Guide to Solar-Powered Air Conditioners

ac technician on roof with ac unit and solar

Traditional air conditioning units depend on electricity from the grid. When temperatures soar and millions of households demand power simultaneously, the electric company often struggles to meet the demand, leading to power cuts and discomfort in many homes.

A solar-powered air conditioner, on the other hand, utilizes energy from the sun. It can either use the captured solar energy immediately or store it in a battery for later use. While it primarily relies on solar energy, it can still draw electricity from the grid if necessary, thereby reducing overall grid dependency and energy consumption.

By adopting solar air conditioning, homeowners can significantly reduce their utility bills and make a substantial contribution to the environment. According to the Department of Energy, air conditioners account for 6% of the nation’s electricity consumption, releasing 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.

By reducing this energy usage, homeowners can play a crucial role in curbing these emissions and protecting the environment.

Table of Contents

How Do Solar Powered Air Conditioners Work?

You probably wonder how solar-powered air conditioners work if they don’t rely on electricity. In basic terms, they take the sun’s energy and use it instead of traditional electricity to power your AC. There are options to go completely solar, off-grid, not using traditional electricity, or a combination of solar power and electricity.

Professionals must install solar panels on your roof or the ground to access solar energy. The system then uses the energy captured, converting it to the type of energy needed for your appliance, whether electricity to power the home or your air conditioner.

To run a solar-powered air conditioner, you will need solar panels, a battery, and an inverter, which converts the energy from direct current power (DC) to alternating current power (AC) if needed.

To determine the equipment needed, first decide if you want an on-grid or off-grid system:

On-grid system: This system captures solar energy and sends it to the grid. You do not need a battery to store the captured energy. However, you still rely on the grid for power; when the area’s power is out, yours is, too. This option may allow you to get credits from the utility company for the power your system sends them.

Off-grid system: This system captures and stores solar energy in your battery. It keeps the excess energy stored to use at night or on days when the sun isn’t powerful enough to provide solar energy. As the name suggests, this system doesn’t use the grid at all, so there’s no backup if you don’t have enough power.

Different Types of Solar-Powered Air Conditioners 

If you decide you want to ‘go solar,’ you must decide what type of solar-powered air conditioner you want; there are three options:

  • Direct Current Power
  • Alternating Current Power
  • Hybrid

Direct Current Power

Direct current power air conditioners are wired directly to your AC unit. They are the most conventional form of solar air conditioners and have a battery for backup power. You don’t need to tie your unit to the grid, allowing you to greatly decrease your carbon footprint.

The only downside of DC-powered units is that you must rely on battery power to carry your AC through the night or on days when the sun is not strong. This increases the installation and maintenance cost and gives you another piece of equipment to worry about.

Alternating Current Power

An alternating current power air conditioner requires an inverter to convert the power from the solar panels to AC power. This unit is tied to the grid, and the power captured is either converted for immediate use for your AC unit or sent back to the grid. If you send power to the grid, you’ll receive a credit from the utility company. This is called net metering.


This system provides the best of both worlds. It relies on solar power when the panels produce energy but can also rely on the grid when the solar power isn’t enough. The power used depends on the time of day, the amount of power needed, and the amount of solar energy captured. This system is best for those just starting solar power or those who are nervous about not having enough energy.

Pros and Cons of Solar-Powered Air Conditioners

Solar-powered air conditioners have pros and cons, like any changes to your house. Here’s what to consider:


Save Money

How much money you save on electricity bills depends on many factors, including the size of your system, when you use your AC, how often you use it, the amount of sunlight your panels get, and the size and pitch of your roof. Most homeowners save at least some money when choosing solar. It is important to talk to a professional about the best system and installation process to maximize your savings.

Increased Home Value

Installing solar panels may increase your home’s value. The amount of the increase depends on the electricity savings, the size of the system, and whether solar is preferred in your area. A local real estate agent can help you understand how much solar AC may increase your home value.

Lower Your Environmental Impact

Every kilowatt-hour of solar energy you capture reduces the amount of carbon dioxide released into the environment. It also reduces water usage and limits the number of dangerous chemicals released into the air.

Potential Government Rebates

Some states or local counties offer rebates or incentives for going solar. While you must pay the upfront investment for installing solar panels, you may benefit from more than reduced electricity bills in some areas.

Reduced Worry About Power Outages

If you don’t rely on the grid, you don’t have to worry about power outages that make you lose air conditioning.


High Upfront Costs

It costs more to install solar-powered air conditioning than traditional AC. Even if you’re eligible for rebates or incentives, you must pay the upfront costs to install it.

