Although your new HVAC equipment is a technological work of art, it’s probably far from being a backyard centerpiece. HVAC manufacturers largely design their equipment for functionality first, with aesthetics somewhere further down the list.

So we tend to try and improve that unsightly appearance by creative landscaping around the HVAC unit, camouflaging or hiding it from sight with shrubbs, trees, or hedges. These are not bad ideas and can actually help the functionality of the system. But there are some guidelines for doing this type of landscaping properly, or you might find that your plants are actually making your unit less efficient.

The number one rule is to make sure that any plants are a minimum of 2 – 3 feet away from the HVAC unit. Any closer than this and the airflow could be obstructed, which means your air conditioner could stop working. From a practical standpoint, should your unit need servicing, this will give your HVAC service technician more room to work. Ivy and vine-like plants should probably be avoided in the vicinity of the HVAC unit, as they require considerable maintenance.

Also, keep in mind that if your trees, shrubs, or hedges are tall enough, they can provide shade to the unit, which is a good thing. The air is cooler in the shade, and that means higher efficiency and a longer compressor life. But don’t take the shade thing too far – your unit will also need at least 5 feet of clearance above it for maximum airflow.

On another note, trees that lose their leaves during the winter are perfect for planting all around your home – because when it is hot outside, the leaves will shade your house, stopping the sun’s rays from warming it up too much, which would cause your AC to work harder. When the Canadian winter comes along, the leaves are gone, letting the light warm up the house. On sunny days with the curtains drawn, you can decrease your heating bills because of the direct sunlight.

Shrubs can be an essential part of HVAC friendly landscaping, especially when used in such a way that they act as windbreaks around windows. The windows of your home, particularly if they are older, are likely to have some type of air leak. While it may not seem like much, on a cold day with a strong wind, you can feel the colder temperature as you get closer to the window. This makes your furnace have to work harder to keep the temperature constant, increasing your bills. A shrub outside of a window, especially north-facing one, can help break the wind and diminish the heat loss from an air leak.

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