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​​A well-landscaped yard not only boosts your home's curb appeal, it can also help to create a more comfortable home for all seasons. Here are 4 ways you can use trees, plants and shrubs outdoors to make your home more energy efficient overall.

Landscape for summer shade

Shading is one of the most cost-effective and efficient ways to keep your home cool during hot summer days and reduce your energy consumption.

To get the most out of your landscaping, plant broad-leaved deciduous trees on the south and west sides of your home that will offer shade in the summer and drop their leaves in the winter to let in the sun. For hardy and fast-growing deciduous trees, here are a few species best-suited for Canadian climates:

  • Balsam Poplar: This species is one of the most prominent deciduous species in Alberta and a favourite among Canadian homeowners.

  • Acute Willow: Low maintenance and resilient, this species can reach growth rates of up to 6 feet per year.

  • American Elm: Non-invasive roots and ability to grow in harsh conditions makes this species compatible with urban environments.

Consider your groundcover

A sprawling lawn can be a pain to maintain but did you know that it can help keep your home cool when the temperature rises? Open green spaces allow cooling breezes to reach your home. Other popular groundcovers, like light stone and concrete, reflect light and heat away from your home.

If you want to swap out your grass for a lower-maintenance material, opt for wood chips or dark stone. These materials will absorb daytime heat and slowly release it in the evening. 

Add a recycling water feature

Installing a recycling water feature or small pond in your yard can help keep things cool. Summer breezes will pick up moisture and carry it toward your home and outdoor living space.

Create winter windbreaks

A little summer prep can help make those cold winter months a bit more bearable. By preemptively planting shrubs and trees to block your home from harsh winter winds, you can reduce your indoor heating costs.

To create an effective windbreak, you'll want to plant a mixture of evergreen shrubs and coniferous trees on the north and northwest side of your home. The distance between your home and the windbreak should be 2 to 5 times the height of the trees once they achieve maturity.  

Sources: Tree Time, ImproveNet, HGTV, Better Homes and Gardens, Sustainable Landscaping: Principles and Practices

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