Dressing in green from head-to-toe is a St. Patrick’s Day tradition, and it couldn’t come along at a more appropriate time. With the official start of spring just a few days later, our lawns and landscapes are ready to get in the spirit, too.
If you’re looking for a way to add a splash of green to your yard while making your HVAC system a little greener at the same time, read on for some landscaping tips that will keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Made In the Shade
Shrubs and bushes come in all shapes and sizes, but even the smallest species can be useful to provide shade in just the right place. When used to keep sunlight from pouring in through the windows on a summer day, they can be almost as important as your air conditioner in terms of keeping your home comfortable.
But don’t stop at windows -- shrubs also provide shade around decks and patios, creating cool spots on even the sunniest days. Encircling these areas with climbing vines on panels of trellis can provide fuller shade while letting you enjoy the fresh air.
It’s even worthwhile to plant bushes along driveways and pathways, especially if you have blacktop areas that receive full sun. When the pavement is so scorching hot you could fry an egg on it, it creates a hot zone right next to your house. Creating shade makes the whole area cooler.
And it’s not just the shade that does it -- evapotranspiration plays a part, as well. Evapotranspiration is the process by which plants release water vapor, and it can significantly cool the air in the immediate area. Have you ever been inside a hedge maze and noticed that it felt cooler inside? That’s because you’re surrounded by tall bushes that are constantly releasing vapor!
Break Wind With Pride
When other shrubberies wither up for the winter, evergreens can stay hard at work as part of your HVAC efficiency strategy. But instead of providing shade, these come in handy for their ability to block the wind.
Used as windbreak on the north and northwest sides of a home, rows of shrubs can help cut down on drafts before they even reach your house. For the best windbreaking ability, choose dense evergreens that provide cover all the way to the ground, which can even guard against windblown snow.
When planting shrubs as windbreak, the ideal distance from the home is two to five times the mature height of the shrub species. If they’re planted too close to the house, evapotranspiration could create humidity problems or trap moisture against the side of your home.
It’s always helpful to consult your local garden center experts about the selection of species. While many bushes work well for shade and as windbreak, choosing specific plants comes down to your local climate. If you’re also interested in conserving water, ask about xeriscaping -- the practice of using native plants to minimize watering.
Just be sure to factor in mature shrub size when planning your layout, and avoid planting within two feet of your air conditioning unit -- to keep things cool inside, you’ll need plenty of air circulation around the unit outside.
Happy planting! If you’re ready to explore more ways to lower your heating and cooling bills, reach out to your local HVAC professionals.