Natural Cooling – Like Trellis for Shade

by Erik North on September 4, 2012

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The title may not make much sense but I just saw ‘Like Water For Chocolate’.

When we first were house shopping, I looked for a place with a good south solar facing. I had thoughts of a PV system tied in with a mini ductless split heating/cooling system and heat pump down the road. In the short term, the south facing living room gets a mega-crap-ton of sunlight.

We’ve had a fairly dramatic example of the cooling power of shade in our house. Our living room is on the south face and get so much sunlight as to make it almost unlivable during the peak summer hours. After a bit of dallying on my part, we invested in some nice shades and sunscreens for the living room.

The difference has been mammoth, reducing the room temperature by 10-15 degrees. A room that was unbearably hot for two months of the year is now pleasant and comfortable. I can now yell at the Red Sox in relative comfort, if poor blood pressure. Bullpens giving up 15 runs will do that to you.

While heat migrates into the summer home by every means possible, the sun and solar radiation are the main driver. Between beating down on walls and roofs, to streaming through the window glass, the sun drives heat and cooling needs. Lessening solar exposure means less heat and a lesser need for air conditioning. A trellis (see we are getting around to it) is an easy and aesthetic way to provide continual shade.

Trellis – A trellis is a permanent addition of various designs, providing shade for a building. They often incorporate vines or other fast growing leafy plants to enhance the shade. Trellises are sometimes used to shade air conditioners and heat pumps to help improve efficiency.

A trellis and vine addition has several advantages over other shading techniques, such as awnings or trees. Many people consider the natural vines much more attractive than a metal and vinyl awning. The wood and vine structure is greener and has a lower embodied energy than the aluminum/steel and vinyl awning.

Vines and Vapor – I’ve mentioned before that a little noted benefit of tree shading is their evaporative cooling effect. Trees constantly pump water from the ground to the leaves. This water evaporates from the leaves. This produces a zone of naturally cooler air around the tree.

Vine growth provides evaporative cooling effects like that of trees, lowering the air temp further than just shade alone. Compared with trees, fast-growing vines provide shade in a very short time.

If your house has a natural, earthy aesthetic, adding a trellis with or without shading vines can help make your house easier to cool.

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