Want to cut back on your energy usage? Think outside the box – or in this case, outside the house. One strategy for reducing your reliance on fossil fuels and saving money on utility bills is to landscape your yard in a thermally-friendly way. Take advantage of the sun, block the wind and let nature give you a helping hand in your quest for efficient, sustainable living.
The Sun’s Warming Rays
The sun is your friend, except when it isn’t. A truly strategic residential landscaper looks for trees that can shade a house during the summer, decreasing reliance on air conditioning, but allow the sun to hit it in the wintertime to keep heating bills low. Fortunately, this task is made easier because most trees drop their leaves in the winter, so their shade is reduced automatically. Consider also that the winter sun comes in at a lower angle, so trees with wide-spread branches will more effectively provide space for the sunlight to shine through.
On the flip side, if you have solar panels installed on your roof, or are considering it, you want to make sure you don’t plant any trees that might grow tall enough to block the sunlight from reaching the roof. This is especially important on the south side of a house. Instead, use shorter trees that can shade your walls and windows from the full blast of the summer sun while still allowing its bountiful rays a clear passage to your roof.
To complement your clever tree arrangement, make sure you open your south-facing curtains during the day in the wintertime to soak in some extra sunlight, and close them in the evening to trap the heat inside.
The Chilling Bite of the Wind
Another factor to consider is the wind, which can accelerate heat loss from your home. Try blocking it by first identifying the direction from which the winter winds typically blow, then planting a line of shrubs and trees to intercept it. Evergreens like pines and cedars are your best bet, because they keep their needles all year round and offer the best protection during the winter. Not only can this block damaging wind gusts, it can create local pockets of air that actually help insulate the home.
It’s important to plant trees at least ten feet from your house so the roots and branches don’t damage your infrastructure, and further still if they are tall trees, but you can create a layer of shrubs or vines even closer for an extra buffer.
Green Grass a-Growing
If you want to go really wild, and you aren’t using solar panels, consider a green roof. Growing grass or foliage up top adds a layer of dirt and biomaterial that insulates your house, plus soaks up sunlight and helps stabilize indoor temperatures. You can even plant a vegetable garden up there and get fresh peppers and tomatoes while you’re at it.
Call in an expert to help landscape your yard for maximum efficiency so the next time you tell someone you’re going green, you mean it literally.