by Steve Graham for Networx
Most homeowners carefully plan their landscaping for beauty, property value, comfort, and maybe water savings or neighborhood bragging rights. But smart landscaping also helps save on energy bills. On summer days, it feels cooler sitting under a tree or standing in the grass. Also, farmers have used lines of trees as windbreaks for centuries. There are easy ways for homeowners to use the same principles to save energy.
The US Department of Energy estimates trees in the right spots around a home can save energy consumption by up to 25 percent, easily providing a return on most landscaping projects within eight years.
Here are some basic ways to save energy with landscaping. You can cut summer cooling costs, winter heating bills or possibly affect both at the same time. For all of the following landscaping work, work around existing plants. For the most part, larger trees and shrubs are more effective at saving energy. Let them grow. Likewise, think about long-term energy savings and plant slow-growing species that will live longer and withstand harsher conditions.
Saving on Cooling Bills
The biggest factor in summer energy savings is blocking the sun’s heat blasting through windows and raising inside temperatures, boosting air conditioning demand. You can save energy by strategically landscaping your yard.
Hire a landscape designer to help plant trees at the ideal angle to block direct summer sunlight but still allow natural light into the home. Consider large, wide deciduous trees near windows on the south side of the house, and near an air conditioning unit. The trees will block plenty of summer sun, but lose their leaves in the winter and allow passive solar heat. Recommended trees for saving energy include maples, birch, and many oaks.