4 Landscaping Ideas to Boost Energy Efficiency in Your Home
While energy-efficient windows and sealing your home against drafts are effective, putting your landscaping to work for you can also result in significant savings — no matter what season.
Strategically placed trees, and using hardscape elements like arbors and fencing can all play a part in maintaining a comfortable and efficient household — whether it’s keeping your home warm when it’s cold outside or cool when it’s hot outside. Here are four landscaping ideas to consider:
Strategic Tree Planting
According to the Department of Energy, tall shade trees are the best way to shield your home from cold winter blasts and solar heat in the summer. In the South, evergreen trees work best due to their year-round protection, while deciduous trees make a better fit for Northern regions as the bare branches in colder months allow the warm sunshine to filter through.
Equally as important as the type of tree you choose is the placement of the tree. For example:
• Deciduous Trees: These trees work best when planted on the southern side of your home, which receives the most sunlight. They do not inhibit cooling breezes, yet still protect your home from the hot summer sun. Since they lose their leaves in the winter, these trees allow the warmth of the sun to filter through.
• Evergreen Trees: Evergreens make a great choice as windbreaks for the north and northwest sides of your home, which inhibits heat loss in the winter months.
• Shorter Trees: Planting shorter trees on the west side of your home aids in blocking the sun in the afternoon.
When using plants and trees as windbreaks, plant them in layers with the taller trees further out, and low-growing perennials and flowering shrubs nearer to the house. This way you still get the benefits of cool breezes in the summer but shield against snow and high winds from winter storms.
Many electric companies recommend planting trees to provide shade for your air conditioning condenser to boost its efficiency and reduce cooling expenses. Just be sure not to plant too close to the condenser — it requires a buffer of 2-3 feet — and to prune trees back if they start to crowd the unit.
Pick Drought-Tolerant Plants
Ornamental plants, including groundcovers, are more than just a pretty face. When planted near a house, they also can help minimize wind velocity around entrances, which is where most cold drafts make their way in during the winter. In addition, you can reduce the indoor temperature of your home by as much as 10 degrees by having a green roof or rooftop garden.
In climates that are hot and dry, drought-tolerant plants like succulents are a good fit. Consider species that are native to your climate, as more times than not they’ll need less maintenance. Just make sure to place plants with similar water requirements together.
Use Hardscaping to Create Shade
Trellises, arbors, fences, pergolas and canopies are fantastic for shielding your patio from summer heat and winter snow. In addition, a sturdy fence gives strong protection to a north window, while strategically placed awnings go a long way in blocking out heat from the summer sun.
To make pergolas, trellises and arbors even more effective at blocking out sun and wind, consider topping them with climbing vines. Before planting any vines, however, be sure to do your research so that you don’t choose one that is invasive. It’s also a good idea to look into the vine’s method of climbing to ensure it won’t damage the structure’s surface.
Another type of cooling outdoor element, a fountain or waterfall has the ability to cool the surrounding temperature by an estimated 30 degrees.
One of the simplest and least expensive ways to put landscaping to work at boosting your home’s energy efficiency is by using it to harness the rays of the sun. In other words, solar energy. Instead of plugging into your home’s electricity for outdoor lighting, for instance, use solar to illuminate your landscape after dark. Lining the pathway to your door with solar stake lights is one way, or consider incorporating solar string lights or globes into your deck, patio or pool setup. In addition, solar Christmas lighting shows your holiday spirit while costing just a few cents to operate.
By putting all these elements together — hardscaping, plants and solar energy — you’ll not only make your home more energy efficient, but also turn your yard into a more comfortable and inviting place. In fact, these changes could even result in you spending more time outdoors, thereby reducing energy further when you snap off the TV and lights to enjoy an evening outside on the patio.