Landscapeing for Energy Savings

Energy efficiency is important to everyone on the planet. There are many things you can do to reduce energy use across your entire home. There are some big ticket items that have a huge return on investment. Primarily, using only high efficiency appliances will significantly reduce your costs. Secondly, construction techniques and materials that help you save energy will also save you a lot. Things like installing proper insulation, double pained glass windows and sealing drafts are simple things any homeowner can do. You can spend a lot of money on equipment to lower you energy consumption, however there are some things you can do outside your home which will help your pocketbook.
Landscaping is an overlooked way you can change the amount of energy your home consumes.

House Built Into The Side Of A Hill (source: govoluntourism.com)

The orientation of your home is important. Houses that face south tend to have lower heating cost and higher cooling costs. This is from more direct sunlight hitting the home. Conversely, homes facing north have the opposite benefits.
This may seem like it wouldn’t make a difference. Assuming two identical houses on the same property but one facing north and one south, how could they consume different amounts of energy?. The difference in the amount of home heating from the sun comes from the fact that most houses have more windows on the front of a house. Windows let sun into the home, and that sun heats the interior directly. So you can see how orientation can affect heating costs. To be completely specific, the “front” of the house is irrelevant. But the total amount of glass facing south is very important. If you want to heat your home easier have more glass, want to cool it easier then have less glass. Below is a paragraph outlining how to get the solar heating in the winter and some cooling in the summer all with planting the right kind of tree.

Deciduous trees should be planted on the south side of the building. In the summer the tree will provide shade and cool the house. In the winter when the leaves are all gone more sunlight will hit the house and help heat the home.

Tree Layout for Energy Savings (source: http://www.thedailygreen.com)

On the north facing side of the building an earthen mound will mitigate the worst winter temperatures. You can also build into the side of hill if one is available. Earthen material does nor change temperature as fast as the atmosphere and it will block even the most fiercest wind. If you look at pictures of cities in the extreme north they are usually built into the side of a hill. Anything to block the house from the typically cold northern wind will make a difference.

Coniferous trees on the east and west sides provide a good wind break. 2 more earthen mounds will do this as well, but trees are much easier to come buy and are more asethically pleasing to potential buyers. Trees also make it less like you are living underground then earth on three sides would.

How A Windbreak Works (source: http://www.fao.org)

Large bodies of water regulate temperature a lot better than land does. Water takes a long time to heat up and a long time to cool down. This is why coast areas are cooler in the summer and milder in the winter. Locating on the coast or beside a lake will help your energy costs. Coastal areas are also windier so the wind breaks (earth mound or trees) become that much more important.

Grading of the property is also important. Most people only grade for water dispersal and to prevent water entering the home. Grading to keep water away will also help cold air flow away.

Keeping cold air and excessive heat away from you home can be achieved with proper landscaping.  Keeping cold air away from your home will significantly lower your heating costs.  Shading the high heat areas of the home from direct sunlight will significantly lower your cooling costs. If planting some trees can lower monthly bills, then it is definitely worth doing.

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How To Build A Passive Solar Heater

A passive solar heater is a simple thing you can make to help heat your home. It obviously will not work at night, but it can reduce heating costs during the day. This solar heater is very simple and can be made with items already in your house.  This heater works in a similar way to a solar oven, but is simpler and doesn’t get as hot.  All you have to do is place the heater in a window that gets sunlight. The black paint warms the trapped air in the bin till it leaves through the top hole, drawing in colder air through the bottom holes in a chimney effect.  This type of heater is perfect for a greenhouse or to supplement heat in a colder room in your house.   They can add a significant amount of heat if you use multiple heaters.

You will need:

  1. Clear rubbermaid bin (Different sizes will produce different amounts of heat).
  2. Black paint (flat finish).
  3. Paint brush (or spray paint in item 2).
  4. Clear plastic wrap (clearer the better and thicker is better too).
  5. Cutting tool for plastic (doorknob drill bit 2″ in diameter works best).

The basic construction is this: Continue reading