Should I Make a Shade for My A/C Unit?

The short answer to whether you should provide shade for your air conditioner unit is yes but with conditions.

Pergola

Compressors exposed to full sun will not operate at peak efficiency.Compressors exposed to full sun will not operate at peak efficiency.
Air conditioners work by removing hot air from your home and transferring and releasing it outside. The compressor for an air conditioner, whether it is a central air conditioner or a window unit, is always outside. This mechanism works best when the difference between the outside temperature and the temperature of the unit is as large as possible. Shading your compressor or air conditioner can help reduce energy costs, provided you do not decrease airflow around your unit.

A pergola or raised latticework supported by vertical posts is a good way to provide shade for your air conditioner while not reducing airflow around the compressor. Build your pergola out from your house and over the unit, leaving at least 5 feet of space between the top of your unit and the roof of the pergola. Train climbing plants to grow up the vertical posts and across the roof of the pergola to provide more shade. Keep your plants well pruned so they do not interfere with the compressor.

Awning

An awning on the side of your house can go a long way towards reducing energy costs in your home in a few ways. The awning will reduce the amount of sunlight beating down on the side of your house and increase the temperature indoors. Additionally, an awning placed over a central air conditioner compressor or window air conditioner will help keep the temperature differential optimal between the compressor and the outside temperature and help your unit operate more efficiently as well as increase its lifespan.

Trellis or Lattice

A trellis or lattice, erected some distance from your air conditioner or compressor, can also help shade your unit from the sun. Build your lattice at least 5 feet out from the compressor, and train a climbing plant, such as a grapevine or ivy, to grown up the trellis or lattice to provide shade for your unit. Constructing the lattice on only one side of your compressor, preferably the north-facing side, will help maximize airflow to the unit while minimizing sun exposure.

Precautions

Always check with an authorized repair technician for your air conditioner to learn about specific concerns regarding airflow and the effects of shading your unit. A technician can tell you where you can safely install a structure to provide your unit with shade and give you tips on keeping your compressor running smoothly for years.

About the Author

Andrew Leahey has been a writer since 1999, covering topics as varied as technology how-to guides and the politics of genetically modified organisms to African food supplies. He is pursuing his J.D. while renovating an 1887 farmhouse located in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.