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Landscaping for Energy Savings

Tips to help you save energy and improve comfort

Guest writer Michelle Andersen is the Design Director for Flourish Landscape and Interior Design.

Properly insulating and air sealing your home will improve your overall comfort and reduce your energy usage. However, even after these improvements, your home likely remains exposed to the impacts of the sun and wind. A well planned landscape design can enhance the curb appeal of your home and provide energy saving benefits.

Here are some of my top landscaping tips that can help you improve the savings and comfort of your home year-round.

  1. Screen areas that have high wind exposure with evergreen trees to protect your home from heat loss. For smaller urban yards a columnar arborvitae or juniper screen in a zigzag line works well. I place them in a zigzag for a more natural look. If you have more space, try Spruce or Spring Grove Arborvitae.
  2. Plant a deciduous tree to shade parts of your home that get hot from sun exposure. While the leaves on the trees will block the summer sun, the winter sun will be allowed to warm the home after the leaves drop. Choose a tree that has a full canopy such as a Maple and find out how tall it will grow – there are Maple cultivars that will stay as small as 25’ tall that work well for small yards. Be sure to place the tree at least that far from the foundation of your home. For narrow spaces try the Franz Fontaine Hornbeam in a row of 3 or 5.
  3. Tree lined streets create a microclimate that cools neighborhoods and can lower your cooling needs by as much as 20%. Check with your municipality to see what street tree programs they have. The City of Cincinnati’s Releaf program provides a free tree for homeowners in the fall that they can plant in their front yard. Sometimes you can request a tree or pay to have one planted in your tree lawn, the strip between the sidewalk and the road. For those without a tree lawn, consider planting trees on your own and encourage the neighbors to do the same for and added bonus of increased property value.
  4. Lawns are a beautiful and conventional way to keep a low maintenance landscape, but they don’t have many environmentally friendly qualities. Transform portions of your lawn into landscape beds that contain a small native tree such as a Serviceberry, Dogwood, or Redbud to create a cooling effect in the summer as well as reduce the mowing needed.
  5. Hardscaping can attract and hold heat from the sun. Patios, driveways, and any other hard surface made of concrete, stone, asphalt, or pavers can improve your property value, but they also attract and hold heat from the sun. Shade hardscape surfaces with trees or a roof structure or choose a light color surface. This will also make these spaces more enjoyable and usable during our hottest days.

Properly designing your landscape can greatly enhance the way you function in your outdoor space and provide energy saving benefits. Try implementing some of these tips on your own or consult with a landscaper or designer for a more professional approach.

For information on consultations and design plans contact Michelle at michelle@flourishcincinnati.com or 859-815-0068.

Energy Tip: Fall DIY Check List

1. Replace Furnace Air Filter

Make sure your furnace is ready to work! Start the cold season with a clean air filter and do the research about your system to find out how often your filters should be changed or cleaned to keep your furnace working efficiently and to maintain healthy indoor air quality. Now is also a good time to schedule furnace maintenance with your HVAC provider.

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2. Clean, Re-Caulk, and Weatherize Windows

Fall is a great time to wash the exterior of your windows (before it gets too cold) and to inspect the exterior caulking of wood framed windows. Remember, even if you have high efficiency windows, if they are not sealed around the frames, you will lose a lot of heat through air infiltration. If you need to recaulk your windows, remove the old caulk, use an appropriate heavy-duty exterior window caulk, and press into place to ensure a good seal. Install weather strips on the interior of windows while you’re at it! A good test you can do is to close your window on a sheet of paper. If you can remove the paper, you need to address the seal of the window.

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3. Check Roof for Leaks

It is a good idea to inspect your roof for critter or weather damage before we are left with short days and cold nights. Inspect for leaks inside. Outside, look for lifted shingles, wood chips, or shavings. If the damage is only shingle deep, all you need are some matching shingles and roofing nails to keep your house covered. If there is more extensive damage, call a professional.

