How Do Trees and Plants Act as Natural Air Conditioners?

House surrounded by greenery.

You can effectively use certain types of trees and plants so that it is not necessary to use air conditioning at home or the workplace. (Image: Photoquest via Dreamstime)

In the scorching days of summer, you feel like switching on the air conditioner frequently, and on the humid days, it becomes more of a necessity. But have you ever thought of using natural air conditioners instead?

While air conditioning technology has improved significantly, there is no denying it leads to an inflated energy bill, both in residential setups and offices. It also adds to the carbon footprint, eventually. So does that mean people should not use air conditioners and suffer amidst the humid heat?

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The solution lies in using natural alternatives, say the experts. You can effectively use certain types of trees and plants as natural air conditioners so that it is not necessary to use air conditioning at home or the workplace. 

Why use trees and plants as natural air conditioners?

If your aim is reducing the energy bill and carbon footprint, plants come as an excellent alternative for typical air conditioner devices. You may resort to using air coolers and that would reduce energy bills but still, electricity will be required. When you resort to using plant-based natural air conditioners, it is better for the environment and your energy bill goes down at the same time. 

You have to be aware of using the right type of trees and plants in this regard and strategic positioning of the plants will also be required. Trees and plants are laden with a specific air cooling system known as evapotranspiration. They lose water through the leaves by a process known as transpiration. It happens more when the trees are exposed to high temperatures and direct sunlight. The moisture released by the trees and plants cools down the adjacent regions for some time. 

When choosing trees as natural air conditioners, select deciduous (broadleaf) trees that lose their leaves in autumn.
When choosing trees, select deciduous (broadleaf) trees that lose their leaves in autumn. (Image: Bryan Roschetzky via Dreamstime)

What you need to know about using trees and plants as natural air conditioners

Choose trees that lose their leaves

When choosing trees, select deciduous (broadleaf) trees that lose their leaves in autumn as compared to coniferous (evergreen) trees that have needles instead of leaves, and don’t lose them in the fall. This will help to block the sun rays during the hot summer months but allow the sun rays through during the cold winter months.

Interrupting solar radiation

You may choose those trees with large canopy-like leaves. This will block large amounts of sun rays in the summer and absorb the heat. The foliage brings large shadows and aid in reducing overall heat. 

Checking the location

Just planting trees randomly at the backyard or side of the house will not cut the ice here! You have to think of the locations from a practical angle. Figure out which is the east side and areas where sun rays fall for the longest duration. It is also necessary to know the wind’s normal direction. 

Variety of trees

Just planting large-sized trees with large leaves may not be necessary if cooling the house is in mind. You have to plant a wide variety of trees. The big trees with canopy-like leaves soak in sun rays but the smaller ones offer shade to the soil and prevent it from getting too hot. For the driveway, you can plant overhanging large shrubs and leafy trees for a natural cover.

Covering the fences

You can cover the fencing around the house by using vines or climbing plants. These will coat the fence or boundary wall and protect it from overheating. It will also augment the aesthetic appeal of the house exterior. 

Pruning and trimming

While using canopy cover and using leafy trees to trap and reduce heat is fine, do not overdo things. There should be enough space around the house for airflow and to prevent access by climbing animals and insects. For that, you will have to trim and prune plants and trees that grow bushy or too dense from time to time. 

Vines growing on a fence.
You can cover the fencing around the house by using vines or climbing plants. (Image: Fromourlittlebubble via Dreamstime)

Be patient

To gain from using trees and plants as natural air conditioners at home, you have to plan carefully and be patient. The trees and plants will take time to grow and it may take some time to feel the cooling. However, the efforts and waiting are worth it. You will also gain by inhaling pure, less polluted air. Plants give out oxygen while soaking in carbon dioxide and harmful gasses. 

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