Energy efficient homes don’t end with the structural and interior elements. One of the most important factors to operating a more energy efficient home is the landscaping around it. Not to mention that landscaping is more of a long term plan that one day will affect the re-sale value of the home.
It’s a topic we’re familiar with this time of year, as we make our trips (and more trips) to the local home improvement stores looking for that ideal combination of plants, shrubs, trees, and grasses.
With the summer months approaching, we’ll soon be looking at cooling costs that air conditioners and fans bring to our utility bill. Did you know that all plants naturally lower the temperature through a process called evaporative cooling? Plants release water through the holes or pores in their leaves. The water on the leaves’ surfaces absorbs the warm air flowing over it. The warmed air evaporates, making the surrounding air cooler.
Whether you just bought your first home or are a long-time home owner, improving the general landscape goes a long way in your return on investment. Not just in dollar figures for you, but the next owner as well. Equally important is the enjoyment you get from improving the look and efficiency of the exterior elements. Maintaining the landscape will add to your home’s value in the long run. If you lost a tree in a storm, replace it if it provided shade and beauty.
Here are some ideas and tips you can apply to your home landscape to reduce costs and add to your investment:
- To provide shade and natural cooling, plant shade trees on the south side of your house. Planting trees on the east and west side of the house block morning and afternoon sun
- Plant wind breaks perpendicular to prevailing winds
- If you have an ideal spot for a trellis, arbor or pergola (like a deck, porch or doorway), plant large, deciduous vines on the south and west sides of your home. The slats can be designed to block out the summer sun but let in the winter sun
- If you have a central air conditioning unit, shade it with plants and shrubs, but allow for air flow. Don’t plant closer than two feet around and leave at least five feet above the unit. For a window unit, place the air conditioner in a window on the north facing side of the house to naturally block most of the direct sunlight from hitting it.
- Ground covers and shrubs are good uses near driveways and paved walkways because they help reduce heat from paved surfaces.
- If you’re building a deck or patio, position it on the north side of the home if you can. If not, you will want to plan for natural shade to cast on a deck positioned on the other directional sides.
One note, if you have solar panels or are thinking about solar energy, positioning trees to expose your panels to the sun is a major consideration. Solar energy installers will be able to help you design maximum use of the panels around existing trees or planting of new ones.