Landscaping for an Energy Efficient Home

Landscaping for an Energy Efficient Home

There are two main things that will be considered in this article to help you create an energy efficient home through landscaping.

Choosing the correct landscaping can save you money year round. According to the US Department of Energy, a tree planted in the right place can save you up to 25% of the cost of cooling your home. Two or three well placed trees can save the average home $100-$250 per year in energy costs. So, grab your shovel and let’s get started!

Landscaping: Building Shaded Areas

First, consider shading. In the summer a shaded area can be up to nine degrees cooler that a sunny area. You’ve undoubtedly noticed this if you have ever taken a walk in the middle of a hot summer day. As the sweat pours off of your face, you spot a tree ahead. You might walk a little faster. And when you reach it you may even stop for a minute to bask in the cool shade. Then, refreshed, you continue on your way.

Just as the shade is refreshing for you, a wisely placed tree casting shade over your air conditioning unit helps your air conditioner to work more efficiently. In fact, it may run up to 10% more efficiently. In addition, a tree that looses its leaves in the winter will allow the sunlight in to help warm your home. And that means more money in your pocket.

Image courtesy of University Missouri

Hedges and vines can also help to shade your home in the summer. Plant them on the sunny sides of your home to cool the walls from the outside and you’ll need less cooling on the inside. Be sure to use a trellis if you choose to plant vines because climbing vines can damage your walls. For hedges, plan on one foot of space between your wall and the plant when it reaches its full size. This will allow moisture to evaporate instead of collecting around your house’s foundation. An insulating barrier is also created that will help protect from cold in the winter.

Landscaping: Building in Windbreaks

The second consideration is windbreaks. A windbreak will protect your home from chilling winter gusts therefore requiring less energy to heat. Efficient windbreaks extend to the ground and consist of well placed trees and shrubs.

Evergreens are a popular choice to plant along the north and northwest sides of a home. Because of their dense needles the wind is blocked and dense shrubs also protect from drifting snow.

Trees and shrubs planted as windbreaks should be a distance of two to five times the mature height of the plant from the home. The length of your windbreak should ideally be 11 1/2 times greater than the mature width of your plantings.

To ensure winter warmth from the sun, do not plant your windbreak on the south side of your home. You want to soak up as much of that winter sun as you can.

Check out this post to learn more about making your home energy efficient?

Putting it all Together

Ok, put your shovel down for a minute. It’s a good idea to have a base plan before you start digging up your yard. Get some graph paper and make a drawing of your property and any existing features like sidewalks or trees that have already been planted. Put compass directions on your drawing and mark where the sun comes from during different times of the year. You can also note the direction of prevailing winds. Now, put a piece of tracing paper over your drawing and mark where you would like to place new trees, shrubs and vines. Also mark any existing plants that you wish to remove or replace. Have a little fun with your drawing. Use colored pencils and different shapes for different varieties of plants.

Now go to your local nursery and show your drawing to one of the knowledgeable people that work there. Don’t worry; he won’t laugh at your drawing skills (or lack thereof). He can now help you chose the trees and shrubs that are best suited to your needs and the area you live it. He can also help you select drought resistant varieties. This will help you save even more money on your water bill!

A well designed landscape can also protect your home from noise and pollution. You can expect a return on your total investment in less than eight years. And that isn’t counting the value you have just added to your home. So are you ready? Go get that shovel and get started landscaping for an energy efficient home!