Homeowners across the country often look for ways to reduce energy costs. Landscaping can form an important part of the overall effort in reducing heating and cooling expenses, but unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as planting a bunch of shade trees and calling it a day. Considerations like climate, weather patterns, planting types, and water uses must also be taken into account when planning to use landscaping for solar shading and home cooling.
Depending on where you live, you may WANT the sun to heat the exterior of your home. Tall shade trees in cooler winter climates can block the warming rays of the sun from penetrating the house, causing your heating bills to skyrocket. On the other hand, thick landscaping such as hedges and trees can block cooling winds, helping to reduce energy costs. There is no one solution for plantings around the home. You must consider your climate, particularly the orientation (north-, south-, east-, or west-facing) of the home, before planting or removing shade-producing trees.
Best Types of Trees
For all-around performance throughout the year, deciduous trees are a great choice. What are deciduous trees? They are the ones that shed their leaves when autumn comes. In summer, full leaf coverage of the trees provides maximum shade to the walls and roof of the home. When the leaves fall, the sun’s rays can warm the exterior of the home.
If you are more concerned about blocking winter winds, evergreen trees and shrubs tend to work best. Consult with a local arborist to determine which trees grow well in your area and plant accordingly.
Where to Plant?
Where trees are located around the home is just as important as what types of trees you select. Remember above when you assessed your home’s directional orientation? This is critical in getting the most out of solar shading of landscaping. Planting tall, leafy deciduous trees on the southern side of the home maximize the shading available in the summertime. On the western-facing side of the home, shorter leafy trees can block afternoon sunshine as the sun moves from east to west in the sky.
Remember that if you have solar panel systems installed on your home, you want no tree coverage blocking the panels. The more sunlight on the panels, the better for their energy-producing performance.
When selecting trees, choose those that suit your climate. Drought-resistant trees are perfect for dry areas like California, where droughts and watering restrictions are a concern. For colder climates, you want to choose trees that can withstand freezes. Again, consult with local arborists or cooperative extension offices for tips on picking the right shade trees for your needs.