Does Solar-Powered Refrigeration Really Work?

by | Aug 7, 2021 | Refrigeration

As more and more industries and individuals look for ‘greener’ ways to run their businesses and households, solar power is one avenue that tends to get a lot of attention. By harnessing the power of the sun to run a range of different appliances that typically rely on electricity, your carbon footprint is inevitably less than it would have been.

And with solar energy having so many uses these days, the idea of solar-powered refrigeration was bound to be included in the conversation at some point. Every home and restaurant rely on refrigeration to keep perishable food safe and edible, and solar-powered refrigeration could offer some exciting benefits. But can it really work?

Solar Refrigeration 101

In laymen’s terms, here’s how the concept of solar refrigeration works.

Basically, solar refrigeration units take sunlight, which is naturally hot, and convert it into energy that is used to chill the storage compartment. Typical commercial refrigerators use electricity and a motor that compresses a refrigerant, but with solar refrigeration, there is no motor. The refrigerant is converted from a gas to a liquid by thermal energy created by the sun, and then the liquid depressurizes and reverts back to its original state to help keep your food cold and fresh.

How It Can Keep Food Cold

It may seem unlikely that a solar-powered fridge would be able to keep your food as cold as it needs to be on a consistent basis. After all, a fridge needs to be cold all the time, not just part of the time. Any of us that have lost power in the middle of a hot summer day knows just how quickly things can go bad in the fridge.

For solar-powered refrigerators, the key may lie in the amount of insulation that’s used. They depend on heavy insulation around the lining to help keep the contents safe from external heat. This allows you to keep food cold for hours upon hours. Also, the thermal energy produced by the change from gas to liquid refrigerant helps keep the refrigerator cold even when no sun is available. In the past, solar refrigeration relied on the sun and PV cells to charge lithium-ion batteries, but that is no longer the case.

Benefits of Using a Solar-Powered Fridge

As you’d expect, solar-powered refrigeration offers several benefits. One of the most notable is energy efficiency. Most commercial varieties of solar refrigerator can create 65-75 BTUs of cooling power after they’ve absorbed about 100 BTUs worth of heat from the sun. This increased energy efficiency is naturally a cost-effective option.

They also usually produce more energy than they consume, resulting in a “net negative” energy status which makes them more environmentally sustainable. Solar-powered refrigeration is also safer than conventional forms of energy production as it doesn’t rely on a power grid and leaves zero waste when generating power. Plus, it’s a safer option during installation as there is no need to tinker with your electrical system.

Solar panels with a sunset reflected off of them.

Potential Benefits for the Restaurant Industry

In the restaurant industry, where there is a steady stream of paying customers waiting to be served, refrigeration takes on a whole new meaning. Unlike a private household, where poor refrigeration is an inconvenience and typically a minor expense, in a restaurant it could cost thousands in spoiled food, lost revenue and damage to your reputation.

As mentioned above, solar refrigeration is effective when it comes to keeping food fresh and cold for long periods of time, and it offers several important benefits to the restaurant industry.

Saving on Energy Bills
In a restaurant, the bottom line always has to be part of your overall thinking and reducing costs where possible is crucial. When you are able to take that electricity bill out of the equation and run your refrigerators on solar power, you will save money that you can use to grow or on other expenses.

Protection During Power Outages
If you store the energy generated by solar power in batteries, you will be able to keep your refrigerator going in the case of a power outage. The insulation used in solar refrigerators can also help keep food cold if the power goes out for whatever reason.

Good for the Reputation
You may not associate using solar-powered refrigeration as a way to boost your restaurant’s reputation, but it is a powerful message to the community that you are serious about sustainability. You can also train your employees to relay this message to customers and other members of the community, which will position you as a leader.

Possible Federal Solar Tax Credit
If you are an eligible business, you may qualify for a federal tax credit by using solar-powered refrigeration in your restaurant. This is yet another way of saving money by switching to solar.

If you are in need of refrigeration on-the-go, let us know! Get in touch with us today to learn more.




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