Screening your outdoor air conditioning condenser with plants is not only a great way to hide the unit from public view, but the right landscaping can actually make the AC work more efficiently — if you do it right!
Hide & Shade
Tall landscaping plants do double-duty by hiding your outdoor air-conditioning unit from view, while also shading it from a sometimes-overbearing sun. With the hot summer sun beating down directly onto it, an outdoor condenser has to work harder to cool off, thus driving up your electric bill. So even if you don’t find you AC unit particularly unsightly, shading it with some type of tall foliage can improve its energy efficiency.
Tall evergreen shrubs and ornamental grasses are perfect landscaping plants to establish in front of condensers. They hide the unit from view, while also providing that crucial shading. Grasses, shrubs and small trees are available in countless varieties, so you’ll have no problem finding options that fit in with your yard’s design scheme and growing conditions.
One popular option for shading and concealing an outdoor AC unit is evergreen shrubs and trees. Why opt for evergreen shrubs and trees? Again, the benefits of year-round foliage are two-fold. You’ll have permanent visual screening around the condenser, because the branches don’t drop their leaves or needles. At the same time, that non-deciduous feature protects the AC unit from getting clogged. When it comes to tall grasses, choose the types that stay mostly upright during the winter, rather than flopping on the ground.
You’ll avoid big problems by setting any landscape features at least 24 inches away from the condenser. That spacing gives your AC specialist plenty of room to get in there and maintain or repair the unit.
Even those non-planted objects that could theoretically be moved for repair — like container plants or small fencing — should sit a minimum of 24 inches away. Why? The ground unit needs proper air flow in order to work at peak efficiency.
Avoid the Dreaded Up-splash
Just as mulch protects garden plants from mud splatters after a heavy rainstorm, protective groundcover benefits an outdoor AC unit as well. Along with preventing drying mud from clogging filters, mulch also prevents sandy soils from flying into your unit on windy days.
Gravel and smooth rocks are classic ground cover choices around outdoor equipment. If you prefer plant-based mulch, use heavy, big pieces like bark chunks. Finely-shredded mulch and pine needles are light enough to go airborne during a storm, potentially clogging the AC equipment.
Use Moveable Screening if Storms are Common
Some areas are prone to severe weather outbreaks, making homeowners leery of planting small trees and shrubs near the house. If you feel the need to protect your condenser — and your home — by keeping foundation plantings to a minimum, consider portable solutions. Big containers filled with ferns, grasses or small shrubs can be moved away if heavy storms are brewing.
Likewise, a folding trellis can be pulled from the ground when the forecast is grim. (If you’re growing a lightweight vine on it, this becomes a bit more of a project than moving pots. But trellises are ideal if fierce storms are a rare but real threat.)
Whatever you choose, landscaping around your outdoor AC unit can be an easy way to improve the curb appeal of your home, as well as saving you some money on your energy bill and AC maintenance costs.