Friday, June 4, 2010

Outdoor Tips to Cut Energy Usage

It’s finally warm enough to turn your attention outside. In honor of the coming summer, here are five energy savers you can put into use in your yard.
  1. Block the sun. Plant deciduous trees and shrubs on the sunny (south) side of your home to provide shade and reduce the toll on your air conditioners. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a shady air conditioner can increase efficiency by up to 10% because cool air settles near the ground, so air temps directly under trees can be as much as 25° F cooler. Plant deciduous trees with high, spreading branches on the south side of your home for maximum roof shading. Plant lower-growing trees on the west side, where the sun sets and therefore has a lower angle. If your home is solar-heated and you live in a cold climate, don’t plant trees on the south side because deciduous branches will block some winter sun. For shade year-round, use dense evergreen trees or shrubs.
  2. Block the wind. Evergreen trees and shrubs planted on the north and northwest sides of your house make an effective windbreak. If you don’t want all trees, add a wall or fence to deflect wind. A windbreak can reduce wind speed for a distance of as much as 30 times the windbreak’s height. For maximum protection, plant trees a distance of two to five times the mature height of the trees away from your home. This gives optimum protection while giving the trees room to grow. Also, don’t plant too close to the south side of your house if you need the warm winter sun to help passively heat your house. If snow tends to drift in your area, especially up against your house, plant low shrubs on the windward side of your windbreak to trap snow.
  3. Try xeriscaping. Choose plants indigenous to your area because they have the best chance of surviving with minimal water, upkeep and pesticides. Since they are native to the area, they are used to the conditions. If you must control pests, try integrated pest management, which uses greener methods such as the introduction of safe predators to control pest populations. Both praying mantises and ladybugs feed on plant-chomping pests.
  4. Turn off the lights. Your porch light is one of the most-used fixtures in your home. Instead of trying to remember to turn it off when you let the dog in and go to bed, install a motion sensor. If you think that neighborhood critters and teens will set it off every 10 seconds, nix the motion-sensor and opt for energy-efficient products like CFLs or LED bulbs. You still may forget to turn the light off, but at least it won’t cost as much.
  5. Install awnings. Solar radiation through windows is responsible for approximately 20 percent of the load on your air conditioner. Awnings over windows and patio doors can reduce heat gain on southern windows by up to 65 percent and up to 77 percent for western exposures. This shade can reduce your home’s internal temperature by 8° to 15° F, which can reduce your cooling bill and reduce wear on your AC.

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