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landscape, house, lawn, treesCorbis

Lush landscaping is a surefire way to ramp up the curb appeal of any home -- but its beauty goes beyond the aesthetic.

In fact, one of the best, most natural ways too cool off your home in the summer, warm it up in the winter, and insulate it year-round is through the strategic use of trees, shrubs, and other plants. This week, we're learning how to plant the seeds of sustainability by using landscaping to cut energy bills. Thanks to our friends over at Green Home Guide for sharing their green knowledge.

1. Plant Trees, Use Less Air Conditioning
If you plant trees now, they'll give your house enough shade five years from now that you'll be able to lower your air conditioning a few degrees. Mature trees can cut down on cooling costs by as much as 40 percent. (Before choosing saplings to plant, consult your city's public works department to make sure that type tree won't develop invasive roots that may eventually block water or sewer lines.)

2. Use Native Plants, Sweat Less
Plants that have adapted, over thousands of years, to your local soil and climate require less care in order to thrive. That means less watering, fertilizing, and pesticides -- which equals less resources, less work on your part, and less energy put forth in general.

3. Use Vertical Shading Where the Sun Sets
On the west side of your house, plant vertically -- vine-wrapped trellises, tall shrubs, and trees are good choices for block the harsh, low-angle low angle rays of sun in the late afternoon, when the sun is setting. Opt for native deciduous plants, which shed their leaves in the winter, allowing that sun to shine in when you need it most.

4. Plant a Green Roof
They're most used in cities to combat the urban heat island effect, but green roofs -- roofs that are partially or fully covered with plants -- increase the insulation and energy efficiency of any home (or even just the garage). If you're interested in planting a green roof, it's important to first consult a structural engineer or green roofing contractor to make sure your building can bear the load, and to understand how to properly and safely construct a green roof.

This information is courtesy of the U.S. Green Building Council. For more tips on saving energy and greening your home, visit USGBC's Green Home Guide.



  • sharon carver

    Green roofs encourage rodent activity, so take that into consideration before you plant vines on your roof. Certain vines also encroach on the building, breaking up mortar or inserting themselves into screens.

    Reply
  • alfredschrader

    I plant fruit & nut trees, then I get energy savings & food....Al-


  • maddog

    All are useful ideas, but another consideration with respect to trees is that in many cases, depending on the size and type of specimen you plant initially, it may be 10 to 15 years before enough height and canopy coverage develops to realize the energy savings estimated in the article. Arborists, landscape architects, and knowledgeable staff at many nurseries can offer preliminary information on what to expect root systems to do, as well, which may be confirmed with the local utility purveyor. Green roofs require beefed up structure to support the increased dead loads imposed by soil, water, the planted material, etc., as well as careful attention to waterproofing and consideration for maintenance difficulties for grooming the planted materials or should a leak develop which may find its way into the living areas beneath.

    Reply
  • Sam

    Having trees in your yard for shade can definitely make a big difference on cooling costs! If you don't have shade, be sure to invest in think thermal curtains for your windows to block out the hot sun when it shines directly in the house during the heat of the day. This can save you a lot of a/c cost too. The site http://bit.ly/creativesavingsvideoclips has some other great suggestions that are practical for energy saving. I've also gotten some pretty great freebies from them as well.

    Reply
  • Samantha

    Having trees in your yard for shade can definitely make a big difference on cooling costs! If you don't have shade, be sure to invest in think thermal curtains for your windows to block out the hot sun when it shines directly in the house during the heat of the day. This can save you a lot of a/c cost too. The site http://bit.ly/9zSIGu has some other great suggestions that are practical for energy saving. I've also gotten some pretty great freebies from them as well.

    Reply
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