Landscaping Done Right: Safety and Savings

Done right, landscaping can keep your house safe and reduce energy bills. Here’s how.

Everyone wants a yard that looks as if it were plucked from the cover of a magazine. But there’s more than curb appeal to consider. What and where you plant can also impact your home’s energy efficiency and safety.

Keep Cool with Shade

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, temperatures can be up to 25 degrees cooler in the shade than in unshaded areas. In the summer, that can make a big difference in the heat your house absorbs. Deciduous trees planted to the southeast and southwest can cast a shadow over the house during the morning and afternoon, cutting radiant heat by as much as 80 percent.

Reduce Wildfire Threats

Homeowners in fire-prone areas can take steps to reduce the number of plants that could ignite in a wildfire situation. The general rule is to maintain a 30-foot buffer zone around the house that’s free of trees and shrubs. Another fire-wise approach is to create an open landscape design, with widely spaced trees and shrubs that are trimmed up high off the ground. And select native plants for your landscape, which are more fire-resistant than transplanted materials.

Keep Basements Dry

Direct water away from your foundation — and your basement — with proper grading. Make sure the dirt around your foundation slopes away from the house and toward the yard to whisk water away. Plant flowers and grasses near your house to help drink up any excess.

Block Cold Wind

Planting a windbreak can slow biting cold winds and reduce your heating bill. Evergreens planted on the northwest side of a home save you up to 25 percent on winter energy bills. Plantings on the north, east and west in a windy area can save up to 40 percent.

The most successful windbreaks deflect winds up and over the house. These windbreaks have four stages: low shrubs planted farthest from the house, followed by larger bushes closer in, then deciduous trees, and finally evergreens.

Avoid Ice Damage

Property damage caused by ice storms is often something that can be prevented. Keep your tree branches trimmed and away from the house to avoid falling limbs.

Contact a professional landscaper or a university extension office to learn about suitable plants for your area. And learn more about landscaping for energy efficiency at