If ever there was someone that wanted Solar Air Conditioning in Louisiana it is me. I have been following the subject for 15 years and must report I still don’t have it. The problem is “solar air conditioning is still in the “experimental” stages. While I have followed every technology development, it’s still not there. If you are in a big hurry, my reference links are at the bottom of this article.
Why are we all of a sudden hearing about “solar air conditioning” in Louisiana? The answer may surprise you.
1st round of solar air conditioning scammers in Louisiana – The “Micro-Inverter approach”. After we got the Louisiana solar tax credit in 2008, (we started in 2003) many pop-up companies jumped in the business (first in New Orleans). Unfortunately some were looking for ways to fraud the state. The scam was the installation of a regular, hi-efficiency A/C along with a couple of solar panels and plug-and-play micro-inverters. (Solar panels and micro-inverters connect to the utility grid and offset some of the electricity consumed by everything else). The scam contractors sold typical $5000 A/C systems, packaged with a couple of micro-inverters and solar panels for $25,000. They called it SOLAR A/C! The net cost (after tax credits) to the consumer was $5000 so they didn’t care. Meanwhile the contractors ripped off the state by over-inflating the price of the system. The Louisiana Solar Energy Society was alerted to this several years ago and was successful in shining a light on it and getting it shut down.
2nd round of solar air conditioning scammers in Louisiana – The “Solar-Thermal” approach. Everything was quiet for a year or so and then a new group of contractors appeared (first in New Orleans). Since the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) wording to stop the previous fraud included “integrated”, the scammers tried to “integrate” a solar thermal collector (designed for solar hot water systems), by soldering one into the copper Freon lines on a standard high-efficiency A/C unit.
Ask a reputable air conditioning person or check Wikipedia under the section “Solar Thermal Compression Technology” to learn more about doing this! The LDR had all but shut this down with their first bulletin, but did not shut down all the companies trying to sell it. The LDR came back and clarified in June 2014 that only the solar modules and inverters (in the case of the “micro-inverter” approach), and only the solar thermal collector and tubing (in the case of the “solar-thermal” approach) are considered for the 50% Louisiana tax credit. This clarified tax credit ruling will allow consumers knock off a few hundred dollars off the inflated “Solar A/C” prices being charged, not 50% of the total system. LDR is watching very closely, so buyer beware!
The future of Solar Air Conditioning in Louisiana – I anticipate there to be future success with DC mini-split A/C systems with dedicated solar array and batteries. The manufacturers will have to prove to me they can work in our high Louisiana humidity conditions first. Until then, we (Gulf South Solar) will continue to install grid-tied battery-backup (Outback Power) systems to run the customer’s efficient mini-split air conditioning unit, if they have one.
In case you were wondering, I started trying alternatives to standard air conditioning back in 1984 by installing my own natural gas powered A/C in my home. Gas A/C is actually the oldest type of A/C, (officially called absorption cooling) but it’s not common in residential installations. It produces chilled water like commercial building systems do. It worked amazing, and from what I understand, they are even more efficient today. Stay tuned…