Can your landscape design help you lower your cooling and heating costs?

Yes, absolutely. Landscaping isn't only about beautifying your home and adding to its worth: You can use your garden as part of a plan to save money and the environment.

You'll be able to save on winter heating costs by growing a snow fence to keep the biggest snow drifts away from your house. A dense coniferous hedge can block a good deal of snow, protecting your home and your yard. Be sure to consider the appropriate height and width of the fence to ensure the best possible protection. A further way to keep the cold from your house is with windbreaks. You have only to step outside on a windy winter day to know how much wind-chill can lower the perceived temperature. Breaking up the gusts before they reach your house can result in significantly less cold. The best living windbreaks are evergreens with about 60 percent foliage density. You will need to have a combination of both tall trees and somewhat lower shrubs or bushes. A rim of plants right near your house can also create an insulating space around the building, which traps the warmer air and keeps out the cold in winter. In the summer it will do the opposite job, keeping cool air nearby.


Shade is your friend in hot summer times, and a single tree with a large shadow can make a real difference to how hot it gets inside. The tree's transpiration and water vapor evaporation help lower the ambient temperature too: One tree can make a difference of 9 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius). [source: U.S. Department of Energy] Choose deciduous trees for this job, so that the leaves shade you in the hotter months, but the sunlight and its warmth will come back in after the leaves have fallen.

If you design your garden with these ideas in mind, you're going to be using less electricity or fuel for heating and cooling throughout the year; that means a smaller carbon footprint as well as smaller bills.