What to Know About Smart Landscaping and Energy Efficiency

A well-designed landscape doesn't just add to your home's aesthetics, but also helps decrease your cooling and heating costs. A well-laced shrub, tree, or vine can act as a windbreak, deliver efficient shade and decrease your energy bills. By carefully positioning trees, it could save you up to 25% of your home's energy usage, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The comfort and temperature of your home is directly impacted by your climate. Various things can make your home warmer or cooler than you'd like, such as:

  • Ground temperature
  • Air temperature
  • Air leaks around windows and doors
  • How much sun streams through the windows

Smart landscaping can help increase your home's comfort considerably. For instance:

  1. An AC unit operates more efficiently if it's in a cooler environment. For example, less air conditioning is needed for cooling a car parked in the shade. Patios, driveways, and other paved areas absorb and radiate heat much quicker than planted areas. To create cooler areas around your home, you could grow vines near or over patios or on a trellis or plant trees around your home near paved areas. Plants should be more than several feet away from your AC unit for good access and airflow.

  2. The heat from the sun primarily penetrates on the west and east sides of a house, following the sun's path in the morning and afternoon. When you shade the west and east side of your house by planting trees, it could save you on your AC unit bills. The highest priority is the west side since the sun is more strong in the afternoon hours. By decreasing your AC unit usage, you're also decreasing air pollution.

  3. Planting shrubs, vines, and bushes near your home's walls traps a "dead air" insulating pocket that helps regulate temperatures throughout the different seasons. You'll want to plant plants far enough away that you'll have around a foot of space between your house and full-grown vegetation. If you plant them too close, it could lead to issues with your foundation and invite pests to come and take over your indoor residence.

  4. Planting a windbreak with thick vegetation of a variety of sizes could decrease wind speeds. Generally, a windbreak will decrease wind to around a distance of 10 times its height and decrease wind speed by as much as 70% to 80% instantly inside the barrier. This will prevent seasonal winds from battering your house and decreasing the efficiency of your cooling and heating system. You'll want to use plants like evergreens to ensure protection during the winter and summer months.

If you're ready to start implementing some smart landscaping and improve your energy efficiency, you can call on professional landscape designers to come in and do the job for you, if you're not up for it yourself. They'll come assess your lawn and decide on which smart landscaping methods will help you save energy the most.

And, if you combine a whole house fan with smart landscaping, you’ll be well on your way to have a cooler home (and reduced energy bills!) this summer.