Landscape Ideas to Save Energy
One should be aware that plants properly placed in our landscapes can save both energy and dollars. As you plan your landscape or add to an existing landscape, consider locating plants where they will save energy and money. Windbreaks have long been used on farms to help divert wind and control conditions. Even in the home landscape, a small planting to divert the wind can be beneficial. Evergreen plants placed to the north or northwest of a home to break the prevailing wind can reduce heat loss and fuel consumption.
Where adequate space is available, several rows of trees may be used. However, in a limited area only a few are still helpful, although less effective. Where adequate space is available, the ends of a windbreak should extend 50 feet to each side of the area to be protected. A windbreak is effective for eight times its height, so even before the plants become as high as your house they will provide beneficial effects. Pines can be used for windbreaks, but because they tend to get thin at the base, a combination with junipers or other denser evergreens makes them more effective.
Even though the evergreens we plant along the front sides of our homes are usually considered for appearance only, they actually create a dead air space between them and the wall which provides added insulation and wind protection. The Japanese yew is one of the best plants for foundation windbreak planting. All large evergreen trees should be restricted to the north or west sides of the home. However, in addition to their winter wind-breaking ability, the summer breeze coming through evergreen trees seems particularly cool and refreshing.
The deciduous trees that lose their leaves each fall are best suited for planting on the east, south and southwest of the home. Large trees are especially useful for Rome temperature control when located on the southwest corner of the home. In this location, a large tree or several trees shade the home during the hot summer afternoon and reduce energy consumed for air conditioning. Even without air conditioning, trees in this location still make the home more comfortable.
A tree shading the sides or roof of the house will be seven times more effective in reducing heat in summer than pulling heavy drapes over the windows while the sun is shining on them. As water evaporates from the leaves of the trees, a natural cooling also occurs. Large trees, such as red oak, sugar maple, ash or cypress might be considered for this purpose. After the leaves fall, the sun’s rays warm the walls during cold weather. Where there is no room for large trees to shade the west or south walls of a home, vines either climbing directly on the wall, or on large trellises can also be used to shade the wall and help reduce energy consumption.
Use vines that do not keep their leaves all winter so winter warming by the sun’s rays will be beneficial. Some possible choices are Boston ivy and Virginia creeper to cling to walls, or wisteria and bittersweet to twine on trellises.
5 Eco-friendly Landscaping Ideas
Solar Powered Lighting for your Garden
These ingenious devices can either be placed in the ground or attached to a fixture. They charge their individual batteries during the day, in sunlight. At night, they illuminate, providing dim but comfortable lighting which is sufficient for garden paths or footpaths leading to or around your home. During the summer, a full day’s charge can keep these lamps powered until sunrise. In the winter, the shorter charging period means the lights will only be on till about 3 in the morning. But that’s okay, because you’ll be fast asleep.
On the up side, these lamps consume absolutely no power from your house’s mains. Meaning lower electricity bills. Furthermore, they are individual units, meaning no wiring is necessary. Also, some of these lamps have a green design, meaning it is made of recyclable material.
Eco Friendly Water Features
It is not true that all water features are a waste of water. Traditional water features are. But eco friendly water features are not. Eco friendly water fountains incorporate a number of notable features. Firstly, they waste less water. Most fountains which spray jets of water tend to lose most of the water to evaporation. Eco friendly fountains, you will find, allow water to flow down a surface – thus reducing the effects of evaporation. Secondly, they are solar powered and energy efficient. Therefore they require no mains electricity to run.
The biggest concern with water features is that they are not eco friendly because of the wastage of water. The solution is simple and straight forward: collect rainwater. Simply put a receptacle, a bucket or similar container, at the end of your roof gutters. It is advisable to put a sieve over the receptacle to prevent large particles from entering the water. If you want something that has a decorative appeal, try using a big jar or vase in place of the pail.
The water can also be used for other household chores such as washing the car, watering the plants or cleaning the driveway. However, be sure to prevent mosquito from breeding in the water as dengue fever, carried by certain breeds of mosquito, can be fatal.
Building Shaded Areas
First, consider shading. In the summer a shaded area can be up to nine degrees cooler that a sunny area. You’ve undoubtedly noticed this if you have ever taken a walk in the middle of a hot summer day. As the sweat pours off of your face, you spot a tree ahead. You might walk a little faster. And when you reach it you may even stop for a minute to bask in the cool shade. Then, refreshed, you continue on your way.
Just as the shade is refreshing for you, a wisely placed tree casting shade over your air conditioning unit helps your air conditioner to work more efficiently. In fact, it may run up to 10% more efficiently. In addition, a tree that looses its leaves in the winter will allow the sunlight in to help warm your home. And that means more money in your pocket.
Hedges and vines can also help to shade your home in the summer. Plant them on the sunny sides of your home to cool the walls from the outside and you’ll need less cooling on the inside. Be sure to use a trellis if you choose to plant vines because climbing vines can damage your walls. For hedges, plan on one foot of space between your wall and the plant when it reaches its full size. This will allow moisture to evaporate instead of collecting around your house’s foundation. An insulating barrier is also created that will help protect from cold in the winter.
Building in Windbreaks
The second consideration is windbreaks. A windbreak will protect your home from chilling winter gusts therefore requiring less energy to heat. Efficient windbreaks extend to the ground and consist of well placed trees and shrubs.
Evergreens are a popular choice to plant along the north and northwest sides of a home. Because of their dense needles the wind is blocked and dense shrubs also protect from drifting snow.
Trees and shrubs planted as windbreaks should be a distance of two to five times the mature height of the plant from the home. The length of your windbreak should ideally be 11 1/2 times greater than the mature width of your plantings.
To ensure winter warmth from the sun, do not plant your windbreak on the south side of your home. You want to soak up as much of that winter sun as you can.
Check out this post to learn more about making your home energy efficient
Putting it all Together
Ok, put your shovel down for a minute. It’s a good idea to have a base plan before you start digging up your yard. Get some graph paper and make a drawing of your property and any existing features like sidewalks or trees that have already been planted. Put compass directions on your drawing and mark where the sun comes from during different times of the year. You can also note the direction of prevailing winds. Now, put a piece of tracing paper over your drawing and mark where you would like to place new trees, shrubs and vines. Also mark any existing plants that you wish to remove or replace. Have a little fun with your drawing. Use colored pencils and different shapes for different varieties of plants.
Now go to your local nursery and show your drawing to one of the knowledgeable people that work there. Don’t worry; he won’t laugh at your drawing skills (or lack thereof). He can now help you chose the trees and shrubs that are best suited to your needs and the area you live it. He can also help you select drought resistant varieties. This will help you save even more money on your water bill!
A well designed landscape can also protect your home from noise and pollution. You can expect a return on your total investment in less than eight years. And that isn’t counting the value you have just added to your home. So are you ready? Go get that shovel and get started landscaping for an energy efficient home!