Incorporating Proper Shading Into Your Landscape

May 27, 2009

Everyone loves a beautifully landscaped yard. It provides a lovely, welcoming setting for your home. Many times, homeowners don’t realize that with some basic knowledge about their home and gardening, creativity and planning, their beautiful landscaping can actually save them money on their energy bills. Heat absorbed from the sun comes through your windows and roofs and can increase your air conditioner use. Incorporating shading concepts into your landscape design can help reduce this solar heat gain, reducing your cooling costs.

To use shade effectively you need to know some basics about your home and its setting. Look at the size, shape and location of the moving shadow that moves over your house during the day. You will also need to know what type of landscape strategies will work best in your regional climate and microclimate. You can go to the Energy Savers website to get this information.

Shading can reduce the surrounding air temperatures by as much as nine degrees Fahrenheit. Because cool air settles near the ground, air temperatures directly under trees can be as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than temperatures above nearby blacktop.

Selecting trees does require some know-how. Look for appropriate sizes, densities, and shapes for almost any shading application. For example use trees that lose their leaves in the fall to cool your house in the summer but allow the sun to come through in the winter for additional heating. To provide year-round shade or to block heavy or cold winds, use dense trees such as evergreens and shrubs.

It is recommended to plant slower growing trees even though it may take several years before you begin to see the shading benefits. In general, slower growing trees tend to live longer and have stronger branches, which is important in windy or snowy regions and if they are close to your home. Also, slow growing trees will be more drought resistant.

Usually, depending on the species and the home, a deciduous tree – a tree that loses its leaves in the fall – should begin shading your windows in the first year. Usually they will shade the roof in five to ten years.

An added benefit to landscaping is that trees, shrubs and groundcover will shade the ground and pavement around the home and reduces heat radiation and cools the air before it reaches your home. Shrubs around a home can also be a great barrier against hard and cold winds in the winter season. Be sure not to plant shrubs too closely to the home where wetness and humidity can become a problem. Keep a distance between the shrubs and the house to allow air to circulate to keep the home and ground around the home reasonably dry.

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