Complicated Installation

The installation process is more complex and expensive for solar-powered systems versus traditional ones.

Highly Dependent on Location and Climate

If your area gets very hot, you’ll need more power to keep your home cool. If you live in a mostly cloudy area or don’t get direct sunlight, solar-powered AC may not be enough to keep your home comfortable.

Cost of Solar Powered Air Conditioners

The average cost of a solar-powered air conditioner is $3,400, but it can range from $1,600 to $13,000. This is the upfront cost, and it does not consider any incentives or tax rebates you may receive.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the costs:

  • Air conditioner unit: $1,000 – $2,800
  • PV panels: $250 – $375 per panel
  • Solar battery (if needed): $2,000 – $3,750
  • Inverter: $750 – $1,800
  • Wiring: $50 – $300
  • Installation: $1,500 – $3,750

While the upfront investment for solar-powered air conditioners may seem significant, it’s essential to remember that financing options are often available to make them more affordable. 

If you plan to stay in your house long-term, you may see a significant return on your investment in energy cost savings, increased home value, and tax incentives. This reassurance about affordability can help homeowners feel more secure about their decision to invest in solar air conditioning.

How to Choose the Right Solar Air Conditioner

Consider these factors when choosing a solar-powered AC to save the most money and ensure your home’s ultimate comfort.

Size and Capacity

The size of your home determines the number of solar panels you need and the size of the AC unit. The larger your home, the more the unit and solar panels cost. Choosing a unit that doesn’t suit your home’s size can make you uncomfortable.

Energy Efficiency

Don’t assume every solar-powered AC is efficient or right for your home. Do your research and ensure the unit will keep your home comfortable, reduce your energy usage, and be environmentally friendly.


Consider your budget and compare your options when shopping for solar-powered AC. Remember, the upfront investment involves more than the unit itself. You must also pay for the solar panels, installation, solar battery, and inverter if needed.

Installation Considerations

After finding the right solar-powered AC unit, it’s time to consider the installation. Here are the top factors to consider:

Home Suitability

Wanting to go solar and being able to are two different things. For solar to work properly, they need adequate sunlight exposure. Pay close attention to the amount of sunlight your home gets, especially the area where you’re installing the panels, to ensure you’ll get enough energy to go off-grid.

Look closely for obstructions and shade, and have a professional evaluate the roof pitch. The roof should be angled to provide an adequate surface for the panels while allowing enough sun exposure.

Panel Durability

When determining a panel’s durability, read reviews and understand the manufacturer’s instructions, especially if you plan to live in the home long-term.

Finding Qualified Contractors

Ensure you work with qualified contractors with extensive experience in your area installing solar panels for solar AC. They should be able to install the system on your home and adequately evaluate your property to ensure it’s a good fit for solar while advising on the number of panels and size of the unit.

Maintenance Tips

Solar maintenance is necessary to ensure the longevity of your solar-powered air conditioner. Here are some maintenance tips to get you started:

Cleaning: Panel cleaning is essential to your system’s functioning. Dirty panels cannot capture adequate sunlight, which is required for your system to run. Dirt, leaves, and debris can accumulate on your panels, so professional cleaning is essential.

Inspection: Solar-powered AC has many critical parts that must be in good condition for your system to work. Regular inspection ensures the panels are in good condition, the wiring is safe, and all terminals are properly functioning.

Hardware check: Professionals will check the stability of the hardware attaching the panels to your roof. Over time, they can become loose, putting your panels at risk of damage.

Inverter inspection: Regular inspections of the inverter ensure that your system can properly convert the sun’s energy to cool air for your home.


Solar-powered air conditioners can be a great way to save money and reduce your home’s carbon footprint. The key is understanding the upfront investment requirements and comparing them to the long-term savings and benefits.

For solar-powered AC to work, you must have enough sun exposure and a suitable roof or ground area to support the panels. Today, there are many financing options and government benefits for going solar, so it’s something to consider.

To connect with a solar air conditioning professional near you, check out our list of professionals and see how much money you can save on your energy bills.

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How efficient are solar air conditioners?

Solar air conditioners could save you quite a bit on your energy bill in the right circumstances. However, they don’t work everywhere, so it’s important to have a professional evaluate your home to determine if you’ll achieve the desired temperatures, given your home’s sun exposure, roof pitch, and type of system.

Can solar AC work at night?

Since there isn’t any sun at night, solar AC can only work if you have a battery backup at night. You can run your AC at night if your system stores excess energy. If you don’t, you need a hybrid system that works off the grid without solar power.

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