It’s cold out there! And, sunlight is at a premium during these short winter days. It’s a perfect time of year to tuck in by a warm fire; but as heating bills climb, it’s also a good time to consider how your landscape can help you stay warm.
Yep, that’s right, there are some landscape design concepts you can employ to help reduce your heating costs during these winter months.
|Diagram from Greentech Construction|
One of the basic principles of passive solar design is to orient a house with respect to the sun’s path. That typically means choosing (or building) a home where the long axis is perpendicular to true south. This allows for the maximum area of windows to be located on the south side, which provides the most opportunity for passive heating. Ideally, the north side of the house, which gets the least amount of sunlight (and the most amount of wind), has fewer windows.
|Diagram from Greenspec|
While many of us can’t change the orientation of our house, or the window area, you can plant trees in your landscape to accentuate the natural heating and cooling effects of the sun. One way to do that is to plant deciduous trees (the ones that loose their leaves) on the south and western facing sides of your home. That way, the leaves shade your home in the heat of the summer, but in winter, when the branches are bare, the sun’s light and warmth can penetrate through to your home.
|Diagram from the University of Missouri|
One of the other ways you can put your landscape to work for efficient heating and cooling is to take advantage of the prevailing wind direction where you live. Here in Boston, the prevailing wind direction is from the west in the winter, and from the east in the summer. With that data in mind, creating a wind break to the west will protect your home during the winter, and opening up pathways to the east to funnel summer breezes will help cool you down in the warm months. Windbreaks are best created using a variety of both evergreen and deciduous trees, planted in a staggered layout.
The website, Windfinder offers great data on wind direction, specific to where you live.
|Energy efficient landscape elements|
A final landscape element that can be used for thermal efficiency is a foundation planting. Typically used to cover less than attractive foundations, these hedges of plants also provide a layer of insulation around your house. The best approach is to leave a bit of a gap between the shrubs and your home, this dead space reduces the chance of moisture infiltrating the home, and it provides a thermal pocket that serves as a layer of insulation.
For more tips on energy efficiency check out Landscape Plantings for Energy Efficiency from the University of Missouri, or this article from Better Homes and Gardens