Part of the fun of new home ownership is creating the outdoor spaces surrounding your new home. Carefully designing your new landscape not only adds beauty and enjoyable space to your home, it also can contribute to lower energy costs. In fact, wise landscaping choices can pay for themselves in energy saved in eight years.
Before heading to the plant nursery for your new home’s landscaping projects, keep in mind these tips to create a beautiful–and energy efficient–yard.
Know Your Zone
Before choosing plants or laying out your landscape design, first know your climate region. What works and looks beautiful in cool regions may not be as effective in a warm or humid climate. The US Department of Energy has divided the lower 48 states into four broad climate regions: temperate, hot-arid, hot-humid and cool. Their website has a handy map and general descriptions of the regions.
Regardless of your climate, shade is an important ally in reducing your home’s heating and cooling bills. Shade from trees can cool the surrounding air temperatures as much as 6° F, according to the Department of Energy.
You’ll want to strategically plant trees that will maximize summer shade, especially on south- and west-facing windows, walls and roofs. Deciduous trees are a good option in cooler climates, say the experts at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden.
“Deciduous trees provide shade in summer, then drop their leaves in autumn, allowing the warmth of the sun to filter through their bare branches and help heat the home when the weather is cold,” they note. “Maples and other tall species with broad leaves and a high, spreading crown are ideal for this purpose.”
In addition to trees, consider vines, trellises and shrubs to add shading to walls and outdoor living areas. Choose native species for the added bonus of serving as habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.
Windbreaks protect your new home from the harsh winds of winter–and can save you considerable heating costs in the process. They also serve as a barrier, preventing snowbanks from accumulating next to your house.
You’ll first want to decide where on your property a windbreak is most needed, and how tall you want it. Then, get creative! Windbreaks no longer are relegated to a single row of one species shrubs or trees.
“Planting a mixture of different kinds of evergreens adds diversity and architectural interest to your landscape,” says longtime North Florida plant nursery supplier My Perfect Plants. “Also, a mixture of species could minimize the spread of species-specific pests or diseases should they rear up.”
Be Water Conscious
Water has become one of our most precious commodities, and traditional home landscaping consumes lots of it. The Texas Agricultural Extension Service estimates that as much as 60 percent of the water the average household uses in a summer is for landscape maintenance.
You can significantly reduce your home’s water usage by adopting xeriscaping techniques for your new yard. Xeriscaping incorporates water-wise landscaping techniques to create a beautiful, inviting and energy efficient outdoor environment. Start by limiting the amount of turf grass in your yard; opt instead for ground covers or native, drought-tolerant grasses. Also choose native and drought-resistant plants, grouping plants with similar watering needs together for the most efficient irrigation schedule. And generously mulch beds to help keep moisture at your plants’ roots, advises the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Drip irrigation, soaker hoses, and rainwater collection systems are energy-efficient alternatives to quench your plants’ thirst. Drip irrigation systems, says the ASLA, “use 20 to 50 percent less water than conventional pop-up sprinkler systems and can save up to 30,000 gallons per year.” Regardless of your approach, use a timer to ensure your plant roots get a deep soaking without wasting water.
Landscaping a new home adds long-term value to your home. Planning before planting can save you significant heating, cooling and water costs – while creating a stunning landscape for years to come.
Freelance writer and marketer Sue Durio has been writing about construction, design and related products for more than 18 years.