PAT WOODARD JULY 2, 2020
Whoever came up with “my home is my castle” deserves a time-out in a dungeon. A typical castle’s energy costs could bankrupt a king. If that’s happening at your castle, cost-saving solutions for the inside can start on the outside. The right approach to landscaping can significantly reduce home heating and cooling costs, bring down water bills, and give a more elegant appearance to grounds that may look less than regal.
Here are five energy-efficient landscaping tips.
1. Kill the Grass
Blasphemy? Maybe, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 30 to 60% of urban water use goes to keeping grass alive. Downsizing your lawn’s grass footprint will cut your water bill. You’ll also use less pesticide and fertilizer, reduce air and noise pollution from your mower, and put fewer grass clippings in landfills. Instead of thinking of grass as your lawn, think of it as a lawn accent, mixed with less-thirsty companions such as wildflowers and shrubs, or walking paths of stone or gravel.
2. Give Trees a Job
Three well-positioned trees can cut a home’s cooling costs by 50%. Evergreen trees are great for shading your house, but it makes more sense to have trees that are on the job year-round. Leafy trees block the sun in summer and allow the sun’s rays to filter through in winter. But not all leafy trees are created equal. Cottonwoods became popular around new homes because they grow fast and provide a broad shade canopy. They’re also water hogs with intrusive roots and brittle limbs. Check with an arborist to make sure you use the right tree for your conditions.
3. Tame the Wind
“It’s not the temperature that’s so cold; it’s the wind chill.” That could be your house talking, in a language you understand well, higher heating costs. Your heating system has to work harder if the house isn’t sheltered from cold winds. A landscaped windbreak can cut home fuel consumption by reducing the wind chill around your home. Hedges are good. A row of trees is better. Deciduous trees can work, but this is really a job for evergreens. Densely foliated spruce, fir, and cedar trees spaced 5 to 10 feet apart capture biting winds before they slam into your house.
4. Come to the Light
At dusk, soft flights flicker along the walkways and garden paths of your home. It’s a comforting sight, especially because it costs you … nothing.
Cost-effective and eco-friendly solar landscape lights require no connection to your home electrical system. Each light is a self-contained unit.
Stick it in the ground or mount it to a wall, and the solar panel and battery do the rest. You can’t count on these lights for security, but an energy-efficient ambiance has never cast such a lovely glow.
5. Have a Plan
Before you can start enjoying the benefits of energy-efficient landscaping, you need to answer some questions. How is your house positioned relative to where the sun rises and sets and to the prevailing winds? Knowing this information can help you figure out which walls and windows need shade in the summer and a windbreak in the winter. Furthermore, knowing where your house casts its shadow will help determine which plants to use and where to place them. Map it out. A sketch of your property is a helpful guide that will save time, money, and aggravation.
Transforming the physical landscape around your home is an important step toward greater energy efficiency. Just as critical is a change in attitude. You’ll need to think differently about everything from aesthetics to the way you water and mow. Sometimes, the hardest thing to change is your mind. The lower bills that come with an energy-efficient landscape should make that easier.