In this age of central air and heat, some trustworthy design principles for landscaping have been mostly forgotten. Sure, you’ll still hear architecturally-minded people mentioning having the larger windows of a house face south, for maximum daylight exposure, but what principles govern the other points of the compass, and what, if anything, does the compass have to do with landscaping anyway?
Here at Mirage Landscaping of Calgary, we have over three generations of experience serving clients in this region. In the “good old days,” smart landscaping was a part of the heating and cooling strategies of the home itself. Just because technology has finally given us the ultimate control of the indoor temperature doesn’t mean that those old-school strategies have nothing to offer. They just very well may cut your heating and cooling bills down to size.
Energy Efficiency Driven By Trees
In our often frigid winters, those south facing windows mentioned earlier serve a dual purpose. First, they make the most of shorter winter days and can save upon electricity for lighting that might otherwise be consumed. Secondly, they provide passive solar heating that can lower energy consumption.
However, this passive heating in the winter is still passive heating come summer.
The natural answer to this problem are deciduous shade trees. Just one or two strategically planted shade trees can lower your cooling bills by up to 25 per cent. Most mature shade trees will easily grow high enough to shade the roof of a single level home or shade the entire front of a two storey home. As the shade provided by a tree can be up to 10 degrees Celsius cooler than the air exposed to full daylight, it makes complete sense that the air conditioning system will not have to work as hard to keep a shaded house comfortable.
The best part is that come winter, that shade is gone, allowing the passive heating and lighting to resume nearly intact.
Those Chinook Winds
“Chinook” is a Native North American term meaning “snow eater” when used to describe our local wind phenomenon out of the west, coming down off of the Rockies. They actually aren’t winter winds specifically, because Chinooks are technically always happening, it is just that the most dramatic effects are noticed in winter, when arctic air masses are blown away and the snow begins rapidly melting away.
What does landscaping have to do with the Chinook? What could be wrong about having a relatively warm wind pushing past your home in the winter? Nothing in particular, but the warm winds in winter don’t really have much warming effect on your house. You may notice that you can feel warmer standing outside next to a western facing wall in winter, but the effect is negligible while you are inside a well insulated house. A Chinook wind is not going to warm your home if it strikes it unblocked.
However, as was mentioned, the Chinook winds are a year round phenomenon. If it’s a 35 degree day and it feels like a blow dryer is on outside, that’s the same wind we mostly welcome in the winter. Only when it is blowing in the summer, it is acting like a desiccant, and literally drying out your yard and garden.
If you planted a thick evergreen hedge on the western edge of your property, you’ll have created that old design staple of homesteading Albertans everywhere in the open countryside—the wind break. A dense wind break will still the air behind it by up to 85 per cent. This easily could be the difference between be holed up in your home on an otherwise beautiful summer afternoon, and enjoying your patio or backyard.
On a related note, a tightly constructed privacy fence is not a wind break, it’s closer to being a type of wing. If you could see the dynamics of it with the naked eye, the air would pile up against the fence, build up rather like water, and then accelerate over the top into the lower pressure air of your backyard.
Whether you need shade, wind breaks, or a better fence, contact Mirage Landscaping of Calgary for a free quote.