Landscaping Helps Your Texas Home’s Energy Savings
Many folks take a moment each Earth Day to reflect on how they use energy. Some homeowners will try to recycle more, some will switch over to LED light bulbs, and some may even begin composting their kitchen scraps. While these are all great things to do, one of the best ways to improve your Texas home’s energy efficiency and curb appeal is to landscape your home.
You can get a lot more energy efficiency with better-planned landscaping instead of a few shrubs and a big, grassy lawn. In winter, windbreaks can reduce heating bills providing annual energy savings of up to 25%. In the summer, landscaping can actually decrease the ambient outside temperature around your home by 9 degrees. If you compare these rates in Texas to your monthly energy bill, you’ll find that combining landscaping with shade trees can help improve your home’s cooling energy efficiency by 15% to 50%.
Texas Electric Bills and Microclimates
Your yard is a “microclimate“. Its temperature and air current patterns depend on the kinds and locations of various plantings around your home. Just consider the typical new suburban subdivision home: a house, a black driveway, three low height ornamental conifer bushes, and a vast, flat stretch of grassy lawn. While this might sound perfect for easy lawn mowing, the lack of landscaping increases the home’s energy usage:
- In the winter, this type of yard is an open field that offers no shelter against harsh northern winds. No barrier to the wind makes the building harder to keep warm. As wind blows around a house, it creates a low-pressure zone on the leeward or downwind side of the building. The lower pressure creates a vacuum that pulls warm air out of the home through drafts around windows, doors, and countless other small openings. Consequently, your furnace must run longer to keep your home warm. Running your heating system longer means using more energy and increasing your monthly bill.
- In summer, the lack of shade turns the yard, driveway, walkways, and the house itself into a giant heat sink. It soaks up heat during the day and radiates it all night long. This forces your home’s air conditioning to run longer to cool your home. And once again, running appliances longer means using more energy. These high electricity usage rates increase your monthly electric bill.
Texas Energy Efficient Landscape Architecture
In winter and summer, landscaping with trees and shrubs increases heating and cooling efficiency by altering the microclimate around your home.
- In winter— adding evergreen trees and shrubs as a windbreak along the north and northwestern edge of your yard can reduce wind speed by as much as 30 times the height of the wind break. It will also deflect the oncoming wind upwards and reduce the effects of low pressure on the leeward side of your home. In Texas, they can help reduce springtime drainage problems (like wet basements) caused by drifting snow. This way, you can expect cheap electric company bills in Texas.
- In summer— planting shade trees near your home to shade your roof can reduce roof surface temperatures by 20–45°F. That means just planting two 25 foot tall shade trees on the west side of your home and one on the east can help you reduce your electric usage rate by 23%. By some estimates, that’s a reduction in your home’s air conditioning costs by up to 35%.
Plan Saving Electricity With Landscaping
If your home already has trees shading it, then it’s a good idea to keep them healthy. Shade from a mature tree canopy can reduce summer peak afternoon temperatures around your home by 1°F to 3°F and reduce your Texas electric cooling costs by 5% to 10%.
Landscaping to save electricity isn’t hard but it is important to develop a plan. Start off by identifying your plant hardiness zone and then what types of plants are best suited for it. Figure out what areas need the most shade as well as those needing drainage, erosion control, and also what views you want to preserve.
Adding small plots to your yard can also help shade driveways and sidewalks as well as create cooler spaces around your home. A trellis for vines or tall bushes that shade a patio can also reduce ambient heat. Groundcover plantings, like hostas, creepers, and thyme, will reduce the amount of ground heating which will radiate into the home. Planting trees or shrubs in areas prone to ponding rainwater is also a great way of taking care of humidity and mosquito problems. In some cases, planting a raspberry bush not only solves the problem but also provides a healthy treat.
By reducing the heating effects of the sun, your entire yard will absorb less heat during the day and help your home to cool faster at night.
And when it comes to sale time, a well-landscaped home can add between 5%-12% to the home’s value!
Shading Your Air Conditioner
The rule of thumb used to be that homeowners could save 10% of their energy usage by shading their outside AC unit. However, that recommendation was based on old data because it mainly applied to window-mounted units which once outnumbered central air systems. Single room, window-mounted units should be shaded.
For central air systems, more recent research shows that the effect of shading outside condenser units is negligible. Air conditioner outside condensing units get rid of coolant heat through the cooling coils and fins. While it seems to make sense that the unit’s metal case should make the whole unit hot, research shows this isn’t how it works. In fact, the large metal case doesn’t conduct heat to the cooling coils and fins very effectively. Plus, the case also shades the cooling coils and fins from the sun.
Because the fan circulates air through those coils, it’s the temperature of the air that has a direct impact on the rate of coolant-cooling rather than the surface temperature of the unit’s metal case. All told, shading the outside condenser unit only increases the efficiency by less than 1%.
But, if you do landscape near your outside condenser unit, be very careful not to restrict air flow around it because that will wind up costing you more.
The Long Summer is Coming
Though not exactly the Stark family motto, it’s true that high temperatures and high electric bills are on the way! Is your family ready? Keep your cool this summer with these energy efficiency tips and by shopping for a great Texas electricity rate from Texas Electricity Ratings. Compare plans, read provider reviews, and choose the right Texas energy supplier that fits your family’s needs all year round!