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Shade your air conditioner

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Shaded air conditioners have an easier time cooling your home, thereby operating more efficiently and requiring less energy.

How to shade your air conditioner

For a central air unit, plant trees or shrubs around your air conditioner, but don't plant them so thick that they block the flow of air to the unit. Make sure to leave about two feet of clearance all around the equipment, and at least five feet above it.

When it comes to a window unit, place the unit in a window on the north-facing side of the house. This wall will naturally remain more shaded as the sun tracks across the sky throughout the day.

With either type of air conditioner, you may want to consider landscaping the area around your house in such a way that the plants contribute to cooling your home. Since asphalt and cement actually absorb heat, these surfaces will increase the temperature of the surrounding air. You can combat this effect by planting ground covers and other shrubs around driveways and lots. As plants photosynthesize, they work as a miniature evaporative cooling system, keeping the air around your home cooler. There is evidence that taller plants with larger leaf surfaces actually do a better job at cooling surrounding air than shorter ones.

Shading your air conditioner helps you go green because…

  • A shaded unit requires up to 10 percent less energy to operate than an unshaded unit.[1] Shaded air can be up to six degrees cooler than air in direct sun.

Controversies

Take good care when shading your air conditioning unit to allow enough space around it so that the hot air emitted from the condenser can flow away from the unit easily. Some people suggest that, because the cooling effect from shading your air conditioner is so minimal, it's safer to leave it unshaded, so as not to risk obstructing air flow. It might be more effective and less risky to either station your air conditioning unit on the north side of your home (where it is naturally receiving less sunlight), while planting trees and other shrubbery to drop the surrounding air temperature.

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