In this Instructable I'll show you how I made a shade screen for my central AC condenser.

The condenser is in direct sun from 9 AM to 1:30 PM. I have no trees for shade so I decided to build a shade screen in order to lessen the load on the unit and hopefully reduce my electric bill.

Keep three things in mind when laying out your plan: air circulation, air circulation and air circulation.

First, I wanted to keep any vertical shade cloth at least two feet away from the unit because air circulation is very important.

Second, I didn't concern myself with shading the top of the unit. I figure the fan blades are shading the north side somewhat. I didn't want to restrict circulation by building anything that would cover the top.

Third, the shade cloth on the sides does not extend to the ground and is breathable.

I think I came up with a design that offers maximum shade without obstructing circulation.

Thanks for checking out my instructable.  I look forward to your feedback.

Step 1: Materials & Tools


4 - 10' lengths of 3/4” PVC pipe ($1.39 ea)
4 - 3/4” T's ($.39 ea)
6 - 3/4” 3-way 90 degree elbows (<$16 on ebay)
PVC Cleaner (optional)
PVC Cement (optional)
3 - 4' rebar ($2.65 ea)
1 - auger style anchor 1/2” x 15” x 4” ($4.99)
6' - 80% Shade Cloth – 6' wide ($2.05/ft)
14 Fabric clips to hold shade cloth ($.99 ea)
Several feet of wire (or bungee cords) for hold-down


Measuring tape
Sledge hammer
Levels, 2' & 4'
Painters tape or duct tape
Pencil or marker
Saw or PVC cutter
Large (water pump) pliers (shown in Step 19 Pic 2)
<p>Have you seen a significant enough change in your power consumption to warrant having this visible in your yard? I'm always looking for ways to improve efficiency while maintaining a decent appearance to the yard, but studies show that there is such a negligible difference made by shade structures (less than 3% improvement), that it's almost not worthwhile, especially considering if you do it incorrectly you risk reducing airflow and increasing inefficiency. Furthermore, the studies show that you'd need to have a very large area shaded because the unit pulls a large volume of air that will quickly travel from any hot areas straight into it, nullifying any shade effect. Being that I'm in Florida, this one in particular applies to my case... http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/publications/html/FSEC-PF-302-96/</p>
Like the idea. It's allways boggled my mind why more ac units aren't installed on the north or east side when possible. Seems so obvious. I would however plant some shrubs on the outside of your fence there. Problem solved in a few years.
In a few of the photos you can see that I planted 2 arborvitaes between the fence and the AC unit. They are now about a foot taller than the fence. I figure that in about 5 years they'll be tall enough to shade the AC and by that time the fabric will have seen better days. I'll find another use for the PVC. <br>You're absolutely right about initial placement of the AC unit. Originally, mine was on the other side of the fence, next to my deck. When it died, I had the new one installed where you see it, mostly because of the noise. It gets more shade in the new location but not enough to satisfy me. <br>Thanks for your comment!
I like the idea of the cool n save, if, and only if, you have soft water to blow across the fins. That technology would quickly result in fins caked with calcium and magnesium with the water in San Antonio.<br> <br> If you already have the cool n save, I'm not sure you would get much benefit with the addition of shade.&nbsp; It is very hard to improve on the thermal efficiency of evaporating water for removing heat.&nbsp;<br>
Good points. The shade screen seems to block a lot of the breeze that previously blew the mist away. The Cool-N-Save comes with a filter that has to be changed every year. I used copper icemaker tubing and hooked it up to my under-sink filter in the kitchen in 2009. Much cheaper in the long run.
I would like to know if this would more efficiently cool your house in addition to saving some money. Have you noticed if your cooling performance increased?
The AC used to kick on around 11:00 AM and run non-stop until after dark. After installing the Cool-N-Save it cycled off &amp; on and I noticed a definite savings on the electric bill. After building the shade screen the AC seems to be off even more.
I think I will try this then. My AC unit sits in the sun for over 12 hours and my 2nd floor seems to have a hard time staying cool. I know that has to do with heat rising and performance of the internal duct fans, but anything that will help...helps. Great instructable!
Thanks! I had the same 2nd floor problem. Try beefing up the attic insulation, make sure there is good ventilation up there (exhaust fan may help). I also fully open the upstairs vents and close the vents downstairs. The cool air finds its way down. Of course, you have to re-adjust the vents during the heating season. I also keep blinds closed on the sunny side of the house. And just to show you how much I hate to pay utility bills, I move the patio chairs in front of the sliding glass doors to block even more direct sun!
Very nice instructable. Have you noticed any decrease in energy use?
My August bill was 13 cents (yes, CENTS!) lower than the July bill, but in all fairness, the average temperature was 2 degrees higher in August so I'm sure I saved a few dollars. I just read in a Home Depot e-newsletter that shading your AC could save 10% on your cooling bill. I doubt that my bill would have been $35 higher without the screen but if I saved $10 it's worth it. That would put me on track for a 2 summer payback.

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