Energy Efficient Landscape. What works best?

Strategies for an Energy Efficient Landscape

Kim Toscano

Strategic landscaping can help reduce heating, cooling, and lighting costs while beautifying your home.

We don’t often think of trees and shrubs as part of our home’s energy conservation plan, but an energy efficient landscape can reduce heating and cooling costs (and save you money!) by creating shade, directing wind flow, and insulating the home. Using energy efficient tools adds to the savings while protecting the environment. The following strategies for an energy efficient landscape will also reduce noise and air pollution around your home.

Regional Considerations for an Energy Efficient Landscape

An energy efficient landscape looks different from one part of the country to another. Planting strategies vary depending on where you live. Adapt your planting strategies to maximize environmental benefits for your local climate.

• Cold Climates:

Plant dense windbreaks to protect against winter wind. Plant open deciduous trees and shrubs on the south and west sides of the house to provide summer shade but allow warming sunlight to reach the house in winter.

• Temperate Regions:

Plant deciduous trees on the south and west sides of the house to maximize summer shade and winter sun. Plant windbreaks to the north and northwest of the house to block winter winds.

• Hot Climates:

Maximize shade on the south and west faces of the house throughout the year. Channel cooling breezes toward the house where appropriate.

Energy Efficient Shading Strategies

Shading can significantly reduce the heat flow into a home, reducing your cooling costs. Studies suggest shade can reduce heat flow by as much as two-thirds. Consider shading south facing walls as well west facing walls which capture a great deal of heat from the hot afternoon sun.

In hot, arid climates, strive to provide as much shade as possible to cool walls, windows, and roofs year-round by selecting trees with evergreen foliage. Homeowners in colder climates benefit from deciduous trees planted on the south side of the house to provide shade in summer and allow radiant heat from the sun to reach the home in winter. Look for tall shade trees with high-branched, spreading canopies like oaks or Kentucky coffee tree.

Trees, shrubs, vines, and even groundcovers are all part of the energy efficient landscape. In spaced-limited landscapes, vines can be used to shade south and west-facing walls. Choose deciduous vines to allow the sun to warm walls in winter. Grow vines on sturdy trellises to avoid damage to siding and brickwork.

Tall shrubs can also be planted to shade walls. For even more energy savings, avoid planting large shrubs directly in front of windows. This will help reduce your need for artificial lighting to supplement the sunlight being blocked by the shrubs. Understory deciduous trees like redbuds and dogwoods can be planted near windows to provide summer shade without blocking all the light.

Energy Efficient Foundation Plantings

Foundation plantings are the plant materials placed along the perimeter of the home. These plantings impact the energy gain and loss from a home in a variety of ways. They act as insulation against wind, reducing air currents close to the home. They also create pockets of air that act to insulate the home. Evergreens provide year-round insulation and energy savings.

Hard surfaces like driveways, walkways, and patios gain a great deal of radiant heat from the sun. Planting shrubs and vines to shade pavement around the home reduces heat radiation and cools the air before it reaches the house. Arbors and trellises alongside patios also work to create a cooler, more enjoyable place to relax.

Energy Efficient Windbreaks

Wind is another consideration in the energy efficient landscape. Homes lose much more heat on cold windy days than on cold still days. Trees and shrubs can intercept winter winds and reduce heat loss. Identify the direction of winter winds in your area and place windbreaks accordingly. Place the windbreak at a distance from the house that is equal to two to five times the mature height of the plant species. Wind speed increases at the ends of the wind break, so extend the windbreak beyond the area of concern.

Plant height and density are the most important factors to consider when selecting plants to reduce wind. Evergreen trees provide the best protection from winter winds, though densely branched deciduous trees can also reduce wind speeds. Where space is a concern, try a narrow, upright cultivar or plant evergreen vines on trellises, arbors, or fences on the north and west sides of the home.

Directing Summer Breezes

In some locations, especially coastal climes, summer winds are part of the home’s air circulation system and provide a cooling effect, especially at night. To direct winds toward the home, plant trees on either side of the house to funnel breezes toward your windows. You may wish to skip this if winds are hot and dry or your home is air conditioned all summer. In such cases, wind breaks can be used to direct hot winds away from your house, just as with winter winds.

Energy Efficient Landscape Tools

No energy efficient landscape is complete without the proper tools for maintenance. WORX line of electric and 20V Power Share battery-powered tools are better for the environment than gas-powered tools while providing the power you need to keep the landscape looking its best. In addition to eliminating reliance on polluting fossil fuels, electric equipment is easier to maintain and costs less over the life of the tool. And electricity costs far less than oil and gas. That’s a win for your wallet as well as for the energy efficient landscape.


Strategies for an Energy Efficient Landscape
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Strategies for an Energy Efficient Landscape
An energy efficient landscape looks different from one part of the country to another. Planting strategies vary depending on where you live.
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