4 Ways to Use Landscaping to Increase Your Home’s Energy Efficiency

Keeping your home cool when it’s hot outside and warm in cold weather can use up a lot of energy and drive up your electricity bills. Sure, you can seal your home against drafts and install energy efficient windows, but your landscaping can also make your home significantly more energy efficient. Strategically placed trees help, for example, to block the hot sun in summer and to slow down cold winds in winter. And hardscape elements such as fences and arbors can provide shade and redirect winds. How to get the most out of your landscaping to keep the temperature in your home comfortable all year round.

Michael Partenio

1. Plant trees for shade

The Department of Energy recommends tall, shady trees as the best way to protect your home from the heat of the sun and the cold in winter. Evergreen trees are best in the south because they will protect your home all year round. Deciduous trees are better suited in northern regions as they let the warm sun through their bare branches in the colder months.

Where you plant your trees is just as important as the type you plant.

  • Deciduous treesthat lose their leaves in winter do their best job on the south side of your home that gets the most sunlight. While they protect your home from the heat of the summer sun, these trees don’t block the cooling breezes.

  • Shorter trees on the west side of your home will help block out the hot afternoon sun.

  • evergreen trees work well on the north and north-west sides of your home as a windbreak that will help slow down your home’s heat loss in winter.

If you are using trees and other plants as shelter from the wind, it is best to plant them in layers. Taller trees work best further out, with flowering shrubs and low-growing perennials closer to your home. They still benefit from cool summer breezes but block the strong winds and snow during winter storms.

Most electrical companies also recommend planting trees to shade the air conditioning condenser to increase the efficiency of the unit and reduce your cooling costs by an additional 10%. But remember: the condenser needs 2-3 feet of buffer for proper airflow.

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2. Choose drought tolerant plants

Ground cover and other ornamental plants not only beautify your garden. The Colorado State University expansion office suggests that landscaping near a home can reduce wind speed, especially around entrances where cold drafts are most likely to enter. And a green roof or garden can lower the temperature in your home by as much as 10 degrees.

Succulents and other drought tolerant plants work best in arid climates because they don’t need a lot of water to survive. Native species that are adapted to your climate are also good choices and often require less maintenance. Just be sure to group plants with similar water needs together.

Werner Straube Photography

3. Create shadows with hardscaping

Pergolas, fences, canopies, arbors and trellises work wonders to keep the heat off your terrace in summer and the snow in winter. A good fence can block a north window, and well-placed awnings can keep the summer sun from pouring into your home.

Related: Beautiful trellis fence ideas to transform your garden into a private escape

These arbors, trellises and pergolas will shield the sun and wind even better if you cover them with climbing vines. Before planting, do some research on the vine you plan to grow to make sure it is not considered invasive in your area. And if you plan to grow the vine in your home, be careful that the climbing method does not damage the surface of your walls.

A waterfall or fountain in the garden creates a cool spot. Climate Adapt scientists estimate that it can lower the ambient temperature by more than 30 ° F.

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4. Think about solar

Harnessing the sun’s rays is one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to make your home more energy efficient by landscaping. Instead of running your outdoor lighting with electricity from your house, for example, you can brighten up your landscape at night with solar energy. It’s easy to line the walkway to your door with solar pole lights, or try hanging solar balls or strings of lights around your patio, deck, or pool for an unbeatable ambience. Solar Christmas lights can get the neighborhood in the Christmas spirit while costing just a few cents to run.

The strategic use of plants, hardscaping and solar energy to make your home more energy efficient also makes your garden more comfortable and inviting. That means you can save a little more energy by reducing the time you spend indoors. Turn off the lights and the TV and instead enjoy the evening on your patio or porch.

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