You’ve upgraded your appliances, insulation, and lighting to help lower your monthly electric bill. What else can you do? The U.S. Department of Energy claims landscaping with energy efficiency in mind, on average, could save enough energy to recoup your investment in less than eight years.
Climate determines the direction your landscaping planning should take. The Southeast offers a hot and humid climate, so summer breezes are welcome. Residents in these areas should make the most of summer shade but use trees that will eventually lose leaves (deciduous) to let winter sunshine through.
You might be protected from the hot summer sun in your home, but your electric bill isn’t. Solar heat absorbed through windows and your roof causes your air conditioner to work harder. Shading a house with trees could drop the surrounding air temperature by as much as 9 degrees Fahrenheit. It gets better closer to the ground—since cold air sinks, the air under trees may be up to 25 degrees cooler than the air over the driveway. Different trees serve unique purposes. To block summer solar heat but let the winter sun through, use deciduous trees. Evergreens trees and shrubs are ideal for providing continuous shade and preventing heavy winds. Shading takes time. For example, a 6-foot to an 8-foot deciduous tree planted near a home will begin shading windows in a year. Depending on the species and the house, the tree will shade the roof in 5 to 10 years.
Shrubs and trees create windbreaks—essentially walls to keep the wind chill away from a home. Why is that important? Wind speed lowers outside air temperatures. A windbreak reduces wind speed nearby, saving your home from higher heating costs. It is best to block wind with a combination of trees and shrubs with low crowns-foliage which grows close to the ground. Evergreens are ideal, and when combined with a wall or fence, these windbreaks can lift wind over a home.
Ready, Set, GROW!
Remember, your landscaping plan depends on your climate and how your home is situated. Find out more about your climate, microclimates, shading dos and don’ts, and windbreaks at www.energysavers.gov. And to learn more ways to save energy around your home, visit the Energy Center on our website.