Fact: Landscaping is a natural and beautiful way to keep your home more comfortable and reduce your energy bills. Carefully positioned trees, shrubs, and vines can save up to 25% of a household's energy for heating and cooling and can:

  • Reduce energy consumption 25-40%.

  • Save an average of $100 and $250, respectively, in annual heating and cooling energy costs.

  • Create areas with summer daytime air temperatures that are 3°-6°F cooler than treeless areas.

  • Reduce consumption of water, pesticides, and fuel for landscaping and lawn maintenance.

Best Features: A well-placed tree, shrub, or vine can deliver effective shade, act as a windbreak, and reduce overall energy bills. You can maximize both the beauty and savings of your landscaping projects by locating shade trees and shrubs in areas that will do the most good. Your design should work to achieve the climate-based best features detailed below:

  • Temperate climate:

  • Maximize warming effects of the sun in the winter.

  • Maximize shade during the summer.

  • Hot, arid climate:

  • Provide shade to cool roofs, walls, and windows.

  • Allow summer winds to access naturally cooled homes.

  • Hot humid climate:

  • Channel cool summer breezes and shade toward the home.

  • Avoid locating planting beds close to the home.

  • Cool climate:

  • Use dense windbreaks to protect the home from winter winds.

  • Allow the winter sun to reach south-facing windows.


Save Money: Windbreaks to the north, west, and east of houses cut fuel consumption in the winter, and a well-planned landscape can reduce an unshaded home's summer air-conditioning costs. Here are a few more tips that will help:

  • Plant evergreen trees and shrubs to the north and northwest of the home.

  • Plant vines on a trellis a few feet from the wall or use trailing vines in a planter box to shade your walls and windows.

  • Locate shrubbery at least 1 foot away from full-grown plants and your home's wall.

  • Plant deciduous trees with high, spreading crowns to the south.

  • Add trees with lower crowns on the west side to shield from the afternoon sun when it is at a lower angle.

  • Shade the air-conditioning unit to increase its efficiency by as much as 10 percent.

  • Don't plant evergreens too close to your home's south side so that you can benefit from winter sun.

Find It: Landscaping with native wildflowers and grasses improves the environment. Natural landscaping brings a taste of wilderness to urban, suburban, and corporate settings by attracting a variety of birds, butterflies, and other animals. Once established, native plants do not need fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, or watering, thus benefiting the environment and reducing maintenance costs. Gardeners and admirers enjoy the variety of colors, shapes, and seasonal beauty of these plants.

Landscaping is a natural and beautiful way to keep your home more comfortable and reduce your energy bills. In addition to adding aesthetic value and environmental quality to your home, a well-placed tree, shrub, or vine can deliver effective shade, act as a windbreak, and reduce overall energy bills.

Carefully positioned trees can save up to 25% of a typical household's energy for heating and cooling. Computer models from DOE predict that just three trees, properly placed around the house, can save an average household between $100 and $250 in heating and cooling energy costs annually. During the summer months, the most effective way to keep your home cool is to prevent the heat from building up in the first place. A primary source of heat buildup is sunlight absorbed by your home's roof, walls, and windows. Dark-colored home exteriors absorb 70% to 90% of the radiant energy from the sun that strikes the home's surfaces. Some of this absorbed energy is then transferred into your home by way of conduction, resulting in heat gain inside the house. In contrast, light-colored surfaces effectively reflect most of the heat away from your home. Landscaping can also help block and absorb the sun's energy to help decrease heat buildup in your home by providing shade and evaporative cooling.

Shading and evaporative cooling from trees can reduce the air temperature around your home. Studies conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found summer daytime air temperatures to be 3° to 6°F cooler in tree-shaded neighborhoods than in treeless areas. The energy-conserving landscape strategies you should use for your home depend on the type of climate in which you live.

Buildings and Trees-Natural Partners: Deciduous trees planted on the south and on the west will help keep your house cool in the summer and allow sun to shine in the windows in the winter.

Orientation of the house and surrounding landscaping has a large effect on energy consumption. A well-oriented, well-designed home admits low-angle winter sun to reduce heating bills; rejects overhead summer sun to reduce cooling bills; and minimizes the chill effect of winter winds. Fences, walls, other nearby buildings, and rows of trees or shrubs block or channel the wind. Bodies of water moderate temperature but increase humidity and produce glare. Trees provide shade, windbreaks, and wind channels. Pavement reflects or absorbs heat, depending on whether it is light or dark in color.

Contact your county extension agents, public libraries, local nurseries, landscape architects, landscape contractors, and State and local energy offices for additional information on energy efficient landscaping and regional plants and their maintenance requirements.

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Figure 116: Landscaping may be your best long-term investment for reducing heating and cooling costs. The climatic region in which you live affects the landscaping strategies you use. Carefully positioned trees can save up to 25% of a household's energy consumption for heating and cooling. To cool the south and west sides of the home, reduce paved areas, plant shade trees, or add a trellis. If you live in a windy climate, your well planned landscape can reduce your winter heating bills by approximately one-third. To block solar heat in the summer but let much of it in during the winter, use deciduous trees. Properly selected and placed evergreen trees and shrubs can shelter the home from winter winds and reduce heating costs. If south winds are a problem in the winter, plant evergreens far enough away to lift winds without shading the home.

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