How to Shade Your Air Conditioners

Your home's air conditioning provides a comfortable environment on hot summer days. However, running an air conditioner excessively can be expensive. The energy costs of a window- or whole-house air conditioner rise dramatically when the temperature rises. Fortunately, there is a simple solution to help cool your house as well as your air conditioning unit: plant shade trees.

Plan for Shade

This air conditioner has good air circulation, however, the landscape rocks reflect heat onto the unit.

Step 1

Consult with your local agricultural extension office for information on shade trees that thrive in your area.  Generally, brochures and pamphlets are available with information on native trees, along with planting and care instructions.

Step 2

Sketch the house on graph paper, using one square for 1 foot.  Determine the wind direction as well as north, south, east and west. Mark the location of the air conditioning unit and the shade cast by the new shade trees. 

Step 3

Trim or remove all shrubbery and foliage from around the air conditioner.  Air circulation is essential for efficient cooling. Even overgrown grass can interfere with an air conditioner's airflow. 

Step 4

Plan to plant shade trees on the southwest, west and east side of the house.  Measure the spread of the full-grown tree to ensure that the shade will cover the air conditioning unit and the house through the day.

Plant the Trees

Step 1

Dig the planting hole a little deeper and three times the width of the root ball of the tree.  Amend the excavated soil with compost and fertilizer according to the needs of that particular species of tree. Mound one or two shovelfuls of the amended soil in the middle of the planting hole. 

Step 2

Remove the tree from the pot or burlap, unwinding the tangled roots and trimming any broken or decayed roots. 

Step 3

Place the tree in the hole, spreading the roots over the mounded soil.  After ensuring that the tree is vertical, fill in the hole, covering the roots and gently tamping the soil around the trunk. Plant the tree at the same level as it was in in the pot.  Water thoroughly.

Step 4

Add a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch around the tree.  Pull the mulch 3 inches back from the trunk. Mulch keeps the soil moist and reduces weed growth. 

Step 5

Water regularly through the first year.  Unless the weather is extremely hot, a deep watering once a week is usually sufficient.


  • Avoid planting trees over water and sewer lines.
  • If you live in a neighborhood governed by a homeowners association, read the covenants, conditions and restrictions before planting trees. The CC&Rs may restrict the type of trees allowed in the development.

About the Author

With degrees in fine and commercial art and Spanish, Ruth de Jauregui is an old-school graphic artist, book designer and published author. De Jauregui authored 50 Fabulous Tomatoes for Your Garden, available as an ebook. She enthusiastically pursues creative and community interests, including gardening, home improvement and social issues.