While one option for lowering our energy demands seems to be new, more efficient technology, there are many ways to work with mother nature so that our energy needs are less. Old fashioned options, such as backyard clotheslines and cold cellars utilize resources that are readily available and basically free. There are plenty of things we can learn from past generations who lived efficiently and worked with the land and the seasons and natural energy sources.
For most of us, taking advantage of the sun, wind and shelter to lessen home energy needs while designing and building a house is not an option but we can use landscaping and other easy retrofits to benefit from shade and sheltering gains offered by trees, shrubs and awnings.
- Add trees and shrubs in your yard to shield your home from road noise and prevailing winds.(This list was taken from a municipal site - my apologies as I don't have the link anymore.)
- Deciduous trees are the best as they lower your energy bill all year, providing shade in summer and sunshine in winter.
- Think about using a trellis draped with vines or climbing perennials which will cool ground-floor windows facing west.
- Low-growing evergreen shrubs planted beside basement walls help keep warmth in and winter winds out.
- Flower gardens with tall plants help retain moisture in the ground. With larger gardens (and less grass) you spend less energy on watering and mowing your lawn.
- Awnings installed on upper-floor windows shade your interior space and help control heat gain in the summer.
- Porches were used extensively as shaded outdoor spaces that were cooler that the interior of homes. They also kept the front rooms of the house shaded from the sun also.
* Photo from Weisert at Flickr