Home energy efficiency landscaping is much more than an expense toward the eye appeal of your surroundings – it’s an investment in your future property value, as well as your comfort. Thoughtful landscape planning can actually generate value in excess of its initial expenditure by decreasing the expense of heating and cooling.
Proper use of trees, shrubs, vines, and man-made structures can modify the climate around your home to reduce heat gains in summer and heat losses in winter. Plants can protect your home from winter winds and shade it from the summer sun. Winter heating bills may be reduced by as much as 25 percent and summer cooling bills by 50 percent or more, per the CSU extension office.
On average, a properly designed landscape provides enough energy savings to return the initial investment in less than 8 years. And decreasing your family’s carbon footprint via simple energy conservation is a worthy goal all on its own. Here are some tips for maximizing your structure’s energy efficiency:
Carefully positioned trees alone can reduce a household’s energy consumption for heating and cooling by up to 25 percent. Computer models devised by the U.S. Department of Energy predict that the proper placement of as few as three trees can save an average household between $100 and $250 in energy costs annually.
>>Consult a qualified arborist in planning your landscaping to maximize the potential and sustainability of your trees, and check Landscaping for Energy Conservation for help with landscape planning.
In open areas, windbreaks to the north, west, and east of houses cut fuel consumption by an average of 40 percent. Houses with windbreaks placed only on the windward side (the side from which the wind is coming) averaged 25 percent less fuel consumption than similar, unprotected homes.
>> Evergreen trees and shrubs planted to the north and northwest of the home are the most common type of windbreak. Trees, bushes, and shrubs often are planted together to block or impede wind from ground level to the treetops. Evergreen trees combined with a wall, fence, or earth berm (natural or man-made walls or raised areas of soil) can deflect or lift the wind over the home. Be careful not to plant evergreens too close to the home’s south side if you are counting on warmth from the winter sun. A windbreak will reduce wind speed for a distance of as much as 30 times the windbreak’s height. For maximum protection, however, plant the windbreak at a distance from your home of two to five times the mature height of the trees.
Give the highest priority to planting shade trees due west of west windows. Planting shade trees due east of east windows should be your second priority. Select a tree that can be planted within twenty feet of the window and that will grow at least ten feet taller than the window. When space permits, use as many trees as needed to create a continuous planting along all major west-facing and east-facing windows.
>>Any trees on the southwest or southeast sides of the home should be pruned as they grow to remove their lower branches to allow more winter sun through; however, lower branches on trees northwest of the home are desirable to create the most shade in the late afternoon. Large deciduous trees very close to the south side of the building can have their lower branches removed to allow more sun to reach the building in winter.
An air conditioner runs more efficiently if it is in a cooler environment. For instance, less air conditioning is necessary to cool a car if it is parked in the shade. Paved areas like driveways and patios absorb and radiate heat far faster than planted areas. Plant trees near paved areas around the house or grow vines on a trellis over or near patios to create cooler areas around your house. For good airflow and access, plants should be more than three feet away from the air conditioning unit.
>>Shading of an air conditioner can increase its efficiency by as much as 10 percent.
Planting shrubs, bushes, and vines next to the house also creates cushion spaces that insulate your home in both winter and summer.
>>Plant so there will be at least one foot of space between full-grown plants and your home’s wall for cheap and green insulation winter and summer.
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