Solar power is clean and renewable, so it’s good for the environment too. Many people are using it to run various appliances around their home that need constant power, with the refrigerator being one of them. However, sizing how many solar panels need is always a challenge. So, where do you start?
Start by determining the amount of ‘peak sun hours’ your area receives. Multiply it with the power rating of the solar panel you intend to use. Find out the amount of power the refrigerator needs and multiply it with the number of hours you intend to use it. Divide the first number by the second number, and you’ll have the solar panels you need.
It’s that simple. However, there is a lot of factors involved. It’d be best to understand them before you start the calculations. This post simplifies things for you.
How to Calculate the How Many Solar Panels You Need to Run a Refrigerator
As mentioned above, you will have to do a few calculations. However, I have tried to make things easy for you. I would also like to say, these calculations are only meant for estimation and not for replacing solar energy expert’s options.
How Much Power Does Your Refrigerator Need From the Solar Panels?
When using a solar panel to power a refrigerator, you must consider the wattage the solar panels can deliver and the amount the fridge would need per day.
That means it’d be best to start by determining the proper wattage for your appliance by looking at its label. Typically, the latest models come with an Energy Star Rating sticker on the door or the side. Here, you can estimate how much the fridge will consume annually, given as kWh/year.
You can get the daily consumption by dividing the consumption rate by days in a year, roughly 365 days. Remember that the Energy Star ratings account for times when the fridge will be on energy saver mode.
Assuming your refrigerator consumes 365 kWh per year, its daily consumption would be;
365 kWh / 365 days = 1 kWh per day
If the information is not available, you can find the wattage by multiplying the amps by volts. You can get the two values on a tag or sticker at its back. The answer you get will be in watts.
Divide it by 1000 to convert it to kilowatts and then multiply it by the average hours you use the refrigerator per day to get its daily consumption is kWh/day.
Suppose the power rating isn’t available anywhere on the refrigerator and check the manual. If still not available, check at the manufacturers’ website or google the model number. If nothing is available, search for similar refrigerators online and use their ratings for the estimates.
Assuming your refrigerator’s rated voltage is 120 volt and draws 15 amps, its wattage rating is;
120 volts x 5 amps = 600 watts
600 watts / 1000 = 0.6 kilowatts
If you use it 5 hours a day, its daily consumption would be;
0.6 kilowatts x 5-hours = 3 kWh/day and 1095 kWh/Year
Pro Tip: the power efficiency of a refrigerator will be affected by how many times you open the appliance. So, it consumes less energy the lesser you open it.
How Many Solar Panels Do You Need to Run Your Refrigerator?
Solar panels are an efficient way to generate power, but they still require sources of direct sunlight. Ideally, it would be best to find a spot where your refrigerator gets at least 10 hours of full sun every day, so the solar panel will always have access to enough energy at any time during the day or night.
The individual solar panels’ capability to produce a certain amount of electricity depends on the amount of sunlight that falls on them during the day and how much shade covers them.
The amount produced is called the power rating, typically measured in watts. Usually, typical solar panels generator between 250 and 450 watts of power.
However, suppose there is not enough sun in the area where you live. In that case, one panel may not generate all the electricity needed for a refrigerator or you might be forced to invest in panels with a higher power production rate.
The same happens if you don’t have enough roof space. Not this; the high the power rating, the more expensive the solar panel is.
Your physical location plays a huge role in determining how many solar panels you need for your refrigerator. Since they are suited for sunny areas, it’d be best to know how much sunlight your home gets.
The amount of sunlight you get in your area, typically know as the ‘peak sun hours,’ shows the intensity of sunlight your location receives. Find the average of daily peak sun hours your state receives here. The more the ‘peak sun hours,’ the more the power generator by individual solar panels.
Let’s say you live in Arizona, where they receive roughly 7.5 hours of sunlight per day, and you intend to use a 250-watt solar panel to run your refrigerator. In that case, the panel can produce 1875 watts-hour (1.875 kWh) daily.
And taking that one solar panel will produce 75% of 1.875 kWh considering the other factors affecting the quality of the sunlight received, its daily output would be 1.4 kWh/day.
And from the example above, your fridge requires 3 kWh a day; it would mean you need approximately three (250-watt) solar panels to run a 600-watt refrigerator.
3 kWh / 1.4 kWh = 2.1 Panels
Key Points to Consider When Using Solar Panels to Run a Refrigerator
And since your home location isn’t something you can keep changing, it’d be best to recognize that the area you live in plays a crucial role in determining how well solar power will work for you. The solar panels can only operate at their maximum capacity if they absorb most of the sunlight during the peak sun hours.
There’s nothing like one-size-fits-all in solar panel systems. That means the number of solar panels you can use for your appliances will differ since they come in various sizes, and the peak sun hours of one region differ from those of another region.
Installing your solar panels facing the south in a spot with no shade can help a lot in maximizing their output. However, it might be impossible at times. You can still install them while facing another direction, but the electricity produced won’t be as much as when facing south. You do, however, have the option of installing more panels to achieve better results.
But, have an expert assess where you live, how your property is laid out, and the amount of sunlight reaching the roof. If tall trees create shade on your roof, you might want to find a solution as the solar panels won’t get enough sunlight, and thus their power output won’t be that much.
Lastly, even though the upfront costs of installing a solar system to run your refrigerator might seem high, there are two or three ways to save the overall investment. An example is the tax credit offered on new solar installations by the federal government.
Some states and local governments also offer rebates and incentive programs. What’s more, if buying solar panels proves to be a huge stretch for you, you can rent them. However, that takes you away from the tax credit and incentive offers.
Can you use solar panels to power a whole house?
Yes, you can. However, you will need to access the amount of power you need, how many solar panels you will need to meet these needs, the available solar panel installation space, and the amount of sunlight the area you live in receives.