Designing Your Home’s Landscape for Energy Efficiency

You have the right windows and window coverings; you bought a smart thermostat, and you even invested in all-new, Energy Star appliances in the name of energy efficiency. However, there is one major way you are keeping your home from being as efficient as it could be: landscaping.

The exterior of your home has a significant impact on how the interior of your home performs, energy-wise. If you are eager to maximize your energy savings by minimizing your energy consumption, here are a few ways you can change your landscaping to suit.

Understand Your Area’s Climate

The first step to using your landscape to your advantage is understanding how your plants can affect your energy usage — and for that, you need to have some familiarity with the type of weather in your area. Will your home be subject to extremely high temperatures, like in Phoenix? Or will it endure mild summers and severe winters, like in Juneau? Are there high winds, like Chicago? Or do you need to consider phenomena like earthquakes and mudslides, like in Los Angeles?

Your area’s climate will not just affect the types of plants that will grow, but it also impacts how you will design your yard to reduce your energy usage. Thus, if you are new to the area, you might need to rely on maps like the USDA Hardiness Zone Map to guide your landscaping choices. You might also consider waiting a year to understand how the temperature, the precipitation and other weather effects behave around your home. Then, you will have the appropriate data to begin designing your landscaping appropriately.

Be Smart About Your Lawn

There’s a misconception that grass is a wasteful feature of any yard. Though a healthy lawn can be energy intensive, it can also have a positive effect on the environment. Like any plant, grass photosynthesizes carbon dioxide into oxygen; additionally, it tends to lower surrounding temperatures by creating a haven for moisture. Thus, if you live in an urban or suburban environment where heat can linger, you might strongly consider installing a lawn.

However, it’s important to note that lawns are not set-and-forget landscaping features. To reduce a lawn’s energy consumption and keep it looking green and lush, you might want to invest in lawn care services, which will monitor watering and perform labor like mowing, fertilizing and aerating to keep your lawn healthy. If you try to perform these chores yourself, you might waste resources like water and end up with a less-than-perfect lawn.

Know the Benefits of Trees

While some homeowners do their best to cut down as many trees as possible — despising their dropped debris and fearing their eventual fall — you should consider planting more trees around your property. Here’s why:

  • A tree-shaded yard is 6 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than sunny yard. This compounds to about 25 degrees Fahrenheit cooler when you have a lawn, as well.
  • A single shade tree provides the cooling power of 10 room-sized air conditioners running 20 hours per day.
  • Shade trees can cut wind and reduce winter heating bills by 10 to 30 percent.

However, to get these benefits, you need to plant the right kinds of trees in the right areas of your yard. Slow-growth shade trees are typically the best because they are less likely to drop limbs and endanger your property. However, if you can’t wait 40 years for a slow-growth tree to provide adequate shade, you shouldn’t hesitate to invest in a fast-growth tree, ideally one that maxes out between 30 and 70 feet tall. You should plant a few shade trees within 15 feet of your roof.

Cut Wind and Create Dead Space

If you hope to use landscaping a windbreak, you need to do so strategically. Shade trees typically aren’t ideal in this capacity; they have too much trunk and not enough dense foliage to stop the wind from penetrating your yard. Instead, you should choose shrubbier plants; those that function well as privacy barriers also work as windbreaks.

In addition to planting windbreaks around the perimeter of your property, you might consider adding a dense layer of flora around your home itself. The dead space between your exterior walls and shrubs serves as additional insulation, which will reduce your energy bills.

With a lawn, trees and shrubs, you can drastically decrease your expenditure on energy — and you can increase your property value, to boot. With a bit of research and a commitment to a gorgeous, green yard, you can have it all. More ideas click here.