Every spring, homeowners far and wide break out the shovels and rakes to do some landscaping. But far too many homeowners don’t think about how they can strategically implement their landscaping to not just beautify their homes, butsave money on electricity bills in the process. Here are some things to keep in mind when you are putting in those bushes and trees.
Using Plants to Lower Temperatures
When people think about using their landscaping to keep cooler, obviously the first place they generally go is using plants – usually trees – for shade. But one other way plants can help keep their surroundings cooler is through evapotranspiration, which is the process by which a plant moves and gives off water vapor. This process can lower surrounding air temperatures by up to 9 degrees. And because the resulting cooler air directly around the plant settles near the ground, temperatures directly under trees can be as much as 25 degrees cooler.
If you’re planning to plant trees for improved shading of your home, you need to consider the following:
Regional climate. Homes in areas with hotter summers can obviously use the extra shade during the summer months. But if you are subject to cold winters, the extra tree shade can actually backfire on you, since you’ll end up needing to run your furnace more to stay warm.
Shading needs. If you need continuous shade, go with evergreen trees and shrubs since they’ll provide a good year-round canopy. If you only want to block solar heat during the summer months, go with a deciduous tree that will let the winter sun through when you need it. Also bear in mind the height of the tree’s crowns (leaves and branches) – this will obviously make a substantial difference in the level of shade the tree will provide.
Location of trees. This is arguably the most important decision to make for planting trees for extra shade.
For summertime roof shading, plant trees with high, wide crowns to the south of your home. However, if you need some solar heat during those cold winters, only plant deciduous trees so you’ll get some sunlight when you need it.
If you’re trying to block the lower angles of the sun in the afternoon, plant trees with lower crowns to the west of your home.
While you’re trying to protect your home, try to shade your air conditioning unit while you’re at it. All too often the A/C equipment is abandoned to get nice and toasty in the sun. Properly shade that air conditioning unit and you can increase its efficiency by an additional 10 percent.
Other Energy-Efficient Landscaping Ideas
As mentioned above, the natural behavior of plants helps cool the air and ground in their direct vicinity. As a result, there are several ways to utilize smaller plants to also keep your home cooler in the summer.
Plant shrubs close to your home to shade the windows and walls. They’ll establish themselves and start providing shade faster than trees.
Use shrubs and ground cover to shade the ground and pavement around your home.
Build a trellis and plant climbing vines. They tend to be fairly low-maintenance and they grow fast, meaning that with the right size you could shade an entire wall of your home within a year or so.
Obviously, there are other things you can do to lower your electricity bill, such as finding a cheaper electricity company. But to lower your energy consumption, proper landscaping can make a difference.