Since the vast majority of the world is looking to move away from fossil fuel dependency, powering air conditioners and heat pumps off of solar panels is an excellent way to do your part in saving the environment.

The only question is, how many solar panels do you need?


How Many Solar Panels Are Needed To Power A House?

Before we get into the meat of the article, it’s really important for me to provide a bit of context.

A typical one-bedroom home will require six solar panels to heat a house. Where a three-bedroom house will need 10 and a five-bedroom for comparison would need 14.

Now we know how many solar panels you will need to power a whole house. Let’s take a look at how many you would need for air conditioners and heat pumps specifically.

The first thing we need to figure out is, how many KWh does each solar panel produce per day?

Related: How Much Do Solar Panel Systems Cost?

Solar Panel Size Per KWH

Solar panels capture the light produced by the sun and transform it into electricity. As a result of this, the more surface area a solar array has, the more sunlight it can absorb. As a result of this, it follows that more power may be generated.

Let’s look at some figures…

Now, the average solar panel system is expected to produce 9 to 11-kilowatt hours (kWh) each year for every square foot (sq. ft.) of installed surface area.

This would mean that if you have a 1 kW system with 86 sq. ft. of coverage, you will be able to utilize approximately 850 kWh of power each year.

Also, note that this is a moving average. As more money is invested into solar technology, the efficiency of panels is increasing. So, a system today may actually be able to produce up to 15% more power than one installed just a few years ago.

A 4 kW system, on the other hand, will take up around 301 sq. ft., allowing you to use a comfortable 3 400 kWh of electricity per year.

Now we know how much each solar panel can produce in a day. So, how much electricity do air conditioners and heat pumps use?

How Many Solar Panels Are Needed To Run an Air Conditioner?

If you're considering a solar panel system for an air conditioner that is less than 3kw, be aware that many will use 2.5kW, requiring your solar panel system to have a minimum power output of 3kW just to run the air conditioning unit.

This means you will need between 9 and 12 solar panels just to power the air conditioner.

Sounds like a lot, right?

That's because it is.

You see, unless you were looking to go completely off the grid, you will still need to be connected to the power grid.

And, when your air conditioner is running, it will be pulling power from the grid. So, you'll only be using solar panels when the sun is shining and your system is producing enough electricity to offset the power being used by the air conditioner.

Related: Air Conditioner (AC) is Short Cycling (HOW TO FIX IT)

How Many Solar Panels Are Needed To Run a Heat Pump?

Since most domestic houses have air source heat pumps (ASPs) installed in their homes and not ground source heat pumps (GSHPs), we'll use ASPs as our frame of reference.

The typical solar panels generate 250 watts, so you'll need to install four of them to build a 1 kW system. To create a 2kW system, you'll need eight panels, and a 3kW one will require twelve panels.

Related: Heat Pump Statistics

About Solar Power Usage

When solar panels are mentioned, we usually mean the electricity they generate in one of the following ways:

  • Watts (w)
  • Kilowatts (kW)
  • Kilowatts per hour (kwh)

The average household, for example, would include a family of four and require a 3-4kw solar panel system to power the home.

So, if we look at a 3kW system, it will require 226 square feet (sq. ft.). It may seem to be far too big for your roof when you hear this, but it isn't as bad as it looks. This equates to 15ftx15ft when measured in different ways.

This will fit on most of the roofs in the United Kingdom without any problem. Each of the solar panels that make up this array will be approximately 17 sq. ft., with a potential output of roughly 345 watts.

As a result, each solar panel in the array will be able to produce 20w per square foot on average.

This will translate to your system's 3kw output being able to provide you with a total of 2,550kWh over the course of a year, or a total of 2,550kWh.

The overall output of the solar panels that have been mounted on your roof is also determined by a variety of other factors. These include:

  • The size of the system that has been installed
  • The efficiency of the system (including the material it is made from)
  • The direction in which the panels face

You should install your solar panels such that they are facing south at an angle of 32 degrees to get the most out of them. This will put them in their most productive energy-generating position.

Heat Pumps Can Also Be Used as Air Conditioners

Did you know that your air source heat pump (ASHP) can also be used as an air conditioner?

The same unit that pulls heat out of the air to heat your home in the winter can also be used to cool your home in the summer.

While it may not be as effective as a traditional air conditioner, it can still do a pretty good job of cooling your home on those hot summer days.

And, since ASHPs are powered by electricity, you can use solar panels to offset the power consumption of the unit and help keep your energy bills low.

The main word here is "offset" because, unless you have a very large solar panel system, you're not going to be able to generate enough power to run the air conditioner full-time.

You'll still need to use some grid-supplied power when the sun isn't shining or when your system isn't producing enough electricity to offset the power being used by the air conditioner.


What is a hybrid solar heat pump system?

A hybrid solar heat pump system is a system that uses both solar panels and a heat pump to generate heat. This can be used to heat your home in the winter and cool it in the summer.
Hybrid solar–geothermal heat pump polygeneration technology is a combined system that uses PVT and GHX technologies to produce heating, cooling thermal energy, and electricity, saving both money and natural resources.

How many solar panels to run a portable air conditioner?

The number of panels you need will vary depending on the size and power consumption of the air conditioner. In general, allow 1200 watts of solar power for every 1000 watts of rated AC power. A deep cycle battery and a suitable inverter would also be required.

Can I use storage heaters with solar panels?

Yes, you can use storage heaters with solar panels. Storage heaters are a type of electric heater that uses electricity to store heat in ceramic bricks or metal rods. The stored heat is then released over time, providing a steady source of warmth.
Solar panels can be used to offset the power consumption of the storage heaters, helping to keep your energy bills low.

What are the main types of solar energy?

There are 4 main types of solar energy - Passive solar gain, Solar thermal (for heating)Concentrated solar power (for electricity), and Solar Photovoltaics (electricity).

About the Author

Passionate about helping households transition to sustainable energy with helpful information and resources.

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