State University Extension
Home Maintenance And Repair
Energy Tips - Energy Conservation Landscaping-Summer Cooling
and summer breezes can make homes cooler and reduce air conditioning
costs, but remember the tradeoff between summer cooling and winter
heating from the sun. In climates with cold winters, summer shading
must be balanced with the need to allow winter sun to shine directly on
the house. Landscaping that shades south and southwest facing windows
and walls, shades south-facing roof surfaces, and protects the air
conditioning units will be most helpful for summer cooling.
Deciduous trees are used for shade in the summer, but, even after they
lose their leaves, they can block significant amounts of winter sun.
Also, try to limit the use of paved surfaces in your landscape. The air
temperature above paved surfaces will be higher than the temperature
above grass or ground covers. Using trees that shade paved surfaces
during the hottest part of the day will help keep surfaces cooler.
Plan Your Landscape for Summer Tree
Trees are the key plants for providing summer shade. Those with broad,
spreading crowns are the most desirable. Some trees will have low or
drooping branching habits, and some tree species have weeping or
columnar habits so these cultivars are not well suited to provide
shade. Avoid the use of such trees since the low branches will tend to
block cooling summer breezes. If the crown consists of few small twigs,
less winter sun will be blocked when the tree loses its leaves in
Select trees that have no serious pest problems and resist the
temptation to plant fast-growing trees, as they are generally
weak-wooded and often have serious pest problems. Also, these trees are
more susceptible to storm damage and usually live just a short time.
Only trees can do an effective job of shading the roof. The distance
from the tree to the house must be sufficient to avoid damage to the
house but close enough to provide effective shade. Large trees should
be no closer than 20 feet and medium-sized trees no closer than 15
feet. It may not be possible to shade the entire roof surface. However,
shading just some of the roof during most of the day will provide
One disadvantage of having trees too close to the house involves the
eaves trough (gutter). Leaves and seedpods may accumulate in the eaves
troughs and reduce their effectiveness. Down spouts can become blocked
causing water from the roof to overflow the eaves troughs and be dumped
next to the foundation. Gutter guards may be necessary to keep
materials from being a problem or the eaves troughs must be cleaned
Remember that deciduous trees without their leaves can block more than
half the winter sun. If winter sun is a higher priority than summer
shade, avoid planting trees on the south side of the house. Use awnings
as an alternative way to shade windows. If planning to build a house,
use extended overhangs to block out the summer sun.
Homes with long dimensions oriented on an eastwest axis will also be
exposed to considerable sunlight on the east and west walls. If the
home has two stories, additional trees can be planted to shade the
walls. For one-story homes, smaller trees or even shrubs can provide
Using Vines and Shrubs Effectively
Vines can be used to shade walls but they must be used with great care.
Some vines cling very well to masonry but the holdfasts - the
structures that allow them to cling - may remain on the wall if the
vine is removed. The use of clinging vines on wood walls may cause the
wood to decay. Vines can be grown on a trellis to shade particular
walls or windows. Fast growing annual vines or more permanent woody
vines can be used. The vines not only shade the wall or window but the
evapotranspiration from the leaves will provide additional cooling.
Vines that cover a wall may become infested with pests. Treating the
pest problem may involve the use of sprays that must be cleaned off
windows or other surfaces. In extreme cases, the vine may die and have
to be removed, which can involve considerable effort and expense.
Foundation plantings can help conserve energy in both summer and
winter. Plantings can be used to create a dead air space between the
plants and the house. Such dead air helps insulate the house in summer
and winter and evergreen shrubs are best for this use. The plants
should be placed so that, when they mature, they will be five feet from
the wall of the house. Some accommodation will need to be made to
control weeds between the foundation wall and the plants, and a mulch
or ground cover may help minimize the weed growth.
Dense foundation plantings can be a haven for certain insects that can
be a nuisance, depending upon the pest. In addition, as the plants
grow, windows may be blocked and this can interfere with views or
breezes. When placing shrubs near the house, consider what kind of
maintenance must be performed on the house and whether or not the
shrubs will interfere as they get larger.
Shading the air-conditioning unit can help increase its efficiency and
reduce the temperature inside the home by several degrees. Large shrubs
can provide shade while making the unit less obvious. The plants may
also dampen the noise created by the air conditioner. The shrubs should
not be so close that airflow to the unit is blocked, possibly impairing
its operation. Do not allow fallen leaves or other materials to fall
into the unit. Shrubs should not interfere with access to the air
conditioner in case it requires service.
Channel Summer Breezes through Landscape Design
This landscape design feature may be harder to put into practice. It's
the idea of channeling summer breezes into the home for cooling
purposes. The concept works essentially like a windbreak, but is used
to obtain the opposite result-to act like a funnel to send the breeze
to and through the house. This same technique may be used to redirect a
southerly breeze so that it is channeled to blow in the north facing
windows. This technique may be most suitable for warmer climates.
In regions that experience cold winters, tree planting for air
channeling may not be the highest priority, since using a windbreak to
deflect the cold wind will be more important. Also, the technique may
be a low priority where homes are air conditioned and therefore do not
rely on summer breezes for cooling.
Energy Tips - Energy Conservation Landscaping-Summer Cooling, Michigan
Department of Energy. 1995. Landscaping for Energy Use. Consumer Energy
Information: EREC Fact Sheets. The Energy Efficiency and Renewable
Energy Clearinghouse. Merrifield, VA. Online. http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/landscaping/index.cfm/mytopic=11910.
[Downloaded July 20, 2001].
Keyser, Joseph M. Landscaping to Save Energy. Department of
Environmental Protection, Montgomery County, Maryland. Online.
[Downloaded July 20, 2001]
Mitchell, Paul J. Landscaping for Energy Conservation. OSU Extension
Facts, F-6417. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Oklahoma State
North Carolina Solar Center. 1998. Energy-Saving Landscaping: For Your
Passive Solar Home. Online. http://www.ncsc.ncsu.edu/information_resources/factsheets/Energy_Landscape.pdf.
[Downloaded July 20, 2001].
Oberlin Municipal Light and Power. 2001. Energy Efficient Landscaping
Ideas. Online. http://www.omlps.org/Conservation/Landscaping.htm.[
Downloaded July 20, 2001].
Perry, Leonard P. 1997. Landscape to Conserve Energy. Ornamental
Horticulture Leaflet 47, University of Vermont Extension.
Starbuck, Christopher J. 2000. Landscape Plantings for Energy Savings.
Department of Horticulture, University of Missouri-Columbia. Online.
[Downloaded July 20, 2001]
Welch, William C. Landscaping for Energy Conservation. Texas
Agricultural Extension Service, Texas A&M University. Online.
[Downloaded July 19, 2001]
to main page
This information is for
educational purposes only. References to commercial products or trade
names does not imply endorsement by MSU Extension or bias against those
not mentioned. This information becomes public property upon
publication and may be printed verbatim with credit to MSU Extension.
Reprinting cannot be used to endorse or advertise a commercial product
MSU is an
employer. Michigan State University Extension programs and materials
are open to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender,
gender identity, religion, age, height, weight, disability, political
beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or veteran
status. Issued in furtherance of MSU Extension work, acts of May 8 and
June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Thomas G. Coon, Director, MSU Extension, East Lansing,MI 48824. This
information is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial
products or trade names does not imply endorsement by MSU Extension or
bias against those not mentioned.
information.was reviewed as
of June 2008. For more information about the contents please
for webpage problems