Energy-Efficient Landscape Design | Use Trees for Energy Savings
March 23, 2018
In celebration of Earth Day and energy savings, we bring you energy-efficient landscaping design tips. Around this time of year everyone begins reconnecting with nature — noticing that the flowers are blooming and the trees are getting plumper and greener.
Trees can play an important and strategic role when it comes to energy savings. When designed thoughtfully, your landscaping could serve many purposes, from comfort and temperature control to form and beauty.
How can you improve your home’s heating and cooling without making changes to your HVAC system? Is it possible to save hundreds of dollars every year on your HVAC bills with some simple landscaping changes?
Yes, you can. And we’ll show you how. By using landscaping strategies to supplement your home’s heating and cooling, you can add beauty and significant energy savings to your home.
Benefits of Good Landscaping:
- Reduces maintenance costs
- Reduces water use
- Cuts heating and cooling bills
- Protects home from hot and cold winds
- Shades your home from hot solar rays
- Lowers noise and air pollution
Landscaping design allows for a more energy-efficient home all year long. Planting trees for shade, and taking into consideration the type of tree — if it will lose its leaves in the winter, for example — are all part of creating a design that will work best for your property.
1. Plant Trees
If you don’t have any trees around your home, you probably aren’t benefiting from any of the advantages that shade and transpiration (water vapor cooling) provides for your energy bill. Shade from trees can lower the overall temperature of your home by up to 10 degrees. That’s the difference between needing air conditioning or not.
Homes that have deciduous trees (lose their leaves in the winter) can benefit from the shade that the leaves and branches provide in the spring and summer, allowing solar energy to break through in the fall and winter when the temperatures get cooler and the branches get slimmer.
According to the Department of Energy, strategic trees around your home can save you about $100-$250 a year in energy costs. This energy-efficient landscape design not only looks beautiful, it saves you money every year on your energy costs.
When the trees lose their leaves in the fall, the trees help you with your heating costs by providing some blockage from the wind, while allowing the warming rays of the sun to heat up your home.
We recommend planting deciduous trees as opposed to evergreens, which stay green all year, providing shade from the sun in the inter as well as the summer.
While it can be risky to have your outdoor air conditioning unit/heat pump directly underneath a tree, where there is a risk of a tree limb falling down and causing damage, shade around your outdoor heat pump has been proven to lower energy costs as well.
According to the US Department of Energy, well-designed landscaping can reduce an unshaded home’s air conditioning by 150-50%!
There are some specific tips and tricks for shading your outdoor unit, so give us a call to discuss the right way to do it.
2. Tree Species
The South is humid during the sunny months and the trees you choose must be able to withstand and thrive in this climate. Alabama has several climate zones. By speaking with an HVAC professional and local climate specialist, you will be better equipped to pick and plant the proper shade trees for your microclimate and property.
Some Alabama-friendly tree species to consider:
- Longleaf Pine
- Tulip Poplar
- Bald Cypress
- Pink Dogwood
- Freeman Maple
Fast growing trees include a Hybrid Poplar, Red Maple or American Sycamore. Again, you will need to research the exact climate where your property is located in Alabama to make the final decisions on the type of tree species you want as your new shade trees.
2. Block the Wind
Have you ever heard the term, “wind-chill effect” or “real-feel temperature”? Well, it has an effect on your home’s temperature as well. If you have a lot of wind in cold temperatures, a windbreak around the home can reduce this speed.
Trees definitely help to block the wind and improve the energy efficiency of you heating during the cooler months, but there are other ways to create a windbreak as well.
Planting trees and creating wind barriers around your home is also a great way to increase privacy around the home. If you are worried about neighbors, passersby, and peeping Toms taking a look inside your home, try constructing a wind barrier and trees and you’ll kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.
In the summer, hot winds make their way through all of the air leaks in your home. In the winter, cold winds do the same thing. Even if you have weatherized your home and increased insulation, you’ll never be able to fix all of the energy inefficiencies around your home, like thin windows, walls, and air leaks.
Therefore, a great way to supplement all of your insulation efforts is to reduce the amount of wind energy that is hitting your home all year.
Evergreens are a good way to provide a wind barrier all year since they do not lose their leaves, but remember that the extra shade from the sun in the winter could present a problem.
- Plant trees on the west and northwest for afternoon shade when it’s the hottest. This could reduce your air conditioning costs by 35%.
- Shade east and west windows, prune branches as necessary.
- Plant trees over patios and driveways. When shade trees are planted they cool the concrete of the sidewalk or driveway and the entire surrounding area benefits.
- Plants shade trees over the air conditioner. When an outdoor condenser unit is shaded it will run more efficiently, thus using less energy and costing you less.
- Keep trees, shrubs and plants away from the structure of the house.
- Avoid any “bridges” from wood (tree) to structure (house), such as tree branches.
Source: Arbor Day Foundation
- Good landscape design can save 25-35% of your home’s heating and cooling energy consumption.
- Well placed shade trees can reduce the temperature of your yard by 6 degrees. This cools the entire surrounded area, your home included.
- When your roof is cooled by tree shade, your air conditioner becomes more energy efficient.
- It has been said that one shade tree can equal the power of a dozen air conditioners!
- Windbreaks from trees will save you at least 10% on your utility bill.
- Even the addition of just a few trees can cut your bill in half!
Celebrate Earth Day by starting your own landscape design project this spring .
For more information on the benefits of strategic landscape design, speak with a professional at OnTime Service. We can assist with the preparation for your own energy-efficient landscaping project. With expert assistance and a solid, logical design plan, you can begin utilizing one of nature’s greatest gifts as a means to cut down on energy waste and reduce costs and dependence on heating and air conditioning.