Strategic Landscaping to Save Energy
Selecting the right trees and shrubs can cut cooling costs and increase safety.
Is landscaping on your to-do list this spring? Planting trees and shrubs is a great way to add some curb appeal and may help cut your cooling costs in the summer.
Before you start digging holes or take a trip to the garden center, investigate the options and make a plan. Smart landscaping can save up to 25% of the energy a typical household uses during a hot summer, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
So what should I plant for energy efficiency?
Before you plant, choose trees and shrubs that enhance energy savings and safety.
- If your home feels like it is overheating in the summer, plant large, leaf-shedding trees to block the summer sun. But, make sure the tree does not block the free heat from the winter sun. Shading windows is more important than shading walls because windows let in more unwanted summer heat. Shading windows will make your home more comfortable. A 6-foot deciduous tree planted near your house will shade windows in the first year. That same tree will shade the roof in five to 10 years.
- Exterior shading works better than interior shading for blocking summer sun. West-facing windows in particular need good shading. Broad-leafed trees, vine-covered trellises, awnings or overhanging eaves all work well. Interior shades, drapes or blinds let in more heat than exterior shading.
- Think ahead to winter. If you live in an exposed windy location, consider planting a windbreak on the north and west sides to protect your home from wind in winter.
- For more information, see the Department of Energy's online infographic.
Be aware of planting locations that can cause electric service interruptions or other dangerous situations.
Landscaping can help hide transformers in your yard while maintaining a safe distance of three feet on the sides and back and 10 feet in front.
You may be tempted to use plants to conceal the green electric transformer in your yard, but use caution. For safety and electric reliability:
- Allow three feet of space on the sides and behind transformers. Without proper air circulation, pad-mounted transformers can overheat and cause a service interruption.
- Allow 10 feet of clear space in front of transformers. At least once a year, our technicians need to service transformers, and they need that amount of clear space to work safely.
It's also important to plant trees away from overhead power lines. Trees that grow too close to power lines can cause outages. Remember that the short tree you plant today could grow tall enough to reach power lines in the future.
Use MGE's Tree Choice and Care database to search for trees and shrubs that can be safely planted under or near power lines. This easy-to-use tool provides suggestions based on the location you will plant and type of soil, as well as the mature height and growth rate you specify. You also can specify native trees and shrubs.
Dig smart - Call 811 first
Planting a shrub? Adding a fence? Building an addition? Remember to call 811 before any digging project.
Diggers Hotline is a free service that works with MGE and other utilities to identify buried lines on your property so you can dig freely and safely. Call 811 at least three business days before you start digging. This simple step will help you stay safe, prevent equipment damage and avoid costly fines.
I'm only using hand tools. Do I still have to call?
Play it safe and call 811. Wisconsin law requires notifying Diggers Hotline before projects that require steps such as excavating, grading, trenching, digging and drilling. Visit Diggers Hotline for more information.
Visit energy2030together.com often to find additional features to save energy under Our Energy Use.
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