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Air conditioners require a lot of energy, which is why many find it difficult to use them with solar power. With battery costs dropping though, portable solar generators have become more affordable and powerful. We’re now at the point where we can ask if it’s possible for these generators to run air conditioners for extended periods.
A solar generator must have at least a 1000W inverter to run an AC for an hour. Check the AC watt requirement and the solar generator inverter rating. Some portable air conditioning units need only 800W so it’s easier to run.
How Many Watts Can a Solar Generator Produce?
A solar generator is a battery powered by electrical power, solar power or you can use both. It has a charge controller and an inverter. There’s more information on how solar generators work here.
A solar generator must have sufficient inverter power to operate an air conditioner. In this case we suggest getting a quality system that is designed for these kinds of tasks. Its power output is found in the inverter rating. An inverter converts the generator’s DC power into AC (used in homes and campers). The inverter’s watt output limits the generator output, which is why the inverter rating is important.
Another point to remember is most solar generators have 15A plugs. At 120V this plug can handle up to 1800W regardless if the inverter can produce more power. Higher amp outlets like 20A and 30A are in development and should be the standard in time.
Battery Capacity and Inverter Rating Explained
There are three numbers you should look for in a solar generator: the battery capacity, the continuous watt and surge/peak watts.
Battery capacity: this is measured in watts (W), watt hours (wh), ah (amp hours) or mah (milliamps hour). 1000 mah = 1ah, 1 watt hour is 1 watt. 1000W = 1 kWh. If the capacity is in amps, amps/volts = watts. Watts x volts = amps.
Inverter rating: you’ll see two figures, example, 1500/300 (surge peak). The first number is the continuous watts, which is how much power the inverter can handle without overloading. The second number is the surge /peak watts, which is the maximum power the generator produces for a few seconds.
Power hungry appliances like air conditioners and refrigerators need a surge of power to start up before settling down. The initial surge needs more power but it’s temporary, just enough for the surge peak. Both numbers are vital because you won’t be able to use an AC if the inverter isn’t sufficient. If your 1500W AC has a 300W surge peak, a 1500W generator with 2500W surge watt isn’t enough.
Solar Generator Inverter Rating Chart
here is a chart showing the continuous and surge watt capacity of some popular solar generators.
|Solar Generator||Continuous Watt Capacity||Surge/Peak Capacity|
|Goal Zero Yeti||15000W||3000W|
Air Conditioner Watt Size Chart
Air conditioning units are measured in BTUs . This table shows some common air conditioner BTUs and their matching watt power. This is a general guide so please check the company’s website for detailed specs and power requirements.
|Air Conditioner BTU Size||Initial Surge Watts Required||Running Watts Required|
How Long Can a Solar Generator Run an Air Conditioner?
Even a powerful solar generator won’t be able to run an air conditioner an entire day. A 3000W solar generator like the Temank Solar hybrid 3000 can operate a 1500 BTU AC for about 2 hours before running out of battery. There are ways to run an AC longer, though they’re not practical for everyone.
- First is to hook solar panels up to the generator. Connect 500W-700W of solar panel power and you extend the AC runtime to 5 hours or so.
- Second is to buy another solar generator. Use one generator to operate the AC while charging the other. Alternate their use and you can use the air conditioner for hours. But buying two generators to run just one appliance isn’t feasible for many.
- The third is to use buy a low BTU AC unit. It won’t have the cooling power of a large system, but it requires less power and runs longer.
Only you can decide which approach is best. For many RVers and those living off the grid, air conditioners are used sparingly. They let it run for 30 minutes to an hour just to cool a room and turn it off. For efficiency, most use a 5,000-,6000 BTU air conditioner.
An 1800W solar generator can run a 5000 BTU AC for 30-45 minutes on a full charge. Nature’s Generator AC Windows AC Package includes Power Pods and a dozen solar panels. Combined with their generator, a 6000 BTU air conditioner gets a 16 hour runtime.
Tips For Running an RV Air Conditioner
Buying an RV air conditioner and a solar generator that can run it are considerable investments. Here are the most important points you should think over.
- How much power does your RV need? This guide should be able to help you.
- How long do you plan to run the AC? Remember you won’t be able to use the generator for anything else other than the air conditioner while it’s running. Not unless it’s a low BTU unit or you have a powerful inverter set up.
- The absolute minimum battery capacity is 700ah.
- Use only lithium ion batteries. Lead acid batteries require recharging when it drops to 50%. An air conditioner will quickly use power and you’ll be recharging repeatedly. Lithium ion batteries can be used until it’s nearly empty.
- Use solar panels with the generator. 13000-15000 BTU air conditioners will quickly drain your generator. Keep the generator powered up with solar panels. 1500W is the minimum required for a 13000 BTU AC unit. That’s a lot of solar panels to install in an RV. If each one is 300W you only need five though.
- Buy a quality solar generator. Doing this will ensure you get the most out of your money and it will last for years.
- If you want to run an AC with an inverter, do not use modified sine wave as it might not work.
Other Ways to Cool Down Besides an RV Air Conditioner
Even if you cannot use an air conditioner all day, there are other ways to beat the heat.
- Park your RV under shade. Do this after your solar panels are done charging of course.
- Set up an awning to keep the sun away. Pull up a chair and enjoy the breeze.
- Buy a powerful fan.
- Stay at an RV campground and avail of their amenities.
Air conditioners require a lot of power, but portable solar generators are more than capable of getting them to run. To recap, you need a solar generator with at least an 800-1000W inverter rating. Check the power requirement for your AC and how long you want to run it. With the right set up, you can power up that AC to keep you cool during the summer.