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By Jim Sulski

Summary: Landscaping your yard properly has many benefits,including a lower energy bill and a more attractive home. Plan your landscape with these tips to make the most of your yard.

Late summer and early fall is often a time of the year when many homeowners consider new landscaping for the outside of their dwelling.
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A good landscaping plan has several benefits:

Of course it adds much in the way of beauty to your home (and eventually the resale value of your home). And it can also help you save energy dollars by shading your home on a hot summer day or providing a windbreak on cold windy days. And then there's the comfort that comes with that.

According to Department of Energy research, properly plotted landscaping can cut as much as a quarter of the costs of your energy bills. The same research shows that just three trees in the proper position can result in a savings of $100 to $250 annually in air conditioning and heating costs.

DOE findings also show that temperatures have been found to be three to six degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler in tree-shaded residential areas than in those neighborhoods without trees.

As trees block sunlight (which would otherwise be absorbed by your home's surfaces such as walls, windows, roof and floors) for photosynthesis, water evaporates from the trees, creating what's known as evaporative cooling. That can lower air temperatures and get you to run the AC less.

Here are some suggestions. If you're starting with a clean slate, consider planting deciduous trees on the south and west ends of your home. Properly placed, these trees will soon provide shade from the sun in the warm winter months. Come fall, they will lose their leaves and let the sunshine in when you need it.

To combat the cold, plant evergreen trees and shrubs on the north and west sides of the house. By deflecting winds, these trees and shrubs help keep your thermostat down

Plant the trees so they don't block the views from windows but that they do shade important areas: decks, patios, front porches, etc. Also, don't plant a tree too close to a home as you'll spend a lot of time cleaning leaves from the gutters each year.

As most homeowners have probably determined, this is a long term investment in that it takes a few years for trees to mature enough to provide ample shading and wind blocking.

According to the experts, there are a number of trees that mature quickly and provide a good canopy of shade within five years.

When purchased and planted, these trees would have a trunk diameter of two and one-half inches. But by five years, that could double or reach a diameter of six inches, he says.

These are also moderately priced trees.

The list includes:

[] Red maples, which come in a number of varieties and also provide a good reliable red color leaf in the fall.

[] A number of hybrids between red maples and silver maples, including one tree called the Autumn Blaze.

[] Or a number of white ash varieties, such as the Autumn Purple, which provides a dense canopy of leaves.

Of course, how quickly these trees mature and how well they do depends on proper care, the condition of the soil, correct drainage, and good planting sites.

Here are a couple of other tips: Also consider vines for cooling. Trained to grow on trellises, vines can shade windows or other sections of a house.

How do you accomplish all of this? Find a reputable landscaper or landscape architect, one who seems keen to energy efficiency. As with any contractor, always ask for referrals.

In addition, there is a plethora of information on the Internet, such as numerous facts sheets available on landscaping and other energy efficiency topics. The fact sheets also include organizations that can also provide additional information as well as recommended reading lists on a topic.

© June 1, 2005.

NOTE: This column is distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, Illinois, 60022. This column may not be resold, reprinted, resyndicated or redistributed without written permission from the publisher. 

2005 by Ilyce R. Glink. Distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate.




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