The way we use landscaping in our yards can have a significant impact on the amount of energy we use to heat and cool our homes, and energy efficiency is always a wise decision. By following a few easy, common sense guidelines, properly maintaining or upgrading your air conditioner, adding insulation, installing a programmable thermostat, and taking other energy saving measures, you should be able to cut your bills by up to 50 percent. Why not use nature in the process? Here are a few tips on using nature to help you efficiently use energy:
Plant trees or shrubs to shade your air conditioning unit. Make certain you don’t block airflow since this would be counter productive. So go ahead and take advantage of the shade a tree or shrub provides. An AC unit that’s operating in the shade will use less electricity.
When grown on a trellis, vines can shade windows or a side of your home. Don’t allow the vines to attach themselves to your home. Their roots can tunnel into mortar and weaken it. On wood or other siding, those vines can eventually cause rot or become very heavy and weaken the structure.
Carefully plan landscaping with unshaded rock, concrete, or asphalt. When on the southern or western sides of your home, these surfaces absorb heat and radiate it around your home all night. In northern climates, this may be beneficial, but in warmer, southern climates, this is a liability and can run up your AC bill.
Plant deciduous trees on the southern and western sides of your home. When they’re fully leafed out, they’ll provide lots of shade at the most opportune time, but when they lose their leaves in the winter, the sun can warm your home. Either way, you’ll save energy.
Just three or four trees, properly planted around your home, can help you save as much as $250 annually on heating and cooling costs. How’s that for motivation? Studies have shown that daytime air temperatures can be three to six degrees cooler in tree shaded neighborhoods when compared to treeless neighborhoods.
But wait, I live in an apartment!
While you probably don’t want to go to the time and expense to plant trees around your apartment building, you may be able to convince your landlord to do so. Trees beautify and increase the value of property. Besides, it never hurts to ask.
Regardless of the answer, use small trees or shrubs on your balcony to shade the windows or patio doors in your apartment. Sunny windows can make your air conditioner work much harder. Use plants to knock down the temperatures and green up your space.