Should You Shade Your Outdoor Air Conditioning Unit?

You may think that shading your outdoor air conditioning unit is a no-brainer. 

After all, an air conditioner sun shield is bound to reduce the workload on your AC unit, right? In reality, it may not be that simple. Fortunately, we’ve provided our expert opinion to help you decide whether or not shading your outdoor unit will help you in the long run. 

Read below for our expert advice on whether or not you should use a shade for your AC unit. 

Expert advice on shading your AC unit 

In the past, many experts unanimously agreed that using an air conditioner sun shield was the way to go. The US Department of Energy website recommended it, claiming that homeowners could see up to a 10% increase in the efficiency of their units. 

Studies reported that an increase in efficiency also meant a decrease in monthly bills and energy costs. However, more recent studies have shown that shading your AC unit may not save as much money as was once thought. 

Recent studies 

However, due to the way they are built, air conditioning units don’t heat up all at once. Also, the coils, condenser, fan, and other essential parts of your AC are already shaded within the air conditioner casing. 

What the original studies didn’t account for was that a large outdoor unit cools such a large volume of air every hour that the air won’t have enough time to cool in the shaded area before it’s pulled through the AC. Consequently, planting bushes or hedges around your unit won’t have such a significant impact on your energy consumption or bills.

In fact, more modern studies have concluded that the energy savings would be between 1% and 3% per year. Several sites, including the US Department of Energy, have since removed their previous statements on energy savings. 

However, that’s not to say there aren’t benefits to shading your air conditioning unit! 

Benefits of shading your outdoor AC unit

Despite the fact that recent studies have shown less energy savings, there are still several benefits to having shade for your AC unit. Some benefits include the following:

Increased energy efficiency

Air conditioner shade reduces the amount of sunlight your unit is exposed to. This will also reduce the amount of heat absorbed by the unit which can result in, albeit minimal, improved energy efficiency and lower cooling costs.

Extended lifespan of the unit 

Heat exposure can cause your AC unit to work harder, potentially reducing its lifespan. Shading the unit may help protect it from overheating, potentially prolonging its lifespan.

Reduced wear and tear 

An air conditioner sun shield can help protect your AC unit from the elements, such as rain, snow, and debris, which can help reduce wear and tear on the unit over time.

Drawbacks of shading your outdoor AC unit

When deciding whether or not to shade your unit, here are some disadvantages to consider: 

Reduced airflow 

If the shading is too close to the AC unit or if it obstructs the airflow around the unit, it can hinder the proper functioning of the unit. Reduced airflow can cause an increase in AC cycling, decreasing the unit’s efficiency and performance and potentially resulting in higher energy usage and increased cooling costs.

Increased risk of mold and debris buildup 

Shading can create a damp environment that can lead to mold growth or a buildup of debris. This can affect the performance of the AC unit, reducing its efficiency and ultimately increasing your energy bill. 

Aesthetics and space considerations 

Shading your outdoor AC unit may impact the aesthetics of your outdoor space, and it may require additional space and planning to accommodate the shade structure.

Should I shade my AC unit? 

If you are on the fence about giving your AC outdoor unit shade, there are some things you should consider before making your decision. 

Location and exposure

If your AC unit is located in an area that receives direct sunlight for a significant portion of the day, shading it can help reduce its exposure to intense sunlight and heat. This can improve the unit’s efficiency and reduce its workload, resulting in lower energy consumption and a longer lifespan.

Your local environment and climate

The climate in your local area is an important factor to consider when shading your outdoor AC unit. Shading can be particularly beneficial in hot and sunny climates as it can help reduce the amount of heat the unit has to work against. 

However, shading may be less necessary in cooler climates or areas with mild summers. In fact, in these circumstances, shading an AC unit could even be detrimental if it blocks essential airflow.

The type of air conditioner shade you choose

The type of shading you provide is also crucial. It’s best to use natural and unobtrusive shading methods, such as trees or installing shade sails or a pergola. 

These often work better than obstructive shading methods that can restrict airflow, such as using solid structures or placing objects too close to the unit. 

Natural shading methods can help block direct sunlight throughout your entire yard while allowing proper airflow around the AC unit and maintaining its efficiency.

Maintenance considerations

Remember that shading methods such as trees or plants will require ongoing maintenance, including pruning and regular care. Trees should be planted at an appropriate distance from the AC unit to avoid any potential damage from branches or roots.

Manufacturer’s recommendations

Reviewing the manufacturer’s recommendations for your specific AC unit model is essential. Some manufacturers may specify guidelines on shading or provide information on how it can impact the unit’s performance and warranty. 

If you’re wondering how to shade your outside AC unit, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure you don’t void any warranties or cause any issues with the AC unit.

Does your AC unit need shading? Ask a pro. 

In conclusion, shading your outdoor AC unit can be beneficial in hot and sunny climates. Still, it’s important to consider factors such as location, climate, type of shading, maintenance requirements, and manufacturer’s recommendations before proceeding.

If you need clarification or have any questions specific to your needs, call Anderson Air today and consult a qualified HVAC technician for advice.

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