Homeowners have used landscaping to save energy for many years, but only recently have we started to realize the magnitude of possible savings. Proper landscaping may cut winter heating bills by as much as 15 percent, while summer cooling energy needs may be cut by as much as 50 percent, according to a government study.
There are three basic ways through which homes gain or lose heat:
Air infiltration – Without proper insulation, air travels through cracks and around doors or through open windows and doors. The average home loses 20 to 30 percent of heat in winter by air infiltration.
- Heat conduction – Heat can be conducted through materials by which the house is built. Controlling the temperature difference and air movement between inner and outer surfaces of walls, floors and ceilings is the best opportunity for reducing heat conduction. Heat conduction represents up to 50 percent or more of the total heat exchange between a home and the outside environment;
- Solar radiation – Sun rays accounts for up to 90 percent of the heat transmitted into the living area if rays are received perpendicular to a single pane. If the home is landscaped properly, sunlight will be able to get in the house, but will be reflected instead of causing an increased load on your AC.
Community landscaping for energy benefits
If a community works together with the common goal of energy conservation, your community can create and maintain landscapes that provide significant shared benefits.
In suburban neighborhoods, trees and windbreakers can be planted in common areas bordering multiple properties for many homes more efficiently than would be possible in one small yard. In urban areas with more closely spaced homes, the trees and shrubs in your yard might provide the best windbreak for your neighbor’s home in winter, while your neighbor’s yard might provide the best location for a tree to shade the west side of your home in summer.
An Energy-conserving Landscape Plan
Here are some tips for energy efficient landscaping:
Plant windbreaker to the north and northwest of you home to minimize winter winds.
- Plant shorter shrubs on the windward side of your home to trap snow before it can blow and drift against your house.
- Plant deciduous trees to protect your home from intense mid-day sun rays to the south.
- Plant low-branched deciduous trees on the west side of your home to provide shade from the lower angles of afternoon sun.
- Plant small trees or large shrubs to shade an outside air-conditioning condenser to increase its operating efficiency.
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