With our energy efficient landscaping guide, you get tips that will help you to heat and cool your home for less. If you are building a new home, this guide will give you tips that will allow you to use a smaller furnace and air conditioner which will save you money on installation costs. If your home is older, you can still use this guide to lower your monthly utility bills without sacrificing your comfort.
There are four basic ways that your yard and what you plant or put in it can affect your electric bill. They are shading, windbreaks, heat island effect, and site lighting.
How you should handle each of these effects depends on the climate in which you live.
Although it may seem hard to believe, carefully planned and positioned trees can shave up to 25% off of the typical household energy usage. The air temperature beneath a tree can be up to 25 degrees cooler than a nearby paved surface. This is due to shading or blocking much of the rays of the sun from landing on the surroundings. Trees will also slow down or even block winds from your home. These two effects directly impact your utility bill if you have a furnace or air conditioner.
In areas that are predominantly hot all year long, continuous shading is desirable and so evergreen trees can be planted in the yard. By carefully planning and placing them, you can even channel those hot breezes away from the home and therefore lower your cooling bills.
In colder areas, it is desirable to have dense windbreaks with many trees to block those cold winds but still allow the sunlight to reach the south facing windows of the home. This will allow the sun to contribute to heating the home and yet block the wind from robbing as much heat.
In areas with the combination of hot summers and cold winters, it is a little more complex. You want to take advantage of the sun for heating in the winter and yet minimize the heating from the sun in the summer. This calls for the use of deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in the fall). It is best to plant taller trees to the south and shorter trees on the west side of the home.
Another factor to consider in energy efficient landscaping is what is known as heat island effect. This is caused by the use of concrete, rocks, etc. that readily absorb heat but release it slowly. During the daytime, the paving materials absorb the heat from the sun and at night it is released back into the air. This can keep the air temperatures around the outside of the home higher and therefore more heat is transferred into the home. In really cold areas, this is ok but, in warm areas, this heat must be removed by the home's air conditioner.
This effect is pretty obvious in that the more traditional lights you put in your landscaping, the more electricity that will be used to power them. This can be overcome by the use of solar landscape lights which store energy from the sun and then use it to power the lights at night.
If you are planning on building a new home, these tips can save you some serious money by reducing the size of the home's heating and cooling systems. In order to do so, the energy efficient landscaping must be factored into the load calculations. These calculations require computer modeling and it is best if they are done by a professional in most cases.