The map above shows 4 climate zone categories. Knowing the zone in which your home is located enables you to plan for the most energy-efficient planting strategy. A smart landscaping plan enhances the beauty of your home, keeps you cooler in the summer, and reduces wintertime heating costs.
Did you know, that carefully positioned trees and shrubs can save up to 25% of the annual energy required to run a typical home in this country?
According to the map above, here in the northeast, we are in the cool zone. It is also important to note that there are what are called microclimates within any given zone.
What is a Microclimate?
A microclimate refers to the climate directly around your property. This microclimate may receive more sun, rain, humidity, wind, etc. For example, if your home is located on a south-facing slope expect lots of year-round sunshine and dryer conditions. However if, your home is nestled under a blanket of evergreens expect a lot less sunshine and humid conditions. Wind from nearby bodies of water may lower surrounding air temperatures. Keep this in mind when choosing plants.
Landscaping for Water Conservation
Freshwater is clearly the most precious resource on earth. We have become so used to it that we have come to take it for granted. Though water covers almost three-quarters of the Earth’s surface, we can only drink 1% of it – just a tiny sliver scattered on this earth that supports us all.
Landscape planning offers lots of opportunities to preserve this precious resource.
Landscaping for Water Conservation
Consider the following:
- Choose plants and shrubs that will flourish in your regional climate and microclimate. Always group plants with similar watering needs together to increase watering efficiency.
- Limit turf areas– turf areas typically require more water than planted areas.
- Improve the quality of your soil to enable better water absorption instead of evaporation by adding organic material such as compost or aged manure. Root systems reach deeper under these conditions. Plants with deeper roots reach nutrients not found in topsoil and require less surface watering.
- Use mulch– mulch will help to keep plant roots cool, minimize surface evaporation and reduce the growth of weeds, which leech both nutrients and water away from plants and shrubs.
- Use bed borders to contain planted areas
- Morning is the best time to water. It allows for better absorption before evaporation from the midday sun can occur. It also leaves plenty of time for wet foliage to dry completely before nightfall.
- Don’t forget to add rock features and blend with native plants to create that woodland look without increasing the need for water.
- Finally, a few low-watt LED lights are all that’s needed to create that gentle glow.
Landscaping for Shade
- When planning the placement of trees and shrubs it is important to be aware of where sunshine lands both in your yard and on your home at different times throughout the day.
- Plant deciduous trees, such as Maple, Oak, and Birch, which drop their leaves in the fall, on the south and west-facing exposures. During the hot months, these trees will shade your home from the hot afternoon sun thus reducing your cooling load. During the cold months after the trees have lost their leaves, sunshine through window glazing becomes a great strategy for passive solar heating.
- Planting dense Evergreen trees and shrubs such as Spruce, Hemlock, or Arborvitae along north and northwest exposures will shelter your home from the wind chill by acting as a windbreak. Their dense foliage can even provide a barrier against sounds, sights and smells from neighboring properties when properly positioned creating both privacy and interest.
- Trees, shrubs, and other ground plants can also shade the ground and hardscapes around your home. Plant a row of shrubs to shade a walkway, a large tree to shade a driveway, or a trellis to shade a patio.
- Regardless of the type of tree or shrub, plant far enough away from the home so as they mature roots don’t penetrate the foundation and branches don’t damage the roof. Rule of thumb, you should plant at least half the distance of their mature spread from your home’s foundation. For example, if a shrub will grow to be 20 feet wide you will want it at least 10 feet from your home.
Plants that are Native to Your Climate
Finally, to ensure a great energy performing landscape use plants that are native to the climate. They require less water to maintain, are more resilient to pests and diseases, and thrive throughout the changing seasons.
As a bonus, trees help improve the overall air quality, conserve water, cut down water usage and provide habitats for wildlife.
How You Can Minimize Energy Consumption
If you’d like more information on how you can minimize energy consumption while making your home more comfortable and affordable all year round, then contact Energy Geeks. Our mission is to provide the most comprehensive and efficient solutions to reduce energy use in your home.