Friday, July 14, 2006

Landscaping

If you’re serious about cutting your home energy costs, you might want to take a second look at your home landscaping. You may not be aware of it, but energy-efficient home landscaping can reduce your household’s energy consumption for heating and cooling by as much as 25 percent. Proper placement of trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, and hedges lets you modify the microclimate around your home to maximize shade during the summer and reduce wind chill during the winter. Energy-efficient home landscaping is one of the best investments you can make, because aside from its potential to increase the resale value of your property, it can generate enough savings to return your initial investment in less than eight years. Therefore, it is not surprising that more homeowners than ever are implementing energy-conserving home landscaping ideas on their property.


Developing a Home Landscaping Plan for Energy Efficiency


There are countless home landscaping strategies for energy conservation, but not all of them may be appropriate for your property and climate zone. Before you plant those evergreens in your backyard, make an assessment of the comfort and energy shortcomings of your current home landscaping. Factors such as the property’s microclimate, house orientation, and the presence of surrounding structures will influence your energy-efficient home landscaping plan. Microclimate is the climate immediately surrounding your home, and along with the regional climate, it helps determine which plants and trees will thrive and provide the best energy-saving benefit to your home landscaping. Your home’s orientation affects your dwelling’s exposure to the sun, wind, and water, consequently shaping your home landscaping needs. Nearby buildings, walls, trees, and bodies of water can produce significant climatic effects that would impact your home landscaping strategies. A thorough analysis of your property’s features enables you to devise an energy-efficient home landscaping scheme that addresses your needs and goals.


Home Landscaping to Maximize Shade


Properly planned home landscaping can reduce your air-conditioning costs in the summer by providing shade from the hot morning and afternoon sun. Deciduous trees (trees that shed their leaves in winter) give adequate shade in the summer when its leaves are in full bloom and warm the home in winter by letting low-angle winter sun filter through its bare branches. Home landscaping that maximizes shade can reduce temperature inside the home by as much as 8 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Interestingly, shading your air-conditioner through home landscaping also increases the unit’s efficiency. In addition, shading the ground and pavement with trees, shrubs, and groundcover plants reduces surrounding air temperatures. Other heat-reducing home landscaping ideas include building a trellis for climbing vines to shade a patio and planting a row of shrubs to shade a driveway.


Home Landscaping for Wind Protection


Home landscaping to divert the flow of cold winds helps cut down your home heating costs in the winter. Trees, shrubs, bushes, walls, and fences make effective windbreaks for winter-protected home landscaping. You can achieve adequate wind protection through home landscaping by planting evergreen trees and shrubs along the north and northwest areas of your property. Windbreaks can decrease wind speed for a distance as much as 30 times its height, although maximum wind protection occurs at a distance of two to five times the mature height of windbreaks. For optimal wind protection, make sure that the foliage density on the windward side of your property is 60 percent. A well-designed home landscaping provides energy savings year-round. Enjoy the warmth of the winter sun by not planting evergreens too close to the south side of your home. Shrubs, bushes and vines planted close to your house create dead air spaces that insulate your home in both winter and summer.


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