20 Mar 2017 Energy Smart landscaping
Landscaping not only adds beauty to a home and community, but it’s also a cost-effective way to improve the home’s comfort and lower energy bills. In fact, a well-designed landscape saves enough energy to pay for itself in less than eight years while also reducing water use, cutting heating and cooling costs, protecting a home from cold winter wind or hot summer sun and lowering noise and air pollution at the same time.
Widespread tree planting and climate-appropriate landscaping offer substantial environmental benefits and are a great long-term investment for reducing energy costs. The National Academy of Sciences estimates filling urban spaces with trees would result in an annual energy savings of 50 billion kilowatt-hours or $3.5 billion each year.
Landscaping for shade
Shading is the most cost-effective way to reduce solar heat gain in a home and cut air conditioning costs. Carefully positioned trees can save up to 25 percent of a household’s energy consumption for heating and cooling, and the U.S. Department of Energy predicts that only three trees will save an average household between $100 and $250 a year in energy costs.
A 6- to 8-foot deciduous tree planted near a home will begin shading windows the first year and shade the roof in five to 10 years. Shading an air conditioner can increase its efficiency by as much as 10 percent. Because air settles near the ground, air temperatures directly under trees can be as much as 25 degrees cooler than air temperatures above nearby blacktop – meaning summer daytime air temps are usually six degrees cooler in tree-shaded neighborhoods than in treeless areas.
When landscaping for shade, plant deciduous trees to the south of your house so they can screen 70 to 90 percent of the hot summer sun while allowing breezes through. Plant trees with crowns lower to the ground on the west for shade from lower, afternoon sun angles, and plant bushes, shrubs or climbing vines with a trellis to shade a patio area. To cool air before it reaches the home, plant shrubs and groundcover plants.
If you’re planning on adding trees to your property, it’s important to know where you plant them in relation to power lines. Tall trees can grow into overhead power lines, while roots can damage underground power lines. Trees planted directly underneath overhead power lines should have a mature height of 25 feet or less. Trees between 25 to 35 feet should be planted more than 25 feet away, and trees more than 35 feet tall should be planted more than 50 feet away from power lines. Before you do any digging, always call 811 so buried lines can be marked and you can dig safely around them.
Landscaping for windbreaks
A windbreak reduces heating costs by lowering the wind chill near a home, creating dead air space that insulates a home in the winter. Trees can be used as windbreaks to shield a house from the wind, and recent studies have found that windbreaks to the north, west and east of houses cut energy consumption by an average of 40 percent. If you live in a windy area, a well-planned landscape can reduce heating bills by approximately one-third.
When landscaping for windbreaks, the distance between a home and windbreak should be two to five times the height of the mature tree for maximum protection. Plant evergreen trees and shrubs to the north and northwest of a home to stop wind, and plant trees on either side of the house to direct cooling wind toward it in the summer.
Landscaping for water conservation
It’s easy to plan your landscape to not only save energy but also to conserve water. Familiarize yourself with your yard’s features and the temperate climate region of Arkansas. Plants suited to the region require less care and less water. Landscape professionals can always help you choose which trees, shrubs or ground cover will work best for your needs.
When landscaping for water conservation, always group plants with similar water needs together and aerate your soil – it improves water flow to plants’ roots and reduces wasted water runoff. Remember to water in the morning when it is cooler and water evaporation rates are low, and use mulch to keep plant roots cool, further minimizing evaporation and recurring weed growth. In the summer, raise your lawn mower cutting height – the longer grass blades help with shade and retain more water.
It’s not possible to control temperatures, but an energy-saving landscape can significantly modify the micro-climate surrounding your home, keeping it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. If the landscape is well-planned, installed and maintained, you will save on energy costs while increasing the value of your home.
Homeowners interested in more energy-saving tips should visit Conway Corporation’s Energy Smart website at conwaycorp.com/EnergySmart or call 501.450.6000.