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Landscaping for Energy Efficiency

Posted by RESNET

Aug 4, 2014 9:08:00 AM

Landscaping your garden to be energy efficient can help you reduce your energy costs and make your home more comfortable to live in. To do it properly takes some planning, but a well-designed landscape can save enough energy to pay for itself in less than eight years.

 Landscaping for Energy Efficiency

This "Xeriscaped" yard in Texas uses very little water and hosts native plants.


  • Start with a to-scale drawing of your home and surrounding property, and include: sheds, fences and decks, flower beds, trees, play areas, walkways, overhead utility lines, and slopes in the ground.
  • Mark areas where sun and wind (summer and winter) impact your house and yard to determine which walls and windows need protection. Also to determine the survivability of plants in those locations.
  • Be aware of following factors:
    • Certain trees don’t do well in windy locations.
    •  Many types of flowers can’t handle direct sunlight or excessive moisture.
  • Improve air quality by planting more trees; they trap pollutants, pollen, and dust, while producing oxygen.
    • Trees also improve soil quality by feeding it with organic matter.


  • Plant a couple of tall-standing deciduous trees 15 to 20 feet around the sides where your home receives the most daily sun to reduce intense solar heat.
    • Deciduous trees with high-spreading, leafy branches will provide shade over your roof.
  • Consider using vines and climbing plants like Boston Ivy and Clematis to create shade.
    • It could reduce annual air conditioning costs by anywhere from 10% to 50%.
    • Improve the efficiency of your air conditioner by shading the outside unit.
      • Keep the air intake free of leaves, branches, and debris.
      • Plant shrubs at least three feet away from the compressor to maintain good airflow.
  • Shade hard, dark surfaces (i.e., driveway, sidewalk, patio, etc.) to keep surrounding outdoor spaces cool.
  • Placing a row of evergreen trees to shield your home from harsh winter winds can cut heating costs by 10% to 50% yearly.
  • Plant shrubs and bushes around the perimeter of your home, around one foot from walls to act as an insulator in summer and winter.
    • Shrubs can help trap snow and reduce drifts when placed along the windiest side of your home.


  • Temperate Region – Mid-East Coast U.S.
    • Take advantage of winter sun for heat/light.
    • Shade your home from hot summer sun.
    • Use windbreaks to deflect winter winds coming from north and northwest.
  • Hot Arid Region – Southwest U.S.
    • Shade your home’s walls, windows and roof.
    • Take advantage of summer winds to naturally cool your home.
    • Use plants to cool the air around your home.
  • Hot Humid Region – Southeast U.S.
    • Channel summer breezes to cool your home.
    • Use trees to provide cooling shade in summer but warming sun in winter.
    • Avoid locating planting beds that need lots of water near your home.
  • Cool Region – North-North East Coast
    • Use dense windbreaks to protect your home from cold winter winds.
    • Ensure winter sun reaches south-facing windows.
    • Shade south and west sides from sun if summer heat is a problem.

To learn more about landscaping for energy efficiency, visit www.resnet.us for great tips and articles.

This content was originally published by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) here. This content has been republished with the permission of RESNET. RESNET is the independent, national nonprofit organization that homeowners trust to improve home energy efficiency and realize substantial savings on their utility bills. RESNET’s industry-leading standards are recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among others.

2016 Homeowners Handbook Green Builder


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