Curb appeal can help sell houses, but did you know your landscaping also can improve your home’s comfort and reduce your energy bills year-round?
On average, a well-designed landscape saves enough energy to pay for itself in less than eight years. Appropriately placed trees, shrubs, fences and other landscaping features require less maintenance, reduce water use, cut heating and cooling costs, reduce the toll on your house from wind and sun, and lower noise and air pollution.
While our part of the country is classified as a cool region, leaving us concerned with harsh winters, it’s important to consider the climate immediately surrounding your home, called a microclimate, which could be sunnier, windier or wetter than the region’s climate. That would affect your landscaping choices.
A windbreak is usually made up of one or more rows of trees or shrubs that provide shelter from the wind and protect soil from erosion. They can protect your home from winter winds by lowering the wind chill near your house. Windbreaks also create dead air space to insulate your home in winter and summer. For maximum protection, plant a windbreak at a distance from your home of two to five times the mature height of the trees you select. One study found that planting windbreaks to the north, east and west of your house cuts fuel consumption by an average of 40%.
Trees also protect your home from the heat. Deciduous trees, which lose their leaves in the fall, protect your house from the sun but let in light in the winter. Evergreen trees and shrubs provide continuous shade, so be careful not to plant them too close to the south side of your house or you’ll lose the warmth of the winter sun.
It’s also important to think about the watering needs of your landscaping. Choose plants that require less water, and always water in the morning when evaporation rates are low. Mulching will help reduce evaporation while cutting back on your weeding chores.
As you survey your lawn and garden this spring, think beyond what flowers to put in the planters and consider how properly placed trees, shrubs and plants can save on your utility bills and put some green back in your pocket.