A Green Solution

Well-planned landscaping saves energy while creating beauty.

Most homeowners think of landscaping as a way of improving their home’s curb appeal and aesthetics, but a well-designed landscape can also reduce energy costs and enhance sustainability.

Positioned correctly, trees, shrubs and vines can save up to 25% of the energy used in a typical home by providing shade and acting as a windbreak, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Well-shaded homes often see a reduction of up to 40 degrees in attic temperatures, according to the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).

To maximize the sun’s warmth in the winter and take advantage of shade in the summer, the DOE recommends using deciduous trees. Deciduous trees with high spreading leave sand branches should be planted to the south to maximize roof shading during the summer. Trees with leaves and branches lower to the ground should be planted to the west where shade is needed from lower sun angles in the late afternoon.

Evergreen trees, on the other hand, can provide continuous shade and block heavy winds. The DOE recommends homeowners avoid planting evergreen trees too close to the south side of a home if they are hoping to use passive solar heat from the winter sun to increase the efficiency of natural gas heaters and boilers.

Windbreaks of trees and shrubs on the north and northwest side of a home can deflect winter winds away from buildings. Windbreaks can reduce wind speed as much as 30 times the windbreak’s height, according to the DOE. Reducing wind speed will reduce the wind chill near the home, helping to maintain warmer and more consistent temperatures.

Shrubs, bushes and vines next to a home can help insulate the home in both summer and winter while low shrubs on the windward side of a home can help trap snow before it blows next to the home.

Lush and healthy lawns

Well-maintained lawns and strategically placed plants will keep patios and yards cooler in the summer, helping homeowners enjoy their natural gas grills, fireplaces and other elements of outdoor
living spaces. Lawns can be 31 degrees cooler than asphalt and 20 degrees cooler than bare soil, according to NALP.

Large bushes, rows of shrubs or hedges are effective ways to shade sidewalks and driveways while a trellis with a climbing vine can effectively shade a patio. Careful planning can also help homeowners conserve water resources while still cultivating a healthy and attractive landscape.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 30% of water used by U.S. households is devoted to outdoor water use, and in dry climates outdoor water use can be as high as 60% of a
household’s water use.

To conserve water, the EPA recommends homeowners choose native plants, which, once established, typically need little water beyond normal rainfall. Grouping plants according to water needs
allows homeowners to maximize use of water resources.

The EPA also recommends maintaining healthy soils to minimize runoff and retain water and adding mulch around shrubs and garden plants to reduce evaporation and prevent erosion.

With careful planning, homeowners can design a landscape that looks good while saving energy and conserving water.

This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of Natural Living, and was authored by Tonya McMurray. To read more articles about utilizing natural gas in your home in Natural Living, click here.