Before the invention of the air conditioner, Florida homeowners relied on modifying their environment to create shade and coolness within their homes. The state has the advantage of natural ventilation through year-round winds, but the mixed heat and humidity can make living in the state challenging. The most efficient and long-lasting way to cool and shade your home is through its landscaping. By creating shade on your home, you will cut down on your energy bills, increase inside comfort levels and beatify the landscape all at the same time.
Study the areas inside your home, noting which windows allow the most sun to shine inside and for how long. Note any sections that are warmer throughout the day. This will give you an idea of problem areas, and you will know where to create shade outside of the house.
Consider your region within Florida when selecting trees and shrubs. Florida is divided into three major planting zones: North Florida experiences annual freezing temperatures, and central and southern areas experience consistently warm weather. The Florida-friendly plant list created by the University of Florida will help you select plants appropriate for your region of the state.
Consider using native trees and shrubs to create the shade for your home. Native plants are tolerant to Florida's environment and require less maintenance and water. They are usually more tolerant to winds, droughts and salt.
Plant deciduous trees approximately 20 feet from the house in north and north-central Florida where frosts and freezes are a normal winter event. Plant the trees on the south and southeast side of the house as they will produce shade in the summer months creating coolness and allow sunlight to warm the house in winter when trees drop their leaves.
Plant trees that are evergreen in southern areas of the state as these areas experience warm temperatures year-round. Planting trees approximately 20 feet from the house on the south, southeastern and southwestern sides of your home will produce shade throughout the hottest portion of the day.
Shade any sunny windows by planting vines on trellises approximately 4 feet from the home. For year-round shade, use evergreen vines situated on the eastern and western sides of the home. For shade in summer and heat in winter, use deciduous vines on southern facing windows.