Energy-Efficient Landscaping: How Can You Do it Right?

We have touched the subject of landscaping many times before, emphasizing on its importance and value for your property and lifestyle. Nevertheless, energy-efficient landscaping is an interesting topic for people who are environmentally aware and support green energy and green living. As you can imagine, the term describes landscaping techniques that help you save energy, use other alternative sources of energy, save money, reduce your carbon footprint, and help the environment in the process.

Let us look today at some details regarding energy efficient landscaping and some methods to implement the idea on your own property in an easy, correct manner.

Energy Efficient Landscaping: What is it?

Energy efficient landscaping is a recognized type of landscaping that you design in order to conserve energy. These types of landscaping often include planting trees for shade, which reduces cooling costs and planting or building windbreaks to slow winds near buildings, which reduces heat loss.

We said energy efficient landscaping is recognized and you may wonder what we mean by that. We mean that there are actual statistics, science-driven data, and measurements emphasizing the positive results of this type of landscaping. Here are some data collected from the U.S. Department of Energy and other similar sources, proving that energy efficient landscaping saves you money on your home energy bills:

  • A well-designed energy-efficient landscape saves enough energy to pay for itself in less than 8 years.
  • A well-positioned tree can save up to 25% of your home’s energy for heating and cooling.
  • A single shade tree equals the cooling power of 15 air conditioners.
  • Three house shading trees can cut your cooling bill by as much as 50%.
  • In tree-shaded neighborhoods, the summer daytime air temperature can be as much as 6 degrees cooler than in treeless areas. A shaded lawn can be up to 25 degrees cooler than sunny paved yards and patios.
  • A well-planned energy efficient landscape can reduce your unshaded home air conditioning costs by 15% to 50%. A green roof, on the other hand, can increase your air conditioner’s energy efficiency by more than 10%.
  • A windbreak of trees can cut fuel consumption by an average of 40%, reducing heating costs by 10% to 30% by lowering the wind chill near your home.

You cannot overlook such data when you take a look at your property and think about your landscape design projects. Also, you cannot overlook the climate in the region you live in, so let us see first some broader guidelines on energy-efficient landscaping depending on the climate you have to deal with all year long.

1. Temperate Climate

  • Shade your home against summer sun and use windbreaks to deflect winter winds.
  • You get some sun in the winter as well, so make sure you get the advantage of that.

2. Hot and Humid Climate

  • Plant trees to provide cooling shade in summer but warming sun in winter (rich dense summer canopy, empty winter branches).
  • Avoid setting planting beds close to the house if they require frequent watering.

3. Hot and Arid

  • Plant trees, add vines and use garden rooftops to provide shade to cool roofs, walls, and windows.
  • The landscape around the house to allow the plants, shrubs, and trees to cool down your home through the evapotranspiration process.

4. Cold

  • Use windbreaks to protect buildings from cold winter wind, but do not plant tall trees that may prevent sunlight to reach your walls and windows.
  • Shade some sides of the house if summer heat becomes a problem.

Energy Efficient Landscaping: Planning and Execution

Now that we saw the major guidelines of energy efficient landscaping depending on the most significant climate trait of the region you live in, let’s engage in some fun and useful landscaping. As usual, the good planning is the key to a well-designed efficient landscape that will make the elements work for you.

  • Start with a scale sketch of your property, including the existing vegetation, outdoor buildings, driveway and walkways, fences, playgrounds, and overhead utility lines, slopes, and all the other elements.
  • Determine which walls and windows of your house need protection from heat in summer and cold/wind in winter. Keep in mind that some vegetation, trees, or shrubs do not fare well in windy/shady locations, while others have a hard time in the presence of direct heat or moisture.
  • Consider planting more trees – they will clean out the air and provide shade – but make sure you get deciduous trees with high spreading leafy branches to allow shade in the summer and sun in the winter.
  • Besides allowing vines, climbing plants, and trees to offer shade over your roof, also consider a garden rooftop if possible.
  • Plant shrubs and bushes around the perimeter of your home, around one foot from walls to act as insulators in summer and winter. Shrubs and bushes also trap snow and reduce drifts when sitting along the windiest side of your home, but make sure you plant them at least three feet away from the air conditioning compressor to maintain good airflow.
  • Surround your outdoor spaces with shade-providing trees. Place them alongside the driveway and garden pathways and around larger outdoor areas, such as playgrounds, patios, alongside the sidewalks, and so on.
  • When you plant trees that grow high, make sure they do not mess with overhead utility lines. In case of a storm or strong wind, you do not want to get in trouble. Moreover, when you plant trees around the house, make sure there will be no falling branches on your house roof, as accidents can happen. Tree toileting is extremely important from this point of view.
  • Place a row of evergreen trees to shield your home from harsh winter winds if your region has to deal with such phenomena every year. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, the best protection from wind occurs when the windbreak is no more than the distance of one or two tree heights from the house.
  • Plant ground covering plants and shrubs to shade the hardscape around your home to help reduce the sun’s radiant heat. If you plant shrubs and climbing flowers and vines close to the house will shade walls and windows, keeping the house cool. Make sure, however, that you do not allow vines to take over the house. Besides the fact that it will become cooler than you want for comfort, uncontrolled vines are also endless sources of plants and house pests.
  • If you plan on adding numerous plants, trees, shrubs, and bushes to your existing landscape, do not forget about watering, as what you may save on energy, you might spend on the water. Landscape overwatering is one of the biggest problems when it comes to the responsible consumption of resources, so pay attention to what you plant. It is always better to ask for an expert’s opinion.

Before we finish this presentation, we wanted to ask you: do you engage in energy efficient landscaping on your property? Would you consider paying attention to this idea in the future in order to save energy, money, and the environment?

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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