Thoughtful and well-planned landscaping increases the curb appeal of your property and slashes your cooling bills in summer. Have you ever heard of passively cooling a house?
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends using trees, shrubs, and vines to create an energy-conserving landscape that can reduce cooling bills by as much as 40 percent.
Read on to find out how, by making simple, quick, and cost-efficient additions and alterations to your landscape, you can keep your house cool in summer, warmer in the winter, and lower your utility bills.
Create Shade on the South and West Sides of the House
The sun’s heat absorbed through windows, walls, and roofs increase cooling costs. Therefore, creating a Shade on the south and west sides of the house in the northern hemispheres would be best. Trees block the sun’s rays from hitting the walls, windows, and roofs and keep the house cool. Trees also cool the home by releasing water from underneath its leaves. This process is called evapotranspiration. According to research, this process can reduce the air temperature around trees by as much as 6 degrees F.
If you want the sun’s rays to heat your home in winter, plant deciduous trees on the south and west sides of your house. Deciduous trees shed their leaves during winter. Depending on the climate you live in, you might want to have some shade throughout the year. If so, choose evergreen trees and shrubs that do not shed all their leaves in winter.
Choose deciduous trees with high and spreading crowns to plant on the south side of your house. The leaves and branches high on the trees will shade the roof around midday when the sun is directly over the house. Choose trees with low crowns to plant on the west side of the house. During summer, the hot afternoon sun hits the home at low angles, so you need Shade at a height that can block the sun’s rays.
Deciduous trees are generally large; however, come in all sizes, colors and forms. Deciduous refers to “tending to fall off,” which relates well to these trees since these trees and shrubs shed during the autumn to survive the winter. The large deciduous trees include maples, beeches, oaks, willows and hickories. The flowering types include redbuds, dogwoods and crepe myrtles and the fruit trees are peach, plum, apple and pear trees.
Alternate Types of Trees
You should not plant trees with high canopies on the south side of the house if you have solar panels mounted on the roof. To reap the most benefit from your renewable energy installation, the solar panels on your roof must receive the maximum amount of sunlight. Therefore, if you plant trees on your property, choose varieties that will remain short even after they mature and will not shade your roof.
Slow-growing trees live longer than fast-growing varieties and have more substantial branches that are less prone to breakages by winds, storms, and snow. Slow-growing trees also have deep, expansive root systems that make them drought-tolerant. However, you must plant trees a reasonable distance from the house, so their roots do not damage the foundation and sewer lines, and the branches do not damage the roof.
To create an eco-friendly landscape, buy local species of drought-tolerant and pest-resistant plants. After all, do not want a nasty pest problem.
Plant Vines to Create Shade Quickly
Slow-growing trees usually take several years to reach their full height. An eight-foot-tall tree will shade the windows of your house within a year of planting. It will shade the roof in about 5-10 years. So, if you want to create Shade around your home within a few months or do not have the ground space to plant trees, consider planting vines or shrubs.
Vines can shade walls by blocking the sun’s rays. You can train vines to climb up trellises or lattices or have them cascading down window planter boxes.
Plant annual vines that shed their leaves during winter to let in sunlight. If you plant perennial vines, prune them in the fall. You can add functionality by planting edible vines like scarlet runner beans or luffa squashes. To create a wildlife-friendly garden, plant scarlet creeper or Cypress vine to provide nectar for hummingbirds or moonflower to attract moths.
Do not let vines attach themselves to the walls and roof of the house. Certain species of vines such as Boston ivy tend to hold on to moisture that may then damage paint, shingles, wood, or brick.
Vines and shrubs planted too close to the house can also create a humid environment. Place trellises and shrubs a little farther from the house’s walls to allow for air movement and keep the house and the surrounding soil dry.
Direct Summer Breezes Toward the House
Breezes can cool down your house significantly. A row of shade trees on one side of the house, and a stone wall or shrubbery on the other side of the house will create a wind tunnel. This will funnel summer breezes toward your home. Plant evergreen trees along the northeast corner to redirect the winds and create southwesterly breezes if your property receives southerly winds.
Air moves fastest in the space between the lowest branch of a tree and the ground. So you can prune the lower branches of a tree or shrub planted underneath windows to channel breeze upward and in through the first-story windows. A shade tree planted nearby will cool the breeze.
Keep the Ground Cool
Dark-colored driveways, roadways, and patios absorb the rays of the sun and then radiate large amounts of heat into the surrounding walls and the windows of your house. Keep these surfaces cool by shading them from the sun’s direct rays. Plant a sprawling bush, a row of shrubs, or a hedge to shade the driveway or the sidewalk. You can attach a horizontal trellis to vertical trellises to train vines to grow upward and overhead. This will create a natural awning to shade the patio.
Groundcover plants shade the soil around your house and keep it cool. So does a patch of lawn. The temperature above groundcover vegetation can be 15o F cooler than above a paved surface, stone, or wood chip mulch. But both groundcover plants and lawns are water-intensive plantations unsuitable in drought-prone regions.
Shade the Air Conditioning Unit
If you keep your air conditioning unit cool during the hot summer months, you can increase its efficiency by up to 10 percent. In addition, shading the unit reduces the strain due to the air conditioner working for long periods. This also increases the life of the compressor.
Create Shade on the air conditioning unit’s south, west, and east sides. You can plant a tree or a shrub to do this. You can also erect a trellis about three feet away from the unit and train a vine to climb it. Whether you plant a tree or install a trellis, ensure that these do not block the air inlet paths and filters. Place them so that it is easy to access the unit for maintenance and repairs. You can also place the air conditioner under a shady canopy.
Cool With a Water Feature
A water feature cools the air that blows over it. For example, a pond, pool, fountain, or a small waterfall placed just outside a window or in the courtyard can cool the breeze that enters the house. A water feature is also an excellent addition to a wildlife-friendly garden.
Find a shady spot for your water feature or create shade around it. If water features are constantly exposed to direct sunlight or strong winds, they will dry up quickly. Refilling it manually and frequently can be tiresome, so avoid this unless you also plan to install an automatic re-filler. Less exposure to sunlight also reduces the growth of algae, which means less cleanup work for you.
Solar-powered water features and systems that recycle water are eco-friendly options that reduce your property’s carbon footprint.
Although installing a water feature in the yard is one of the most efficient ways of passively cooling your house, ensure that you have the time and energy to maintain it. In addition, a water feature must be kept clean. If you install one with a pump, you must watch the water level. Low water levels can damage the pump motor. Depending on where you live and where you have installed the water feature, you might have to check the water level every five to ten days. It would be best to consider whether it will freeze in the winter.
Planning or tweaking the landscape to cool your house is cost-efficient. There is no need to buy expensive appliances or retrofit the home. Instead, you save on your energy bills. And you create a natural space that is calm, relaxing, and refreshing by keeping these passively cooling techniques in mind.
Passively Cool Your House Today
To get started enjoying all of these benefits of a passively cooling landscape, contact Fernandez & Sons to design and build the perfect passive cooling landscape. We are ready when you are. Get in touch here.