Cut Your Utility Bills By Up to 30 Percent With Landscaping
Landscaping can change the microclimate around a building by 20–25 degrees F. According to the US Department of Energy, energy-efficient landscaping can save up to 30% on home heating bills. Savings for cooling can be even more. Most people can save at least a few hundred dollars a year by properly reworking their yard. This can also increase the value of your home since buyers will pay more for a house with low utility bills. There are a number of things to consider including sunlight, water, soil and color of your house.
Sunlight—Plants interact with solar radiation by creating shade and absorbing heat. In temperate climates, deciduous plants in full leaf are generally the best interceptors of direct solar radiation. And, in the winter, when their leaves have been shed, they allow in much desired sunshine. Landscaping should block or filter summer sun and permit winter sun to reach most living areas. Dense trees can block up to 95% of sunlight and 75% of its heat. Consider the size and shape of the shadow a plant will cast. At midday, a vine-covered wall is cooler than a bare wall. If you don’t have mature trees, consider planting vines on a trellis.
Water—Water also tempers heat. Even a small pond can help. Plants can also alter microclimates by intercepting precipitation. Only 60% of rain falling on a pine forest reaches the ground. Because trees intercept and slow down water movement, they also help to control runoff and erosion. Plant water-thrifty plants, often natives, suited to the climate. Group together plants with similar water needs. During droughts, raise the cutting level of your lawnmower to between 2 and 3 inches. This causes less stress and encourages deep root growth.
Soil—Berms, small manmade mounds of earth, can block sun, obstruct winds, insulate and control noise. Mounding soil against a wall can provide insulation, however, the soil must be well-drained. Sandy soil drains too quickly and doesn’t provide much in the way of nutrients. Water tends to run off of clay soil. The best soil is a mix of clay, sand and silt (loam).
Color—Paved blacktop can raise temperatures 20 degrees F over adjacent grassed areas. House color also influences temperatures. White roofs keep houses cooler in summer.