Designing an outdoor space and house with natural gas appliances are just the beginning of creating an energy-efficient home. Landscaping can also reduce energy costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), a well-designed landscape can save enough energy to pay for itself in less than eight years, further enhancing the energy savings achieved by the use of natural gas in a home.
Using trees to shade roofs and windows during the summer is the most common way of landscaping for energy conservation, said Ryan Meres, program director for the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET).
Just as parks and wooded areas are cooler than city streets, carefully placed trees impact home temperatures. Studies conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory found summer daytime air temperatures were 3 to 6 degrees cooler in tree-shaded neighborhoods than in treeless areas.
The DOE estimates that well-placed trees can save up to 25 percent of the energy a typical household uses for heating and cooling. The department’s computer models indicate that proper placement of only three trees can save an average household between $100 and $250 annually.
For areas with a lot of sun exposure, deciduous trees planted around the sides of the home can create shade for summertime cooling. And, in the winter, when those trees shed their leaves, they allow sunlight to reach the home for additional warming. Planting trees on either side of the house can help direct cooling winds toward the home during the summer.
Trees and other landscaping features, including shrubs or fences, can be used for windbreaks to shield a home from winter winds. Other energy-saving tips from the DOE include:
Use vines and climbing plants like Boston Ivy or Clematis to help create shade.
Improve the efficiency of your air conditioner by planting shrubs about 3 feet away to maintain good airflow while providing shade for the unit.
Location, Location, Location
“The impact of landscaping on energy use is highly dependent on the orientation of the house, the area of windows, walls or roof being shaded, and the climate where the home is located,” Meres said.
The DOE divides the United States into four climate regions with landscaping strategies for each. Most Southeast Gas homes fall into the Hot-Arid region as designated by the DOE. Recommendations for this region: Provide shade for roofs, walls and windows. Allow summer winds to access naturally-cooled homes while blocking winds from air-conditioned homes.
Your home’s microclimate – the climate immediately surrounding your home – is also important. For example, a home in a sunny, southern area will have a warm microclimate.
A well-designed landscape plan, with careful attention to climate, helps to maximize energy savings.
Smart Landscaping was written by Tonya McMurray for Natural Living, a publication distributed by Southeast Gas and published by Energy Solutions Center.