiquitous alternating current (AC) systems used in the U.S., Mr. Sutton says.
Edison was right and Westinghouse was wrong, he says, referring to the battle between Thomas Edison, who championed a DC world, and George Westinghouse, who backed the winning horse, alternating current in the late 1800s.
By using DC technology along with very proprietary technology the SolCool Millennia version four is probably one of the best air conditioning units on the market, he says.
The unit can also be used to provide heat, and with an optional gadget, can take the moisture that it sucks out of the air and purify it into drinking water.
Mr. Sutton says since word got out last month about the air conditioner, his company has been swamped with phone calls and e-mails from people wanting more information.
The Web site is inundated. We are getting requests for information from every part of the globe, he says. The most unusual one was from the island of Yap.
Now for the bad news: the units are being made in Israel, and aren’t actually available yet. The first shipment for installation is not expected to arrive in the U.S. until late May or early June, and the final retail pricing has not yet been set, though it’s expected to be somewhere under $5,000 – quite a lot for just an air conditioner, considering that doesn’t include the cost of solar panels. But, with demand bound to rise, maybe the price will come down, too.
Check out the products at SolCool’s website.
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