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Landscape To Save Energy

Are you looking for cost-effective yet eye-pleasing ways to lower your energy bills? Look no further than your back yard.

Planting trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, and hedges may be your best long-term investment for reducing energy costs. That's because a well-designed landscape will cut your heating and cooling costs dramatically, protect your home from winter wind and summer sun and reduce water consumption.

Carefully positioned trees can save up to 25 percent of a household's energy use for heating and cooling. This means the average household will save between $100 and $250 each year. An 8-foot deciduous (leaf-shedding) tree can ultimately save you hundreds of dollars in reduced cooling costs, yet still admit some winter sunshine to reduce heating and lighting costs. Trees and fences can also be used as windbreaks, cutting winter heating bills by up to one-third in windy areas.

Landscaping can save money in summer or winter. When planning your landscaping, maximize warming effects of the sun in the winter and shade during the summer, deflect winter winds and funnel summer breezes toward the home.

Solar heat passing through windows and being absorbed through the roof is the major reason for air conditioner use. Shading is the most cost-effective way to reduce solar heat gain and cut air conditioning costs.

  • To provide continuous shade or to block heavy winds, use evergreen trees or shrubs.
  • Deciduous trees with high, spreading crowns (i.e., leaves and branches) can be planted to the south of your home to provide maximum summertime roof shading.
  • Trees with crowns lower to the ground are more appropriate on the west side of the house, where shade is needed from lower afternoon sun. A 6-foot to 8-foot deciduous tree planted near your home will begin shading windows the first year. Depending on the species and the home, the tree will shade the roof in 5 to 10 years. If you have an air conditioner, be aware that shading the unit itself can increase its efficiency by as much as 10 percent.
  • Trees, shrubs, and groundcover plants can also shade the ground and pavement around the home. This reduces heat radiation and cools the air before it reaches your home's walls and windows.
  • Use a large bush or row of shrubs to shade a patio or driveway and plant a hedge to shade a sidewalk.
  • Build a trellis for climbing vines to shade a patio area. Vines can shade walls during their first growing season. A lattice or trellis with climbing vines, or a planter box with trailing vines, shades the home's perimeter while admitting cooling breezes to the shaded area.
  • Shrubs planted close to the house will fill in rapidly and begin shading walls and windows within a few years. However, avoid allowing dense foliage to grow immediately next to a home where wetness or continual humidity are problems.
  • Evergreen trees and shrubs planted to the north and northwest of the home are the most common type of windbreak. Trees, bushes, and shrubs are often planted together to block wind from ground level to the treetops. Or, evergreen trees combined with a wall, fence, or earth berm (natural or man-made walls or raised areas of soil) can deflect or lift the wind over the home.
  • Be careful not to plant evergreens too close to your home's south side if you want the warmth from the winter sun.
  • Plant your windbreak at a distance from your home of two to five times the mature height of the trees.
  • If snow tends to drift in your area, plant low shrubs on the windward side of your windbreak. The shrubs will trap snow before it blows next to your home.
  • Planting shrubs, bushes, and vines next to your house creates dead air spaces that insulates your home in both winter and summer. Plant so there will be at least 1 foot of space between full-grown plants and your home's wall.


To learn more about landscaping to save energy, contact Anita , Klickitat PUD's Energy Services Specialist. You can call her at 509-773-7622 or toll-free at 800-548-8357.