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4. Winterize Electrical Outlets

Electrical penetrations and outlets are often an avenue for air infiltration in the home, contributing to draftiness and energy waste. If you remove the faceplates of your outlets, especially of exterior walls, you can accomplish two things: check the integrity of the wiring (look for missing caps, blackened wires, and check the output with a handheld meter while you’re at it), and you can insulate and air seal the cavity with foam gaskets before replacing the faceplate. Don’t forget to shut off your electricity if you need to repair any of the wiring of the outlet!

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5. Assess the Attic

If you do one thing this winter, change your furnace filters. Make your second task winterizing your windows and doors. Third on that list should be addressing the dreaded attic: insulation, sealing, and ventilation. Consult our Know Thy Attic article to get started.

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Energy Tip: A Windbreak is Worth A Thousand BTUs

We spend most of our time focusing on all the little (and big things) we can do inside the home to be more energy efficient. This month, we are taking a look outside the home. Landscaping can have a huge effect on your home’s heating and cooling needs (and water needs, come to think of it).Because we live in a classified cool/temperate region, we should be making landscaping choices both for our hot and humid summers and cold, windy winters. If your home is within a microclimate and experiences extremes atypical for our region, take those conditions into consideration with planting for shade and or windbreaks.

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3 Ways to Landscape for Efficiency

  1. Create Shade: Shade south and west facing windows and walls from direct summer sun with deciduous trees if overheating is a problem.
  2. Winter Sun: Allow the winter sun to reach southward facing windows and walls.
  3. Create Windbreaks: In the winter, the windbreak should deflect winter winds away from the house with trees on the north and northwest side of the house. Dense evergreens work well for this. Ideally in the summer, breezes can be tunneled toward the house. Windbreaks have many additional benefits:
    • Reduce heating and cooling costs by 25% or more by lowering approaching wind velocities by up to 90%.
    • Alleviate hot summer days by acting like air conditioners as trees transpire.
    • Protect the home from windstorms and prevent large snow drifts and run off.
    • Beautify the landscape and attract game and songbirds and other wildlife.
    • Increase growth and qualityof growing plants and trees by lowering evaporation rates.

Learn more about windbreaks

4 Ways to Cool Days with Poolside Savings

It’s official. The dog days of summer are here.

Granted, the river (or sea) isn’t boiling as was predicted during the dog days of Ancient Roman times, but creatures are certainly turning languid in this heat. If you are one of the many lucky local residents who have access to a swimming pool, you are enjoying its refreshment as much as you can.

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Indoors, we know you are doing your best to stay cool. Hopefully last month’s 5 Ways to Beat the Heat helped you find ways to bring down the thermostat at home while also bringing down your energy bill.This month, as the dog days continue, we’re taking a look at 4 more ways to beat the heat at the pool while also cutting down your pool maintenance costs. You might be surprised to learn how much you can save.

1. Pump It Up

Variable Speed: Energy efficient pumps move water through your pool more effectively and more efficiently, which means the whole pool system benefits, and your operating budget will too. Energy efficient pumps come in two-speed, four-speed, and variable-speed models.

We recommend the variable speed because it gives you the greatest control over when and how your pump is running and how much you can save. Up to eight speeds handle all your pool’s needs with precision tuned pump speeds for everyday use, filtering, cleaning, etc.

Reduced Size: Because an energy efficient pump does its work more efficiently and effectively, a smaller pump can do the job and use less energy to do it.

Less Pump Time: A variable speed pump runs up to 60% less than a regular pump. The less your pump runs, the more you can save.

Peace and Quiet: Energy efficient pumps vibrate less, which makes them run more quietly and last longer.

You can achieve up to 75% pool related energy savings if you install a variable pool pump.

To learn more about energy efficient pool equipment, visit Pentair.com.

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2. Clean and Covered

Clean and Green: Covered pools stay cleaner! Less debris and less chemical evaporation means you and your pool equipment need to work less to keep the pool clean. Keeping intake grates free of debris makes life easier on your pump.

