Did you know that one method for cooling your home is simply planting the right landscaping?
According to the Department of Energy, the air temperatures under a shady tree can be as much as 25 degrees F cooler than the air temperatures over nearby blacktop! Scroll to the bottom of this post to see an infographic for more information.
In addition to providing shade, plants cool ambient air by as much as 6 degrees F through the process used to absorb water (transpiration). Transpiration is the method plants use to move water from the ground through the body of the plant and then diffuse it outwards into the environment. It may not seem like a tree here or there can do much to affect the air temperatures, but a single large oak tree can transpire 40,000 gallons of water into the atmosphere over the course of a year!
When planning landscaping, you generally should aim to plant taller trees on the south side of your home to shade your roof in summer, and shorter trees or shrubs on the west side to shade your home in late day sun. Choosing deciduous (leafy) trees over evergreen trees will mean that the trees will not continue to shade your home through winter – but also consider planting evergreen trees or shrubs in areas where a windbreak will help during wintertime.
The forestry department of your city should be contacted if you would like a new tree to be planted in the city right of way (the area between the sidewalk and the curb); to contact the City of Buffalo Bureau of Forestry, call 311 – the city will plant one for you, or approve or deny a permit for you to plant one yourself, depending on the space considerations and if there are any utility lines that may prohibit planting.
Planting vines like ivy in a container with a trellis spaced away from your home is also a great method to incorporate some additional greenery, especially if you have limited space to work with or if deep root systems would be problematic. However, to prevent damage to your home, do not let ivy directly climb on your home – while some architects suggest that the possible damage from ivy to buildings depends on the type of siding, we suggest erring on the side of caution. In addition to root systems which dig into gaps and cracks in siding, increasing possible damage from freeze-thaw cycles, ivy can trap moisture against the siding, and harbor animals and insects. To remove ivy, simply cut the vines at the base of the trunks, let it dry out as it dies, then use a stiff brush to remove any remaining loose parts.