Guest Blog by Vivi Wong, LawnStarter
The Florida elms, palms, bald cypress, and flowering dogwoods that adorn the homes in Gainesville offer more than just beauty. All that landscaping greenery also increases your home’s energy efficiency and saves you money on your electric bill.
It’s no surprise Gainesville is one of America’s best places to live. Winter high temperatures average in the 70’s with lows in the 40’s. But the summer sun and 90-degree temps can be a little uncomfortable. Sheltering your home from the sun cuts down on your home’s energy usage by as much as 25%.
East and west-facing walls absorb heat through direct morning and afternoon sunlight, which makes the air conditioner work harder. Prevent heat from entering the house (rather than cooling down the interior) to reduce your electric bill.
Getting Started: Landscaping Your Home
Designing the landscape to cut down on energy usage is more than digging through the soil. First, make a list of the potential hot spots. Some windows need more shade, and some areas tend to be more humid. Figure out how much effort it takes the central air system to cool down each room.
Professional Landscaping or DIY?
Hiring a landscape architect in Gainesville will cost an average of $2,200. But the return on that investment is substantial. These experts will design your property with trees, plants, shrubs, vines, and hardscaping to keep heat and humidity at bay. (And if you’re planning to build a home in Gainesville, special landscaping beautifies the package).
For the Do It Yourselfer, consider these ideas for energy-efficient landscaping:
- Place trees near south and west side windows to block direct sunlight. Deciduous trees block heavy sun in the summer but still allow sunlight to filter through in cooler weather after leaves have fallen.
- Plant trees in clusters to create cool zones of shade.
- Plant annual or perennial vines on trellises near windows to shade glass panes. Florida’s native deciduous vines like red trumpet creeper, confederate jasmine, lavender milk pea, and coral honeysuckle produce leafy greenery to filter the sunlight.
- Layer evergreen or deciduous trees by planting two or three rows to shelter from the heat. These trees will also protect your home from overly cold Florida winters, if the temperature drops below 40. Place a row of shrubs or low-growing flowering trees closest to the house. Then plant leafy deciduous trees. Fill the last row with evergreens like palms, conifers, and yews.
Seize the Breeze!
Gainesville isn’t on the water’s edge, but cool Atlantic breezes waft toward the middle of the Sunshine State. Fences, shade trees, and shrubs help to guide light gusts and soft winds to your backyard. Planting a row of trees on one side of the house and a wall on the other side creates a wind tunnel to draw breezes.
Pergolas made with wooden roofs and slats hold fabrics in place to block the late-day sun. Vines allow cool breezes through and will not trap heat. Hand-cranked or automatic awnings provide shade, especially near sliding glass doors.
Tall privacy fences and living wall vertical gardens made of wood won’t get as hot as metal structures, and you can dress them with flowers and vines.
Outdoor fountains create a nice little breeze to help cool off the backyard.
Tips for Landscaping Your Home
Take care not to cut off the circulation outside. Your house must “breathe” air to allow for drying by the sun and wind, especially after a heavy rain. An overly-shaded house may create higher energy and maintenance bills if lights are always on and the air conditioner or dehumidifier is constantly running to control household moisture.
Study the wind and sun around your house and yard during each season. Knowing how strongly the sun shines through the property helps to determine what kind of trees to plant, and where. Shading the windows and glass doors will help reflect the sunlight away from your home.
Vivi Wong inherited her father’s landscaping company at 28, but she’s been taking care of her own gardens for as long as she can remember. She especially loves flowers, and peonies are the fastest way to her heart.