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Solar Refrigerators

Solar refrigerators reduce greenhouse gases because they don’t rely on coal-fired sources of electricity. Refrigeration is produced with photovoltaic cells that harvest energy from the sun into electrical power. Solar refrigerators also have thick insulation, typically about 4 inches. Initial costs for purchasing a solar refrigerator are higher than that for a conventional, electric refrigerator.

Solar refrigerators are small, about the size of a chest. These low-cost, portable refrigerators are often used by remote home and cabin owners and RV owners. They typically run on a 12-volt backup battery and reach temperatures about 30 degrees cooler than that of the surrounding temperature. When the solar panel is the primary source for recharging the battery, refrigerators must have very low amp-hour requirements.

Solar refrigerator models are usually marketed by their output in “watts.” You can convert watts to amps with the basic equation that 100 watts provide about 6.25 amps, or 16 volts during a peak hour of sun. This does not account for solar intensity changes throughout the day. Ambient air temperatures are cooler in the winter than summer, so refrigerators require less energy to operate during colder months.

Solar refrigerators are also being considered as a mechanism to deliver food and vaccines in countries in need. Kerosene refrigerators, used historically for that purpose, need about a liter of kerosene per day and aren’t reliable for maintaining required vaccine temperatures. Solar Vaccine Coolers, which rely on batteries, cost more money than kerosene refrigerators at about $3500 to $4500. However, SolarChill coolers, which cost about $1500, store power in three 60W voltaic panels and have an AC/DC converter, which provides flexibility to use wind, hydropower, bio-gas, grid energy, or a car battery as back-up power sources. The company is developing a residential solar refrigerator as well.

Other companies, such as SunDazer, feature battery free solar refrigerators and models requiring smaller, more efficient power systems with low operating expense. They are the same size as a chest and run on a 75-watt solar panel, thick polyurethane insulation, and 12/24 VDC low voltage disconnect for battery protection.

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