If you are thinking about making changes to your landscape this fall, consider a landscape design that helps to conserve your home’s energy. In homes, heat losses or gains can happen through (1) direct sunlight through windows, (2) the infiltration of wind-driven air, and (3) the conduction of heat through the home’s exterior surfaces -- walls, floors, and roof.
Fortunately, landscaping can be used to minimize the effects that the sun and wind have on your home’s energy consumption. Think of landscaping as an added layer of insulation that can help protect your home year round.
Landscaping for Shade
Using landscaping to shade your home from the sun can result in up to 50% energy savings.
Heat from sunlight and the outside temperature conducts through the walls and the rooftop - the degree to which depends on factors like your home’s insulation and building materials. Deciduous (leafy) trees can help shade and prevent heat gain to your home especially if planted on the south and west side of your house. Then when their leaves fall in the winter, your home can benefit from the warmth of the sunlight.
Trees and shrubs can also help shade HVAC units and increase efficiency but make sure that they don’t block airflow around the unit by keeping a 2-3 foot clearance on all sides. Additionally, strategically placed vines on structures like trellises can also be helpful in minimizing heat gain through walls and windows that receive direct sunlight in the summer.
Landscaping for Wind Protection
Using landscaping to protect your home from winds can result in up to 25% energy savings. Cold winds whip around your home and infiltrate unders doors and cracks and contribute to heat loss. Evergreen trees and shrubs planted on the north and northwest side of your house can help block these cold winds and create a protective thermal barrier around your home. Additionally, shrubs planted a foot away from your walls can also help protect your home from winds.
- Select native plants that will thrive and help wildlife flourish.
- Consider other structures like pergolas or lattice fencing that provide support for shading plants and that also that act as a protective barrier.
- During different seasons, study how the sun and wind strike different sides of your house so you can select the most appropriate plantings.
- If you have room in your yard, consider planting multiple layers of trees and shrubs to help create the most effective wind barrier.
- To direct cold winter winds up and away from the home, taller evergreen trees should be planted closest to the house with shorter evergreen trees and shrubs on the outer perimeter.
- Keep mold and mildew from growing on walls by keeping plantings at least 1 foot away from the wall so air can circulate and dry walls after a rain.
- To reduce heat gains from windows, also consider window treatments such as shutters, and awnings.
Water Conservation Tips
- Use mulch around plants to help conserve water.
- Avoid cutting your grass too short to help retain water.
- Water plants in the morning.
- Use materials like gravel or stepping stones for walkways so that water can be absorbed into the ground rather than run off into storm drains.
If you are interested in using your landscape to help save energy, consider working with a professional landscape architect who can design a plan that’s effective.