A cost-effective and eye-pleasing way to lower energy bills is to plant trees, shrubs, vines, grasses and hedges. Landscaping often is the best long-term investment for reducing heating and cooling costs, while bringing other improvements to your community.
A well-planned landscape can dramatically reduce winter and summer energy costs. In some cases, planting trees and shrubs can reduce a home’s heating and air-conditioning costs by 15 to 50 percent.
For winter energy savings, plant evergreen trees and shrubs on a home’s north and northwest sides to stop winter winds. The best windbreaks are dense evergreens with branches that cover the tree from ground level to a height one to two times as tall as the building being sheltered. Don’t plant evergreens outside southern windows or walls, because they will block the strongest sun rays – and natural source of heat – in the winter.
For summer energy savings, plant shade trees on a home’s south and west sides to stop the hottest sun of the year from raising the home’s internal temperature. As the trees absorb the sunshine, their leaves add cool moisture to the air for additional cooling power. Planting deciduous shade trees is highly recommended, as they lose their leaves in the winter to allow sun inside the house when its heating ability is most advantageous.
If you have a large property, build a fence or hedgerow or plant trees to funnel prevailing summer winds, providing free cooling through open windows in the summer.