5 Ways Well-Placed Landscaping Can Reduce Electric Bills
A well-designed landscape isn’t just about enhancing your home’s curb appeal. While a landscaping upgrade can be a significant financial investment upfront, energy-efficient design choices can help the landscape pay for itself in a matter of years. In fact, a landscape that is both aesthetically appealing and environmentally friendly can cut your cooling bills in half, and your heating bills by up to 30 percent.
Here in Pennsylvania, we get to fully experience all four seasons throughout the year. As a result, the best landscaping decisions for this region are the ones made with both hot and cold weather in mind. Read on for some of our favorite energy-efficient landscaping strategies to reduce electric bills year-round.
Landscaping Tip #1: Block winter winds and drafts with windbreaks.
Plant evergreen trees and shrubs on the north and northwest-facing sides of your home to deflect winter winds. This wind protection, or windbreak, will help to significantly reduce your heating costs during the colder months. Plus, you’ll get some added insulation to reduce home heat loss.
For best results, plant your windbreak at a distance 2-5 times the height of the trees.
Landscaping Tip #2: Maximize the sun’s warming effects with south-facing windows.
As mentioned above, evergreens and shrubs should be planted on the north side of your home to block cold winds. The south and west-facing sides of your home, on the other hand, should be relatively clear in order to take advantage of the warming effects of the sun to reduce winter heating costs.
Landscaping Tip #3: Use strategically placed shade to protect from the summer heat.
While winter is the time for maximizing the sun’s heat, summer is the time to keep things cool. Plant deciduous trees on the south and west sides of your home to reduce cooling costs by shading the hot summer sun.
It’s important that you plant deciduous (leaf-shedding) trees instead of evergreens on the south and west sides of your home. The leafy branches will block the sun in the summer; in the winter, the bare branches will let the sun through.
Landscaping Tip #4: Funnel summer breezes toward your home.
Make the most of air circulation with strategic tree placement. For example, create a wind tunnel by planting a row of trees on one side of the house, with a wall or fence on the other side. You can also use a cluster of trees to distribute cool breezes throughout the property.
Water features can also provide cooling effects. For example, a large upwind pond can have noticeable cooling effects on your entire landscape; a smaller fountain can cool a smaller area.
Landscaping Tip #5: Use your ground as built-in climate control.
By creating open lawn areas on the south side of your home, you can warm your home with a blanket of snow. After the snow accumulates in one area, the light will reflect off of the snow and into your home for added warmth (and beauty!).
In the summer, a stone or concrete surface can absorb from the sun during the day, and reflect it in the evening when the temperatures go down.
Consider your groundcovers, too. Do you want to absorb the heat with dark stone and wood chips, or reflect the heat with light stone or concrete? You may also want to shade the ground and pavement with plants in order to reduce heat and cool the air.
Customize Your Landscape
The best landscapes are tailored to each property’s unique needs and features. With that in mind, you’ll want to consider your home’s microclimate in addition to your regional climate—for example, do you get more shade or sun than the average home? Do you live near a body of water with cooling effects? Are winter winds a problem on the south side of your property, rather than the north?