Can Solar Panels Run an Air Conditioner? All You Need To Know!

A typical home in the U.S uses almost 11,000-kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity in a year. 31% of that consumption is spent on space heating and cooling. That rises to 41% when you add in water heating.

You can slash your electric bill almost in half by taking heating and cooling out of the equation. But how do you do this? Solar panels are an effective way to save on your energy bill. But can solar panels run an air conditioner?

You can run your air conditioner using solar panels just as easily as you would using electricity from your power company. You don’t need much in terms of extra equipment to do it. All you need are solar panels that can supply enough electricity to power your air conditioner.

How many solar panels would you need for your air conditioner and what other extra equipment, if any, would you need? Keep reading to find out.

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need for Ac?

The number of solar panels you need for an AC depends on the size of your AC and how much energy the solar panels supply. A rule of thumb you can use to estimate your solar requirement is you need 1,200 watts of solar energy for every ton (12,000 BTU) of cooling power. That is four 300-watt solar panels.

Rules of thumb are, however, only guidelines. To get an accurate figure you need to break out a pen and pencil. To work out how many solar panels you need to run your AC you have to know two things. How much electricity does your unit use and how much of that energy can you get from solar?

How Much Electricity Does Your Ac Use?

Working out how much electricity your laptop or lights use is straightforward since these appliances draw a consistent current. When they are switched on, they draw current without a break until you cut the current by turning them off.

That makes it simpler to work out how much electricity they use. All you do is multiply how many watts they use by the number of hours they were in use. If you microwave a chicken for three hours and your microwave has a rating of 1,300 watts then its consumption is 3,900 watts.

Calculating consumption for an AC is different because air conditioners use an intermittent current. The current does not flow at a consistent level. It flows at a higher level when it’s hot and the AC is working to cool the space off. Once the space is cool, the current drops to a lower level. When working out how much electricity your AC uses you need to consider this.

ACs and freezers have a duty cycle. A duty cycle is when the AC or freezer is working at full current. It is usually given as a percentage. If for example, your AC has a rated consumption of 500 watts and a duty cycle of 70% this is how you work out the real consumption if you use it for 8 hours.

500 watts x 8 hours x 70% = 2800 watts

Find out more on this topic and check out our post How Many Solar Panels & Batteries to Run a Window Air Conditioner?

Factors that affect consumption

There are a couple of factors that will influence how much electricity your AC uses.

  1. How hot is it? If you live in a warmer city like Arizona, you will use your AC far more than someone in Washington where temperatures are cooler. If your consumption is higher, you will naturally need more solar panels.
  2. If the insulation in your home is poor, this means you’re relying more on your AC to cool your home as opposed to natural air circulation. (Source)

Once you know how much electricity your AC uses you can work out how many solar panels you will need to supply that amount of electricity. Here too there are a couple of factors you need to consider.

How Much Energy Do Solar Panels Supply?

The amount of energy a solar panel produces depends on how much sunlight it receives, its efficiency, and its power rating. The more peak sun hours a solar panel with a high watt rating and efficiency receives the more energy it produces.

Peak sun hours

This is a measure of how many hours of peak sunlight your solar panels will receive. Some areas enjoy more peak sun hours than others. If you live in Arizona for instance, you see much more sun than someone in Alaska. You can check the peak sun hours your home receives using an online tool like Google’s Project Sunroof. (Source)

Efficiency and watt rating

There are different types of solar panels. Some are more efficient and produce more energy than others. Monocrystalline solar panels are the most efficient solar panels at up to 22%. Polycrystalline solar panels are slightly less efficient at 17%. Thin film solar has the least efficiency at 13%.

The watt rating is how much power a solar panel produces. Manufacturers keep pushing the power ratings up and now we have commercially available solar panels that produce over 400 watts. (Source)

Can Solar Panels Run Your Ac at Night?

You can use solar panels to power your air conditioner at night if you add batteries to your system. Solar batteries allow you to run appliances long after the sun sets and your solar panels stop producing energy.

Batteries store the energy your solar panels produce during the day. On hot nights when you need your AC to run, the unit will draw the energy from your batteries. Lithium batteries are the best batteries for solar systems as they provide more energy than other alternatives like lead-acid batteries. (Source)

What Is the Price of Solar Ac?

On, average a homeowner spends about $3,400 on a solar air conditioner. The price ranges anywhere between $1,800 to $13,000 and depends on the size and type. A larger central air conditioner will typically cost more than a small window unit.

The price of a solar AC rises significantly when you add in the cost of installation.

On a side note, check out How Many Solar Panels / Heaters to Heat a Pool? Does It Really Work!


I am a very well-experienced techie civil engineer who’s extensively interested in solar panel technology and even more captivated by the potential of solar panels in supporting individual residential units.

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