If you're looking for ways to decrease the strain on your AC unit and keep it from working itself into premature malfunction, keeping your house cool naturally is the way to go. Don't sacrifice comfort just because the AC unit you have is too small for your house or is waiting for repairs. Some of these shade alternatives can be used in the short term and can help while you're waiting for the repairman, but most are long-term solutions that will help you manage a living space slightly too large for your unit or help you reduce the amount of energy your unit uses. Choose whichever of these four shade options best suit your situation.
1. Shade trees and vines
Shade trees are understandably a very long-term solution, so you may not want to wait that long. You should also check with your homeowner's association to make sure you're allowed to plant trees, because trees too near a house can be a nuisance or a hazard. If you want shade that will help this summer and won't take years to grow, you can try planting fast-growing vines (such as hops) on trellises next to your walls. Don't let vines grow on the house itself, or they may damage it.
2. Shade cloth or sails
Shade sails can be installed over your roof to take the brunt of the sun's force during the day. Some companies will also install shade cloth with a system that floats it just a few inches above the roof, which provides for maximum coverage while still allowing for ventilation. These types of shade help keep your roof cool by intercepting light and heat rays and then allowing them to dissipate into the air. This prevents a considerable amount of heat transfer through the roof, even if you have plenty of insulation; a black asphalt roof can commonly get up to 150-160 degrees in the summer sun.
Awnings can shade your windows, preventing the "greenhouse effect" of sun shining through glass. The sun hits the awning and dissipates before it reaches the glass in an ideal situation, but for sunny windows, you may have to install quite a large awning if you want to be sure no sun will reach the glass
If your windows are too large or too tall for an awning to be practical, you may wish to make use of shutters or external blinds. These block heat over the entire window surface and can easily be opened in the cool evening to encourage airflow.
These four types of shade can all help save your house from accumulating too much heat. If you want to pick just one area of the house to focus on, pick the roof; its 150-degree temperatures may be the single biggest contributor to your house's heat gain, and cooling your roof helps it last longer by protecting it from thermal shock.