Solar Thermal Panels and Absorption Chiller

Rather than waste our electrical energy heating water, our home features solid flat-panel thermal collectors which efficiently use solar energy to heat water.

Sunlight is reflected and focused on narrow water pipes running throughout the thermal collector, which raises the water temperature. This hot water is used to:

1) heat potable water for drinking, cooking and bathing
2) generate hot air for house heating needs
3) power revolutionary solar air-conditioning through the use of a 5-ton absorption chiller

Absorption Chilling Technology

The absorption chiller, in the most simplistic sense, allows a building to use thermal collectors to power its air-conditioning. The water heated by solar energy in these collectors is used to initiate a thermal dynamic process involving low-pressure chambers that chills water to around 44 degrees Fahrenheit. The chilled water is then brought to a series of copper pipes that efficiently cool air blown through the pipes and into the home. Except for a few pumps, the system is entirely passive, has no moving parts and requires no electrical input.

Most other prototype models in development are natural gas-fired or use hydroflourocarbon refrigerants that are known to have a significant impact on earth's ozone. Our chiller, developed by Yazaki, is water-fired and uses a lithium bromide refrigerant that is non-toxic and environmentally-friendly.

We acquired our absorption chiller as a prototype - one of only two in the world with a capacity between 2 and 5 tons. Our thermal system utilizes the first well-functioning unit small enough to be viable for small-scale residential and commercial use. Because of the Santa Clara University Solar Decathlon Team's development of the integrated solar air-conditioning system, Yazaki has obtained UL approval (a necessary electrical code) for the 5-ton system...and Solarsa is taking it to market.

Read Solarsa's Press Release, September 17 (PDF 17 KB) for more information about the future of solar air-conditiong and SCU's place in its development.

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Chiller Fan image Chiller
click to watch a flash animation
explaining the process

(alternate flash-free image)