What is a 'solar ready' mini split?
What is a solar-ready or ac/dc mini split? Quite simply, it's an air conditioning heat pump that allows plug-in solar. The solar panel array just clicks onto the MC4 connectors on the outside unit of the heat pump. Cloudy or nighttime? These units are usually hybrid, so they also efficiently use grid power when not enough solar is available. Solar is always prioritized, though.
How do they work? Since these units have a variable-speed compressor and variable-speed refrigerant flow, they avoid the surge, or inrush, current of a normal air conditioner which is normally 4 to 6x greater than the running current. So, they can run off of only 1,000 to 1,500 watts of solar. And, since the panels click directly into the unit, the system doesn't need batteries, voltage regulators, or inverters.
Why haven't I heard about this before? In short, this is a new technology that's been perfected over the last 5 years.
How much are these units? Currently, airspool.com has these listed for $1,995. This doesn't include the cost of the solar array (i.e., the solar panels, solar connector wires, and mounting hardware, though).
How much money can they save? Of course, savings vary greatly based on your location, but the savings for just about everyone are significant. There are three areas of savings. First, since they're a mini split, they can be put into the hotspot of your home. In this way, you can cool an area where you spend the most amount of time or which has the highest heat load without having to run your main unit (as cool). Second, they run for free when it's sunny. Third, even when it's not, they run at an efficiency rate that's usually 50% or greater than your current unit.
How many solar panels are needed, then? Well, 1,000 to 1,500 watts can be as few as 2 solar panels these days, since some panels are now over 550 watts. The more watts you supply the system, the more likely you'll be able to run even if it's very warm or a bit cloudy exclusively off of solar.