Solar-Friendly Shade Options

MSSI Logo    Creating Solar-Friendly Shade

Earlier this year, we explored small trees and large shrubs that create solar-friendly shade. Today, we’re going to look at how to create that much needed, yet solar-friendly shade directly on the walls of your home during those “dog days of summer.” First, we’ll talk a little bit about passive solar design principles. Then vines that can be used in conjunction with structures to create even more shade. In either case, the goal here is to create protective shading on your home that will not interfere with your solar panels.

Use Passive Solar Design

Passive solar design seeks to use what we know about the sun’s angle to our homes during each season and using that knowledge to our advantage. Utilize passive solar front porch roof structures, pergolas, arbors, awnings or other horizontal measures to shade the front; use them to shade windows, walls and doors in the summer while allowing winter sun to hit these surfaces and warm up the home.

When building a shade pergola for a conventional home using passive solar design techniques angle the slats to allow winter sun in and to block summer sun from coming in. The picture below is a good illustration of the concept.

Use a similar approach when installing an overhang. Overhangs should be long enough that they keep the high summer sun from coming in, but short enough to allow the lower winter sun to stream into your home. One could design an entire set of pergolas, overhangs and window awnings that allow for plenty of direct light in the wintertime, while allowing none during the summer!

Using Vines To Create Living Barriers To The Sun

While there are great many vines out there that we associate with being nuisances (Japanese Honeysuckle and Kudzu are two that come to mind), there are plenty of native, non-invasive vines that are quite polite, are beneficial for local pollinators and “play nice” with neighboring plants and structures.

Lonicera Sempervirens, Coral Honeysuckle

Coral Honeysuckle is a high-climbing, twining vine 3-20 ft. long, with gorgeous red flowers appearing in mid-spring. Hummingbirds adore this plant. Full sun, clay soil is well tolerated and is semi-evergreen.

Aristolochia macrophylla, Pipevine

Pipevine, also known as Dutchman’s Pipe is a fun vine with unusually-shaped flowers that is deciduous and looses its leaves in the winter. Larval host for the Pipevine Swallowtail. Sun to part-shade, fast-growing and likes moist soil.

Passiflora incarnata, Purple Passionflower

Passionflower is well-known for its exotic flowers, but less known as a native plant! A sun lover and a fan of clay soil, Passionflower is a larval host for six different species of butterfly!

Using plants for shade is not only functional, but is also gorgeous and a great option for protecting and providing habitat for our pollinators!

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