It’s a contradiction, all right. We love summer, but we sure don’t love getting too hot. And we like paying big bucks for air conditioning bills even less. Depressing Fact: Heating and cooling account for a whopping 48 percent of Americans’ home energy costs!
Don’t despair, though. You can reduce your HVAC expenses with clever landscaping. Well-placed trees, plants, and hardscape will help to keep your home naturally cool (or warm, in wintertime) and reduce your utility bill by as much as 40 percent. Find out how.
Shelter Your Home
Plant trees or bushes to shelter your home from excessive sun, wind and cold.
Deciduous trees should be planted about 15 feet from the house’s exterior walls, close enough to provide a nice amount of shade from the summer sun in the late morning through afternoon hours, yet far enough away so that their growing roots won’t threaten your foundation. Hedges should also be set back from the house so that they don’t trap humidity.
Evergreens will help keep out cold winds in winter and hot breezes in summer, insulating against extremes of temperature all year round. As a result, you and your family will be more comfortable, while paying less for heating and cooling bills.
Vines, especially English ivy, have long received a bad rap. This common climbing plant is accused of causing severe structural damage to house walls. However, research at Oxford University showed that contrary to popular belief, ivy and other vines do only minimal harm to homes which are already damaged – and none at all to intact buildings. Ivy is beneficial, in fact, according to Professor Heather Viles, because it “provides walls with weather-proofing and protection from the effects of pollution.” Vines are also much faster-growing than trees or shrubs, which is great to know when you’ve just moved into a new home. If you are still skeptical, don’t plant vines where they will grow right up the walls, but on a trellis close enough to shade your house.
Keep Air Conditioner Clear
Make sure that the airflow of your condenser (the central air’s outdoor unit) is not blocked by twigs, leaves or branches. Regularly trim trees, shrubs, bushes, and other fast-growing foliage in the vicinity. This will help the A/C to function as efficiently as possible. Some sources recommend shading the condenser unit with plants, awnings, or fencing; however, be cautious. Make sure that you don’t restrict the unit’s air circulation (especially if its air flow is vented upward, as with most HVAC systems); otherwise, you’ll likely do more harm than good.
Green Your Roof
Plant a garden on top of your house, if your roof is flat or slightly sloped. A “green roof” will not only shade your home but actually absorb heat and cool the air through a process of evapotranspiration. In winter, the green roof acts as insulation. Cost to install a green roof, according to the EPA, starts at $10-25 per square…