Interested in reducing your home heating and cooling costs? Of course, having adequate insulation and ventilation, and a well-maintained heating and cooling system immediately come to mind, but did you know that a well-designed landscape strategy can reduce heating and cooling costs by up to 25 percent?
The type of landscaping that will work for you depends on the area of the country you live in. According to the Energy.Gov Web site, the lower 48 states are made up of four climate regions.
The cool region includes New England, the Great Lakes region, the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the eastern parts of the Pacific Northwest.
The temperate region includes the coastal mid-Atlantic and much of the Deep South, as well as coastal areas of the Pacific coast.
The hot-humid area includes the coastal areas of gulf coast states and the entire state of Florida. The hot-arid region extends across the majority of our southern border with Mexico and the majority of California.
In temperate areas of the country, an effective energy-conserving landscape should include plants that shade your home from the summer sun and help deflect wind during the winter months.
In the cool region, planting trees and tall shrubs along the north and northwest side of your home will help block those frigid north winds and help lower your heating costs. Deciduous trees can be planted along the western side of your home to allow the sun to warm your home during winter and shade it during the warmer months.
In hot-arid areas, the main concern is providing shade to block the sun from the windows, walls and the roof. Evergreens will retain their needles and provide year-round protection for these areas.
If you live in the hot-humid region, consider planting in a way that channels breezes toward your house, and avoid locating flower beds that will require frequent watering close to structures to prevent inadvertently increasing the humidity level around your home.
The best landscape strategy for homeowners in the cool region is one that includes dense windbreaks to help deflect winter winds. Be sure not to plant trees or tall shrubs that will block sunlight from south-facing windows.
Keep in mind that these general guidelines are subject to the conditions in areas immediately surrounding your home – the so-called “microclimate.” Even if your home is located in the cool region, it may receive more than average sunlight due to the surrounding terrain. Factors like your home’s elevation, proximity to lakes or other large bodies of water can have a big effect on your particular microclimate and should be taken into account when planning your landscaping.
Having a well thought out landscape strategy can help reduce your utility costs and keep making your home more comfortable year ‘round. By lowering the demand on your HVAC system, it can also prolong the life of your system and help you avoid unnecessary cooling and heating repairs.