The Energy Saving Landscape
By: Bill Schuster
Landscaping is so much more than creating a visually pleasing yard. It is essential to the functionality of your property as well as your home. As energy cost rise in our area, homeowners are looking for more ways to conserve energy and reduce heating and cooling costs. Mindful landscape designs can play a large part in energy saving costs. Proper placement of shade trees, windbreaks, vines, foundation plantings, and pergolas, all contribute to the energy saving landscape.
Correctly placing canopy trees is essential to energy savings and a more comfortable outdoor living space. According to research done by Better Home and Garden Magazine, shaded area of your yard can be up to 6 degrees cooler than your sunny yard, and up to 25 degrees cooler than sunny pavement. University of Minnesota also has found that with proper landscaping heating and cooling savings are anywhere from 25 to 50%. A common mistake in shade tree placement is planting shade trees directly south of the desired area. Doing this has an adverse effect on energy savings. In summer as the sun is high in the sky the shadow of the tree will fall almost directly underneath the tree and the shade will miss the house. In winter the sun will be lower in the sky and the branches will provide unwanted shade on the windows. To properly utilize/deflect the power of the sun, large deciduous trees (Trees that lose their leaves in fall) should be placed on southeast and southwest corners of the home. The advantage of this in the summer is that the tree will block sunlight into the windows when the sun is at a low enough angle to reach in under the overhang of the roof. In the winter the leaves will be gone, thus letting light in the windows. Also the sun is lower in the sky resulting in sunlight entering the house under the overhang of the roof. In addition to shading your windows, trees can also be utilized to shade the air conditioner. Doing this will decrease the temperature around the air conditioner there for increasing its efficiency.
Placement of windbreaks on your property can reduce Heat loss from cold winter winds and divert snow drifting from unwanted areas. Effective windbreaks include multiple rows of tree that extend all the way to the ground. Dense growing evergreen trees are wonderful for this application. Effective area downwind of the windbreak is 10 times the height of the windbreak. Windbreaks should be placed on the northwest side of home due to prevailing winter winds. This placement will also allow southwest summer breeze to flow thru and around the home.
Foundation planting can assist the larger plantings in energy saving. The uses of foundation plantings can create dead air space between the plants and home acting as added insulation around the base of the home. These plantings can also reduce the reflective heat during summer months.Vines growing on the home or trellis can also reduce the amount of heat conduction from sunlight and can add a small amount of insulation during winter.
Pergolas and shade structures help by simply reducing sun exposure to paver areas, there for reducing absorbent and reflective heat during summer months.
Using the techniques I discussed will result in a landscape that will improve home heating and cooling efficiency as well as a more comfortable outdoor living space. Not to mention a beautiful yard that will improve curb appeal as well as resale value.