I’m amazed by the number of people who think that shade is just something to keep you cool when you are sitting out by the pool in summer. But they think nothing of living in a house with tiny eves, no window coverings and the air conditioning cranked right up.
Simple solutions are often the most cost effective and measurable for benefits. Awnings are a simple way to make a home more sustainable and reduce your air conditioning bill. In Australia, we looked seriously at installing shade sails for the same reason, but found it hard as we were renting, we made do with our own temporary solutions, we found a bamboo shade during a trash to treasure day and hung that up to shade one of our outdoor rooms where the kids played, and rigged up a cloth gazebo to act as an awning over our kitchen doors. The big benefit was that the inside of our house stayed a lot cooler as well.
Other options are patio umbrellas placed close to the house to minimize afternoon sun entry into french doors or large windows. You’ve got to get creative to make some of these simple solutions work, but a couple of degrees cooler in summer will be worth it for the comfort, and maybe you won’t need to turn on the air con. btw, we’ve never had a place with air conditioning, even while living in Coastal Australia, where summer temperatures can easily reach the mid 40’s (Celsius).
Another great option is to create an arbor or a pergola, where a vine or climbing plant can flourish and provide shade in the warmer summer months, but in winter, when all the leaves have fallen off, provides sunlight and warmth to the inside of the house. All in all you probably want to put something in that you can sit under on some nice teak patio furniture, while marveling at the fact that you’ve just saved yourself some big bucks on air conditioning too!