Landscaping for an energy-efficient home
When planning outdoor improvements this spring and summer, consider landscape designs that can improve your home's energy efficiency, while still adding to its beauty. The effects of properly placed plants can help trim your monthly energy bill.
Know your region
Energy-efficient landscaping strategies for South Dakota include:
- utilizing the sun's warmth during the winter and shading from it in the summer,
- allowing south-facing windows to receive sun during the winter while shading south- and west-facing windows and walls from direct sunlight during the summer, and
- planting windbreaks that block the harsh winter winds, while funneling the breezes toward the house during the summer.
This sample drawing utilizes some of these key points.
Know your microclimate
The climate of the area immediately surrounding your home can be impacted by several factors. Nearby hills and bodies of water, as well as the amount of shade, wind and precipitation around your home all can affect its microclimate. The placement of certain types of trees and shrubs can provide energy-saving benefits. Finding ones that work in your microclimate are important.
A little research can go a long way in determining which plants will thrive in your part of the state and your individual microclimate. A great way to do this is to see what your neighbors have grown successfully. You can also seek professional advice from your local garden center or extension service. Use the tips and hints in developing a landscaping plan that meets your energy efficiency and aesthetic needs.
Know your plants
Deciduous trees are ideal for letting sun through during the winter, while blocking it in the summer. Coniferous trees such as Black Hills spruce, ponderosa pine and eastern red cedar are ideal for year-round shade and blocking heavy winds.
Deciduous trees with high, spreading crowns, such as bur oak, are ideally planted to the south of your home, while those with low crowns, such as many fruit-bearing or evergreens, should be planted to the west to block the low angles of sun during the later parts of the day.
Windbreaks help to reduce heating costs during colder months. One type of windbreak is a row of trees and shrubs placed a distance from the house that reduces the chilling effects of winter winds. These are usually set at a distance away from the house equal to four to seven times the trees' height.
Another type of windbreak consists of shrubs, vines and ground plants placed very close to the house to insulate from the cold and trap drifting snow that would otherwise cool your home. Plants that grow low to the ground and are placed on the windward side are best at preventing this. Make sure any windbreaks planted near a house have at least one foot of dead space to serve as insulation between them. Evergreens are ideal for year-round protection, but deciduous shrubs such as sumac and rose work well, too.
Plants that shade the ground and pavement around your home also cool the air surrounding it. This reduces the amount of heat your home absorbs during the summer. Some trees can help reduce the temperature by as much as nine degrees, and can be reduced further depending upon the amount of shade they and other nearby plants provided. Properly shading your air conditioner can also reduce its workload, thus improving your energy efficiency.
The speed at which trees and shrubbery grow is also another important factor in your landscape design. Trees that grow slowly will require more time than faster growing ones before much benefit can been seen. However, the slow-growth varieties tend to have deeper roots and are less prone to breakage by heavy snowfall or strong winds. Additionally, they are more likely to be drought-resistant.
Taking all of these things into consideration will improve your home's energy efficiency. Be sure to call South Dakota One Call (811) before you dig to determine the location of any underground utilities around your home. Additionally, be cautious about planting trees and other vegetation that may eventually tower too near overhead power lines. Be familiar with your electric utility provider's policies regarding tree trimming near power lines. See the South Dakota PUC's website for information.
Information provided by Energy Savers and the Natural Resources Conservation Service of South Dakota