Interesting Energy Saving Ideas
Next time you drive around your neighborhood, take note of some of the differences between homes that were built a long time ago and those that were constructed relatively recently. You will probably notice that the older homes have been more strategically planned to best complement the natural resources that surround them. The biggest windows might get the best sunlight, for instance, or the structure might be situated so breezes cut through the house to cool it.
When many older homes were built, the electric age was only beginning to dawn, and the inhabitants relied on natural heating and cooling out of necessity. Today, while you may not technically need to take advantage of nature's methods of temperature control, planning your landscaping strategically can help cut your household energy consumption, which can save you money on your electric bills.
Energy Efficient Landscacping
Using energy-efficient landscaping to lower the cost of heating and/or cooling your home takes some strategic planning based on the climate you live in as well as the actual lay of the land surrounding your house. As an example, planting deciduous trees in the path of sunlight as it reaches your windows can be helpful if you live in an area that is hot during the summer but cold during the winter. The leaves on the trees will cast shade on your windows during the hottest months of the year, which can reduce the amount you'll need to spend on air conditioning. By winter, the leaves will have fallen from your trees, so the sun will be able to reach your windows, which will cut your heating costs. Here are a few more tips for smart landscaping to maximize your home's energy efficiency.
- The best places to plant trees in relation to your home are to the due west and the due east of your windows. Whenever possible, you should plant tall trees about 20 feet from these windows, which will allow the perfect shadows to be cast. You should avoid planting trees to the south of your home because their shade will tend to miss the house in the summer but fully cast it in shadow during the winter, which defeats the purpose of natural heating and cooling. If there are already trees planted along the southern side of your home, you should prune away their lower branches as much as possible to allow more winter sun to come through. Contrarily, for trees to the north of your home, you should leave the lower branches intact so they cast more shade during the summer.
- When you are installing central air conditioning, you should place the unit such that it is shaded by your house if at all possible. If you already have a central air conditioning unit that spends most of its time in the sun, you should plant trees nearby so that it is shaded. Air conditioners that are located in direct sunlight have to use much more energy that those that are located in a shady area.
- If cold winter winds tend to infiltrate your home, you can block them naturally by planting a wind break, which is a cluster of evergreen trees or shrubs that are tall enough to block the winds. Most homeowners find that the best location for a wind break is to the north and northwest of your home. According to FirstEnergy Corp., you should plant your wind break at a distance from your home that is equal to two to five times the height that the trees will be when they reach maturity.
Depending on your climate, you will need to tailor your landscaping efforts so that they actually benefit your energy-saving needs. If you happen to live somewhere that never gets too cold, for instance, then you might find a wind break isn't the best option for you. If your home is located in a cooler climate, on the other hand, you may never want trees to cast shade on your windows. There is no hard and fast rule for energy-efficient landscaping that works for every home, but if you plan your layout right, you should notice striking results. When nature takes care of the heating and cooling of your house for you, your energy consumption will go down in tandem, which should make your electricity bills much more bearable.
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