Back in historical times, buildings were constructed to best utilize natural energy and resources. For example, if you look at a home that’s over 100-years old, the placement of windows and doors allow homeowners to take advantage of natural light and airflow. Back then it was out of necessity.
Today, the concept of using natural elements to cool, warm or protect homes hasn’t been completely lost. It’s simply changed from necessity to saving money or energy.
Many people are searching for ways to reduce their energy consumption to lower their energy bills. Most homeowners look inside their homes to cut down on energy usage, but there’s another place you can change to increase energy efficiency. Did you also know it’s just outside your door?
Have you thought about changing your landscaping to help you conserve energy? At first glance, it sounds strange, but it’s really not. It’s a concept called energy-efficient landscaping, and it’s grown in popularity as another way to help save money on home energy bills.
Before you start planting trees all over the place, take a few minutes to learn the basics about energy-efficient landscaping.
What’s the climate like in your area?
The first thing you need to figure out is what type of climate zone your home is in. Knowing your zone helps you plan your landscaping and think about the kinds of things you need to do to combat Mother Nature. Check out the map on Energy.gov to figure which of these four zones you live in:
Okay, now that you know which climate zone you’re in, what kind of seasonal weather do you have to deal with? Do you live in a relatively humid area? Do you have hot, dry summers and cold winters? Is the winter where you live blustery and snowy?
Go through and write down some of the weather qualities you experience each season. This information helps you plan where to place trees, shrubs and plants in the best places. Every region has different strategies on how to get the most out of your landscaping.
How does energy-efficient landscaping work?
For example, homeowners living in cool or temperate regions will want to utilize spruce trees and shrubs as windbreaks. They’ll reduce wind chill temperatures dramatically saving you money on heating costs in the winter. However, homeowners in hot-humid climates will want to get as much airflow as possible. Planting a long windbreak wall of trees blocks airflow.
In the summer time, leafy trees cast shade on your home keeping it cooler in the summertime heat. A study at Auburn University says, “two trees shading the west-facing exposure of a house and one tree shading the east-facing exposure reduced annual energy use for cooling by 10 to 50% and peak electrical use up to 23%.”
Sal Hasen, senior community forester at The Greening Detroit, adds, “USFS studies have shown that planting trees on the south and west sides of the structure within 40-60 feet of the house provide the greatest energy savings through shade. Energy savings through shading is about $25 per year based on height and location of tree.” Okay, $25 a year doesn’t seem like a lot, but still that’s money that stays in your pocket that you can use for other things.
Okay, but does energy-efficient landscape really make a difference?
In a totally unplanned way, our home benefits from energy-efficient landscaping. The south and west portions of our backyard basically live under a tree canopy in the summer. It’s amazing because even on ridiculously hot days, the shade cast by the trees helps keep our house relatively cool and comfortable. In the fall our tree loses it leaves allowing the low winter sun to shine into the back of the house warming it in cooler seasons.
But I don’t have space for a ton of spruce trees?
Maybe you don’t have room for a giant tree or don’t want to spend the money on one. No worries! Vines or arbors are great options as well. They’re the perfect alternative for homes on smaller lots. Vines have lush foliage in the summer blocks out the sun like a shade. Then in the winter, since most of their leave are gone, the sun can shine in warming up your home.
I know you’re super excited to get started with your new energy-efficient landscaping plan, but there’s just one last important point to make. To get your money’s worth, Hasen also notes, “It is also best to plant trees that are native to the geographic area. This will increase their rate of survival.” If you’re unsure of what plants will work best for your area, consult your local garden center for some help.
Landscaping offers more than just curb appeal to your home. When it’s used strategically, it can also help you save money on your home energy bills.
Have you heard of energy-efficient landscaping before? What do you think about it? Share your thoughts with other Zing readers!