Reduce evaporation: Saving water means saving money. Keep your pool full by preventing surface evaporation with a solar pool cover. In cooler temperatures, a solar cover also helps keep your pool temperature comfortable and cuts down on heating needs; 95% of pool heat loss is through the surface.

Clean Practices: Circulate water through the filter once a day and backwash the filter only as much as necessary to conserve water. Keeping your filters clean is one of the keys to maintaining your pump’s efficiency and minimizing expenditures.

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3. Timing is Everything

Filtration: Run filtration systems during off-peak times to save energy expenses, typically between 8pm-10am.

Water Heater: If you need to use a water heater in addition to a solar cover, run the heater on an automatic timer to run several short cycles throughout the day. Be smart about heating: lower the temperature during the week by 8-10 degrees if you only use your pool on weekends. Turn the heater off when you are on vacation for more than a week.

Smart scheduling: Similar to the benefits of a home thermostat like the Nest, automated systems ensure energy is being wisely used to keep the pool comfortable when it is needed but not wasting energy when the pool is not in use.

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4. Around the Pool

Use plants wisely: Fencing, windbreaks, hedges, and landscaping that shelter your pool from wind prevent unnecessary heat loss.

Light it up! Replace pool and exterior light bulbs with LEDs to dramatically cut lighting expenses (while dramatically lighting your pool).

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Realize the Savings

You may be surprised to learn that by simply replacing a single-speed pump with a variable-speed model and covering a heated pool, a homeowner can generate annual savings that are comparable to the savings made by upgrading a 2,500-square-foot, single story home to ENERGY STAR® levels.

5 Ways to Beat the Heat

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Summer is here and it’s shaping up to be hot. It’s tempting to crank up the AC, but getting a higher energy bill can be a real strain on the wallet.

Resist the urge to blast the cold air, and try some cost effective cool down tricks. You can easily cut your energy bills without taking a toll on your comfort level within your home.

Beat the heat by following these 5 energy efficiency guidelines:

1. Control Your Appliances

Unplug It: If you’re not using your electronic devices, or lights, be sure to turn them off and unplug them from the wall. Computers, chargers, TVs and other gadgets still suck up electricity – even when they’re not on!

Clean the Coils: Increase your refrigerator temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and clean the condenser coils behind the fridge to reduce some strain on your energy bill.

Switch Out Your Bulbs: By replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, you’re saving energy and cooling down your space. CFL bulbs don’t use as much energy and consequently don’t give off as much heat as traditional light bulbs. The heat from the incandescent is wasted energy, and the CFL bulbs focus all their energy on the light source

To learn more on lighting efficiency, check out Energy Tip: Lighting Matters.

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2. Take Care of Cold Air

Support Your AC: If you do use an air conditioner, give it some care to help it run better. Replace the air filter if it is dirty, and if it’s programmable, schedule the system to warm up a few degrees when no one is home.

For more tips on cold air care, check out some of our past energy tips on programmable thermostats and HVAC tune-ups.

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3. Pull The Shades

Window shades: Not only do curtains, blinds, drapes and shades add an aesthetic quality to your decor, they also help keep the heat out! If you draw the shades during the day, you help to reflect sunlight coming in to your space and heating things up. You can purchase specially insulated drapes just for this purpose (and they’ll help keep the heat in come wintertime!)

For more windows tips, check out Energy Tip: Windows Dressed for Success from our previous newsletter.

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4. Keep Your Cool Air FAN-tasitic

Use fans wisely! During cooler days, and always during summer evenings, open windows and use ceiling fans instead of operating the AC. If the heat is just too unbearable, turn the AC no lower than 75 degrees and run the fans to help circulate the cool air.

Even more tips on how to keep your fan use “balanced” in this months newsletter
Energy Tip: Balance Your Fan Use.

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5. Schedule a Home Energy Assessment

A Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® whole home energy assessment informs you how to improve your home’s energy efficiency and comfort. Contact the Energy Alliance today to get started!

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