By John Williams
As temperatures soar into the mid-90s in Sacramento this summer, take a moment to think about your HVAC unit. It’s worth thousands of dollars, and you’ll be miserable without it. It can be an eyesore, but the right kind of landscaping around the unit can stop it from standing out — and protect it. Here are a few ideas:
The No.1 rule of landscaping around your HVAC is don’t plant anything to close to it. Give it a few feet of clearance so that leaves and other debris from the plants don’t get into your unit and clog it up. Your HVAC repair person will also thank you for leaving room to work during maintenance or repairs.
Plants that don’t shed their leaves, such as evergreens, are your best bet for planting around your HVAC unit. Evergreens lower the likelihood of leaves getting into your machinery and provide a year-round windbreak.
A row of evergreen shrubs or a hedge can protect your HVAC unit from high winds or other severe weather — and plants that keep their foliage year-round are better suited to stand guard over your investment.
Evergreens tend to be tough, low maintenance plants. The interior live oak and juniper are two evergreen shrubs that are native to Northern California. Therefore they are low-maintenance choices to protect your HVAC unit.
Two of the most popular ways to provide drainage in your yard are a healthy green lawn and a gravel landscape. A lot of warm-season grasses do well in the Northern California climate, so achieving a gorgeous green lawn is easier with these varieties. Green space is used by cities and counties to provide drainage; you can also use it around your HVAC by simply keeping your lawn healthy. If grass isn’t your thing, landscaping with gravel gives your yard the same benefits, and it’s lower maintenance. It’s also reasonably cheap to section off the area of the yard where your HVAC unit is located and spread it with the gravel color of your choice. Check with your local home and garden store for supplies and advice.
Your air conditioning is going to be working hard during the summer months. Why make it work harder than it needs to? Planting shade trees close enough to provide cover from direct sunlight will keep your HVAC unit cooler. The cooler it is, the less it has to work to cool your home. Evergreen trees are a good choice for this job.
Winter sunlight can take its toll too, so a tree that keeps its foliage year-round is best suited for this. The strawberry tree, deodar cedar, California laurel, cork oak and the interior live oak (it’s a tree or a shrub, depending on how its managed) are five evergreen trees native to Northern California. Your bank account will thank you when your electric bill arrives this summer.
Landscaping around your HVAC unit is not just about decoration. It’s also about keeping your investment in good, working order. With a little bit of planning, you can protect it from sunlight, high temperatures, and severe weather conditions. You’ll also make that corner or your yard a little more pleasing to the eye.
John Williams is an outdoor living expert and explorer. When he’s not traveling to nature’s most well-known beauty spots, he tends to the greenery surrounding his home.
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