Shading your air conditioner’s outdoor condenser unit is an accepted way to increase its efficiency and lower your cooling costs. That’s because shading the air conditioner is said to cool down the air around it, so that it doesn’t have to work as hard to cool that air before blowing it into your house. But can shading your air conditioner really make it more efficient? If so, what’s the best way to go about shading your air conditioner?
It may be worthwhile to shade your air conditioner if you can create a large shaded area, such as that created by an awning or, better yet, one or more trees. Shrubs and bushes can also cool the air around your air conditioner; just make sure you don’t block the unit’s air flow. If possible, place your air conditioner unit on the north side of your house.
How Much Can You Save by Shading Your Air Conditioner?
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, shading your air conditioner with trees can make it as much as 10 percent more efficient. But the benefits extend beyond improving your air conditioner’s efficiency. Shading your home with as few as three trees can save you between $100 and $250 a year in cooling costs, and can slash your air conditioning costs by as much as 50 percent. That’s because shade trees cool the air around them, by preventing sunlight from heating the ground. They also block sunlight from entering your home through its windows, to help keep your home cooler.
Air conditioners that operate in a cooler environment, such as one shaded by trees, bushes, or an awning, operate more efficiently, because they don’t need to work as hard to cool down air that is already somewhat cool. Shade can also be used to cool down paved areas around your house, and prevent them from absorbing and releasing heat.
If you live in a brick or stucco home, your very walls could be absorbing heat that could warm up the air around your air conditioning unit. A large awning on that side of the house could help keep the air around your air conditioner cooler. Awnings over other windows could help the cool air inside your home stay cool.
How to Shade Your Air Conditioning Unit for Maximum Efficiency
If possible, install your air conditioner on the north side of your house. You can still shade your air conditioner if it’s on another side of the house, but the north side stays the coolest throughout the day.
Whether your air conditioner is on the north side of your house or on another side, you’ll need to do more than simply build a small awning over it in order to effectively cool enough of the surrounding air to impact the air conditioner’s efficiency. What you’ll need to do is plant trees, shrubs, and bushes.
If your air conditioner is on the south side of your house, go for trees that grow tall and have expansive crowns with plenty of foliage. If your unit is on the east, west, or north side of your house, you can stick with trees that grow lower to the ground if you want. A six to eight-foot-tall deciduous tree will begin providing some shade for your air conditioner within a year of planting it.
If you want to shade all of your home’s windows — and not just the air conditioner itself — give priority to trees planted west of the west-facing windows. You can plant these trees no further than 20 feet from the windows. Choose trees that will grow about 10 feet taller than the windows.
To truly maximize your air conditioner’s efficiency, you’ll want to plant at least two or three trees on that side of the house. You should also plant shrubs and bushes near the air conditioner, but not so close that they hamper air flow into the unit. Bushes and shrubs help cool the air above them because they stop the ground from absorbing the sun’s heat. The more trees and bushes you can plant near your air conditioner, the cooler the air around it will be and the more efficiently the unit will function. You want to focus on creating a large area of cooler air, so that the unit doesn’t simply pull hot air from beyond the shaded area.
If there are paved areas or walkways near your air conditioner, make sure they’re also well-shaded. Low-growing shrubs may be sufficient for some areas, such as walkways. Pavement absorbs more heat from the sun than soil, causing the air above it to be that much warmer. If you have a large patio on that side of the house, it may be worthwhile to install an awning over it.
Shading your air conditioning unit can help the unit work more efficiently, cut your cooling costs and lengthen your air conditioner’s life. Trees and shrubs also help keep the air inside your house cool, and can increase your enjoyment of your outdoor space.