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Landscaping Strategies to Keep Your Home Cooler

It's no secret that heating and cooling costs add up to half of your home's total energy use. Indoor comfort and climate controls are a top concern, but not much thought is given to modifying the outdoor climate with energy-saving landscaping. If you're interested in reducing electric bills and increasing the energy efficiency of your home, landscaping is a great way to achieve your goals. In concert with smart thermostat settings, air conditioning repairs and preventive maintenance, landscaping can generate significant savings.

How Much Energy Can Smart Landscaping Save?

Researchers at Colorado State University found that landscaping can reduce cooling costs by 50 percent and heating costs by 25 percent. Teams used a combination of trees, shrubs, trellises, arbors and vines to reduce solar radiation and wind infiltration. Shading the roof of your home can reduce indoor temperatures by 8 to 10 degrees and help your air conditioner work more efficiently. Trees and shrubs that shade the walls of your home and shelter your outdoor compressor are also beneficial. The American Refrigeration Institute found that shaded air conditioning units kept indoor temperatures 3 degrees lower. Shading your home from the hot summer sun is the primary goal of earth-friendly landscaping, but tall shade trees aren't the only plants that reduce home cooling requirements. Grass and low-growing groundcovers can lower soil temperatures by 12 to 15 degrees and reduce the heat island effect associated with driveways, patios and hard surfaces.

Create Energy-Saving Shade with Landscape Plants

For maximum savings, energy experts recommend that homeowners plant an arc of deciduous hardwood trees that shade the eastern, southern and western sides of their home. Grape vines, wisterias, kiwis and bougainvilleas are great for shading walls and patios if you have an arbor or trellis. Small and mid-sized trees are good candidates for shading single-story ranch homes. Multi-story homes require larger trees. Fast-growing, disease-resistant hardwoods are ideal for planting approximately 15 to 20 feet away from homes. The Texas A&M Forest Service recommends these proven trees for home landscaping.

  • Crape myrtles
  • Dogwoods
  • Redbuds
  • Pecans
  • Lacebark elms
  • River birches
  • Mountain laurels
  • Viburnums
  • Mexican plums
  • Mesquite trees
  • Maples
  • Oaks

Landscaping For Your Air Conditioner

Shade trees are effective for lowering temperatures around your home, improving energy efficiency and reducing electric bills. However, shrubs and trees should never be planted where they block your air conditioner's outdoor components. Ideally, foliage should be three feet away from the sides and top of your compressor. Additionally, avoid blowing grass clippings toward the unit since this can block air, increase home cooling costs and create conditions that require air conditioning repairs.

If you aren't happy with the performance of your current HVAC system, have a NATE-certified contractor inspect your equipment. Texas Air Comfort is proud to represent experienced service providers in Austin, Amarillo, Lubbock and other major metropolitan areas. To get started, use our online tool to find a contractor in your area.

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