When you think about becoming more energy efficient, you probably look to the fixtures and features inside your house. While you can do a lot to lower your energy bills by updating your home’s interior, you can make some significant energy cuts by making changes to the exterior as well. Making smart changes to the landscaping around your Sarasota, Florida, home can significantly reduce your energy expenses. Use the following tricks to create a greener space that’s better for the environment and your wallet.
Map Out Your Yard to Be Energy Efficient
Before you can begin actively landscaping your yard to be energy efficient, you should take the time to map the area. Sketch out your home and yard. Include the exterior AC unit; any existing trees, shrubs, and plants; and features like a porch, patio, fence, shed, or wall. Mark the placement of lights, water features, decorations, and anything else in your yard or mounted to the house.
Add arrows or shading to your picture that indicates where you get the most sun and what areas of the yard are particularly shady. Make a note of where your trees cast their shadows throughout the day. Try to stay mindful of the wind for a few weeks and see where you can feel it most and where you feel stuffy. After it rains, look for areas of standing water and inadequate drainage around your home.
Refer back to this map throughout your landscaping process. It will become an invaluable tool for improving your home’s exterior. The best landscaping strategy is one that’s carefully planned out.
Select Trees Carefully
The ideal trees for an energy-efficient home in the hot and humid South are those that will shade your home from summer sun, while allowing low-angle winter light to shine through. Deciduous trees are a smart choice for this. They have high crowns with good branch spread that offer maximum shade during summer. The cool air that settles beneath the shade of a tree can be up to 25 degrees cooler than the air above a nearby area of blacktop.
Avoid trees with low crowns, as these will block the winter sun as well as the summer light. With a little welcome sun in the Floridian winter, you can significantly lower your heating expenses. Planting trees is a long-term project for improving energy efficiency. Though slow-growing trees may take longer to deliver a significant payoff, these are a worthwhile investment. Slow-growing trees have deeper roots, stronger branches, and greater resistance to drought, making them a smart long-term choice.
Keep Sun Away From the Roof
Though it will take some time to grow trees large enough to shade your home’s roof, this is an excellent strategy for improving your home’s energy efficiency. Look for trees with a particularly high canopy and wide leaf spread for this job. Consider your home’s orientation and the areas where you get the most sunlight. Shading your roof can increase your air conditioner’s energy efficiency more than 10 percent.
If you have just three trees that shade your home, you could actually cut your cooling bill significantly.
Shade Your AC Unit
Your outdoor AC unit works hard to keep your home cool, but it’s not as efficient at this job if it has to do so when the sun is beating down on it. If you can keep your AC unit cooler to begin with, it will be much more efficient at providing cool air to your home.
There are several ways you can accomplish this. Choose the approach that best suits your home’s exterior and landscaping style. A well-placed tree could give your unit all the shade it needs. If you don’t want a tree that close to the house, you can use a wall of shrubbery to do the job. Looking for something that doesn’t require much care? Consider building a small pergola or other covering.
If you build a covering for your AC unit, make sure you provide a few feet of breathing space on each side. Air circulation is as important as shade. Take the time to construct a covering that gives you the right balance of both.
Forget About Windbreaks
In cool climates, homeowners are often advised to construct windbreaks with trees and shrubs. While these are excellent when you’re battling icy winds and snowdrifts, they can actually damage your energy efficiency in a climate like Florida’s.
In the south, you need to think about directing winds toward the home rather than away from it. Instead of planting windbreaks that stop airflow to the house, construct fences and plant shrubs so they’ll direct those winds toward the house. This will create a welcome cooling effect. Pay attention to where the prevailing breezes blow, and try to keep obstructions out of their path.
Plant fences, walls, or rows of trees and shrubbery on either side of the home, so wind is welcome in or you’re sitting in something like a wind tunnel. This will keep things cool and breezy in a climate that’s otherwise stuffy and hot.
Handle Humidity with Shrubbery
Humidity is a major difficulty for homeowners in Florida. You can help minimize the impact humidity has on your home by planting the right shrubs and plants near your home. Opt for drought-tolerant plants around the house, to keep excess water away from your dwelling. Anything that’s particularly thirsty should go further out in the yard. This will help minimize humidity in and around the home, putting less strain on your home comfort systems.
High humidity makes the home feel warmer, causing you to crank up the air conditioning. You can improve energy efficiency by prioritizing humidity management. If your planting tricks aren’t enough to keep the home comfortable, consider a whole-home dehumidifier. This fits in with your existing air-conditioning system and helps to manage moisture in the air throughout your home.
Use Solar Powered Lighting
You don’t want your landscaping to be dark and difficult to navigate, but you don’t want to spend a lot on electricity for your yard, either. You can minimize your energy expenses on lighting by switching to solar-powered fixtures in your yard.
Florida is well known as the sunshine state for a good reason. There’s ample sunlight to power your solar fixtures. When you’re using solar energy, you don’t have to be as frugal about choosing lighting fixtures. You can add decorative touches of light within your flowerbeds, line your walkways generously, and add other welcoming features. The sun will take care of powering it all, so there’s no drain on your wallet.
Consider Patio Placement
If you’re adding a porch or patio to your home to enhance your exterior, consider the placement carefully. A deck or other exterior gathering place is best when positioned on the east side of the house. Here, they will have early morning sun and warmth that will draw you out to enjoy a cup of coffee as the sun rises. By midday, when the weather gets uncomfortable, the sun will drop out of sight, giving you a welcome break from the hot rays.
To enhance the afternoon cooling effect, plant a tree nearby as well. The ideal porch is free from hot afternoon rays, so you can enjoy an alfresco dinner and bask in your beautiful landscaping without sitting in a sweltering spot.
Shade Windows with Vines
If you have a particularly sunny window where you’d like to limit some of the light, build a trellis just outside. Plant vines that will climb the trellis, adding some decorative sun control. Prune the vine so it doesn’t grow too densely and you’ll enjoy filtered sunlight that still lets a decent amount of illumination in without baking your home in the heat.
If you’re ready to make some energy-efficient upgrades to your home, Aqua Plumbing and Air can help. Contact us at (941) 306-3715. We can help you find home comfort solutions that are easy on your wallet and good for the environment. Start greening up your home today and you can reap the benefits in the form of lower utility bills for years to come.
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