(leaf-shedding) tree, for example, costsabout as much as an awning for one largewindow and can ultimately save yourhousehold hundreds of dollars in reducedcooling costs, yet still admit some wintersunshine to reduce heating and lightingcosts. Landscaping can save you money insummer or winter.
You may have noticed the coolness of parks and wooded areas compared to thetemperature of nearby city streets. Shad-ing and evapotranspiration (the processby which a plant actively moves andreleases water vapor) from trees canreduce surrounding air temperatures asmuch as 9˚F (5˚C). Because cool air settlesnear the ground, air temperatures directlyunder trees can be as much as 25˚F (14˚C)cooler than air temperatures above nearbyblacktop. Studies by the Lawrence Berke-ley Laboratory found summer daytime airtemperatures to be 3˚F to 6˚F (2˚C to 3˚C)cooler in tree-shaded neighborhoods thanin treeless areas.Awell-planned landscape can reduce anunshaded home’s summer air-conditioningcosts by 15% to 50%. One Pennsylvaniastudy reported air-conditioning savings of as much as 75% for small mobile homes.
You may be familiar with wind chill. If the outside temperature is 10˚F (-12˚C)and the wind speed is 20 miles per hour(32 kilometers per hour), the wind chill is-24˚F (-31˚C). Trees, fences, or geographicalfeatures can be used as windbreaks toshield your house from the wind.Astudy in South Dakota found that wind-breaks to the north, west, and east of houses cut fuel consumption by an aver-age of 40%. Houses with windbreaksplaced only on the windward side (theside from which the wind is coming) aver-aged 25% less fuel consumption than simi-lar but unprotected homes. If you live in awindy climate, your well-planned land-scape can reduce your winter heating billsby approximately one-third.
Landscaping for aCleaner Environment
Widespread tree planting and climate-appropriate landscaping offer substantialenvironmental benefits. Trees and vegeta-tion control erosion, protect water sup-plies, provide food, create habitat forwildlife, and clean the air by absorbingcarbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.The National Academy of Sciences (NAS)estimates that urban America has 100 mil-lion potential “tree spaces” (i.e., spaceswhere trees could be planted). NAS fur-ther estimates that filling these spaceswith trees and lightening the color of dark,urban surfaces would result in annualenergy savings of 50 billion kilowatt-hours—25% of the 200 billion kilowatt-hours consumed every year by airconditioners in the United States. Thiswould reduce electric power plant emis-sions of carbon dioxide by 35 milliontons (32 million metric tons) annually andsave users of utility-supplied electricity$3.5 billion each year (assuming an aver-age of $0.07 per kilowatt-hour).Also, some species of trees, bushes, andgrasses require less water than others.Some species are naturally more resistantto pests, so they require less pesticides.Another alternative to pesticides is
inte-grated pest management,
an emerging fieldthat uses least-toxic pest control strategies.One example is to introduce certaininsects such as praying mantises or lady-bugs to feed on—and limit populationsof—landscape-consuming pests.Certain grasses, such as buffalo grass andfescue, only grow to a certain height—roughly 6 inches (15 centimeters) and arewater thrifty. By using these species, youcan eliminate the fuel, water, and timeconsumption associated with lawn mow-ing, watering, and trimming. Also, recentstudies have found that gasoline-poweredmowers, edge trimmers, and leaf blowerscontribute to air pollution.
Landscaping may be your best long-terminvestment for reducing heating and cooling costs.