Strategic Landscape Shading

With the warm weather here and the abundance of sunshine I,  like many others, have had to turn on the air conditioning. This in turn cranks up my electrical bill. I sleep in comfort worried about fattening the pockets of the Ontario Power Authority. 

My home is a ’70’s style raised bungalow built when energy was cheap; that is to say that not as  much attention was paid to energy-efficient design as we find in modern homes today. The walls are 2″ x 4″ with (if I am lucky)  an R-15 rating, and I have a bow-window with a southern exposure.  I am afraid to look into the attic, but there’s no doubt it could use a top up of blown in insulation.  All this results in some major thermal gain on a sunny day. I have an old-fashioned thermostat with a little “pointer” made up if that filament material that simply expands when it’s warm and contracts when it’s cold to indicate the temperature.  On sunny days it’s off the chart. And yes, I have thermal curtains I close in the vain hope of blocking some of those rays!

So, other than completely rebuilding my home, what are my options?  

Well, one of the easiest techniques is as simple as planting a tree.

Here’s an excerpt from “How Stuff Works”:

“The technique known as shading is the strategic placement of a tree to provide shade from the warm summer sun. Unblocked, solar heat from sun rays can dramatically increase the temperature inside your home, which will increase the strain put on your air conditioner. However, the proper placement of a tree can reduce temperatures by up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius) through water vapor evaporation and transpiration, as well as the shade the tree provides”.  

A six degree difference in itself can result in a savings of 12 to 47% depending on where you live. (Source: About.com)

What a great idea!  It is further suggested that tree selection is just as important as the placement of the tree. A deciduous tree can shade in the summer, shed it’s leaves in the fall and allow the sun through in the winter when thermal gain is desirable.  Now, if you have 10 or 20 years to wait for a planted tree to grow to the point it’s actually useful, awesome!  For others, a visit to a tree farm is in order.

There are several other “passive” shading techniques that compliment tree shading. These include window screens, trellis shading, living wall systems, shutters and canopies. (Source: Build It Solar) Regardless of the technique used, any of these choices can lead to savings that have a ripple effect: you save money, your family lives in comfort, and tree huggers everywhere will be dancing in the streets!