Throw shade on your energy bills through landscape architecture

Throw shade on your energy bills through landscape architecture

April is World Landscape Architecture Month. Aren’t you excited?!

OK, maybe you’re not. But what if we called it World Saving Your Money Month? We bet you’d be willing to celebrate that.

And saving your money is exactly what landscape architecture can do. Properly placed plants can reduce a home’s heating and cooling costs by 20-30 percent, according to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences research available via the Lee County Electric Cooperative.

Much of it has to do with tree cover. It’s no secret that trees provide shade, but they also cool the air around buildings by a process called evapotranspiration. That’s a fancy way to say that leaves absorb heat. A lot of trees means a lot of leaves, and they can make the air around them as much as 9 degrees cooler, the same research says.

It’s important to know where to put those trees. In the summer, walls facing east and west receive twice as much sunshine as ones facing north and south. So, trees that can absorb the rays along the east and west are more valuable commodities. And while some vegetation can go right up against the wall, other types should be much farther away to maximize shade cover, according to the University of Florida research.

You’ll want trees that will grow at least 10 feet taller than your windows, a FirstEnergy Corp. study shows. And while it pays to keep your air conditioner shaded, make sure there is at least 3 feet between the air conditioner and any vegetation.

Landscaping is also useful in creating wind breaks that shield homes and businesses during the winter. It’s not nearly as much of a concern in Southwest Florida as it is up north, but since it can cost as much as three times more to heat a home than it does to cool it, according to Florida Power & Light, it makes sense to avoid having to turn on the heat whenever possible.

There are plenty of minor adjustments that can produce major energy savings. That’s why an experienced team that knows the tricks of the landscape architecture trade is valuable for anyone who wants to get the most of their property — and their bank account.

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