Earth Day has come and gone, but when it comes to your yard, it’s never too late to think about ways to improve your green lifestyle. Many homeowners are aware that smart landscaping can save water, reduce landfill waste through composting and create habitat for beneficial wildlife. However, did you know that a few simple changes to your home landscaping can even lower your summer energy bills?
It’s true. Strategic placement of trees, shrubs and other landscape elements can block heat from reaching your home and significantly reduce your energy use in the summer.
Try these five energy-efficient landscaping tips for a cooler yard and home:
1. Shade Your Roof & Walls
Your roof is the prime location for summer heat to penetrate your home, because it receives the most direct sunlight. Tall shade trees block this light very effectively in the summer. In fact, they can reduce your summer energy bill by as much as 20%. In North America, it’s best to plant shade trees on the sunny south side of your house, and on the west side of the home where they will shade your house from the late afternoon “dragon sun” of summer. You can use either deciduous or evergreen trees for shade. However, if you want to enjoy the most energy savings from your landscaping, consider sticking with broad-leaved, deciduous trees. That is because they will drop their leaves and allow the winter sun to warm your home. If you have no tall trees and don’t want to wait years for shade, a nice alternative is to build a trellis or pergola and plant it with fast-growing vines.
2. Create ‘Cool Islands’ with Trees & Plants
Shade is not the only way that trees and other plants keep your property cool. They also create a cooling effect through the process of evapotranspiration. This is the natural process by which a plant draws water from the ground and releases it into the air, cooling the air as it does. You can plant clumps of trees, shrubs and other plants to create summer “cool islands” around your home. Keep in mind, too, that a lawn is much cooler than hardscape, so think twice before putting in large expanses of pavement — especially dark colored pavers or asphalt, which absorb heat.
3. Shade Your Air-Conditioning Unit
Just like your home or your car, your outdoor air-conditioning unit will heat if it is allowed to sit in full sun. Instead, plant a tree or shrubs close enough to provide shade. Don’t allow bedding plants to crowd your unit. Remember that it will need adequate airflow to function at top efficiency.
4. Direct Cooling Breezes Toward Your Home
Windbreaks aren’t just for stilling winter winds. You can also use them to direct airflow in the summer for cooling effects. For example, a wind tunnel with a row of trees or shrubs on one side of your home and a wall or second row of plants on the other can funnel cooling breezes toward your home. Of course, if you live in an area subject to hot summer winds, a traditional windbreak can keep them at bay and reduce your energy loss in the summer.
5. Cool Down with A Water Feature
Just as plant transpiration can help cool your yard, so can evaporation from a pond or fountain. Adding a water feature to your garden can create a cool spot to relax on a hot day. If you have room for a large pond, it may even keep your entire property a few degrees cooler than your neighbors.
Of course, regardless of which strategies you use to save money with your landscaping, you will want to be sure the plants and other features you choose are suitable for your local climate and soil type. For example, sugar maples are wonderful and popular shade trees. However, they are best suited for northern climates. If you live in southern Georgia or Arizona, you will want to choose something else to shade your home. All Valley Landscaping provides local expertise on the Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona area. Your local extension agent or landscaping professional can help you determine the best landscape plants for your area, and may also suggest additional ways your landscape can help you keep your cool in the summer.