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Check Out Where Outdoor Plants Can Keep Your Indoors Warm & Cool

Here’s a winter task that can save money on your energy bills throughout the year. Use this cold weather to check out where your home is drafty and determine whether outdoor plants can help reduce the effects of those drafts.

Tree and shrub placement, as well as species selection, can reduce energy bills year round. The general rule is that planting evergreens on the north and west side of your home can protect it from winter winds. Planting deciduous trees to the south and east can let the sun increase your home’s warmth in winter and reduce the amount of sun beating down on it in summer. But, that’s just a generality. Here’s the rest of the story.

The U.S. Forest Services says that three “optimal and well placed landscape trees” can reduce the annual heating and cooling cost of a well insulated home by 6.5 percent annually. These don’t necessarily have to be very tall trees. A row of 20 foot evergreens can protect an area up to 200 feet from them. This row of trees will direct wind up and over your home, much like those deflectors you see on big trucks going down the highway.

Plant shrubs near the foundation where they’ll act as a buffer to cold air coming into the building. Planting more shrubs further away from the house on the side of the prevailing wind can act as a snow fence.

Before physicists or heating and air conditioning people add comments, let me say that I know cold is caused by heat loss. However, winter winds blow cold air from the outside into the same openings in which heated air escapes. The bottom line is that the furnace has to work harder and use more expensive energy to warm the home.

Just the opposite is true in summer. The sun can heat the whole surface of the house and it can penetrate those heat loss openings. This means that the air conditioner has to work overtime. Tall, broad deciduous trees, strategically planted between the sun and the house, can reduce the intensity of the sun’s rays so the heat doesn’t penetrate the house as much. That’s why these trees are called shade trees.

Planting shrubs beside paved areas like sidewalks and driveways can reduce the pavement temperature from the transpiration of water through their leaves during photosynthesis.

Taking all these aesthetic and climatic considerations into consideration when designing a landscape and selecting plants can be a daunting task. Our designers would be happy to take that burden off your shoulders, and now is a good time to get started. The designer can visit your home and check on prevailing winds, sun angles at various times of the day, and snow drift patterns and then have a plan ready for installation first thing in the spring.

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