Eight Ways to Reduce Energy Use Outdoors
When most people look for ways to reduce their energy usage, they typically focus on things they can do inside their home. That’s a good place to start, given the numerous opportunities to improve the energy efficiency of day-to-day life indoors. But don’t overlook ways to cut back on energy consumption outside the home which can help not only bring down your utility bills but also foster a more sustainable landscape around your house. Read on for tips on how to create an eco-friendly yard that will make a positive impact on the energy efficiency of the total home.
1. Plant a Shade Tree
Planting a shade tree can dramatically improve the temperature control in a home. By blocking the sunlight from entering via the windows, shade trees make the property more efficient and reduce the energy needed to cool the home in the summer. If you live in a climate that experiences cold winters, a deciduous tree can continue to be your ally in efficiency. By shedding its leaves when the cool weather sets in, the tree allows sunlight to hit your home and warm it up a few degrees, reducing the load on your furnace. Evergreens, on the other hand, make for excellent wind blocks in the winter to help keep the frigid air at bay.
2. Use Hand Tools for Yardwork
Replacing the energy use required to operate power tools with the effort necessary for hand tools makes the home more energy efficient and eco-friendly. Homeowners who replace weed whackers with clippers, leaf blowers with rakes and riding lawnmowers with push mowers will not only save money on fuel and create less pollution, but get some good exercise in the yard as well. If hand tools won’t get the job done, consider electric tools instead of gas so you can still capture certain efficiency improvements.
3. Seek Alternative Modes of Transportation
Instead of burning fuel to make short drives for the sake of convenience, try walking or riding a bicycle as an alternative mode of transportation that is better for the user and the environment. For longer trips, consider using public transportation when available.
4. Create Compost for Gardening
Creating and using a compost pile provides a positive, rich fertilizer for use in the garden. It also saves the homeowner the energy of running this material through the garbage disposal, or alternatively the local municipality from having to burn fuel to collect, transport and process the food waste with other household trash. What’s more, the compost sourced from your kitchen is more environmentally friendly than many other fertilizer options.
5. Research Lighting Options
Many homeowners leave their yard lights on all evening, wasting energy. Opt instead for some of the numerous energy-saving alternatives available. Solar yard lights trap the sun's power during the day and release this power at night in an energy-friendly way. Motion-sensor lights turn on only when triggered by movement, and homeowners can always replace existing bulbs with Energy Star models for an efficient way to reduce energy use.
6. Look into Xeriscaping
You don’t need to blow up your water bill to have a fabulous garden. Xeriscaping involves picking out plants adapted to the local climate and landscaping to minimize the amount of maintenance necessary, so the plants require little or no irrigation to thrive on your property. A properly xeriscaped yard involves minimal lawn, and since the selected plants are well-suited to the region, they shouldn’t need fertilizer or insecticides, either.
7. Install a Rain Barrel
Even a garden carefully stocked with native plants will likely need some irrigation during times of drought. Install a rain barrel to collect and store water from your gutters so you have some on hand when you need it, without having to turn on the hose and run up your water bill.
8. Upgrade Your Pool
If you have a pool in your yard, make sure to install the latest in efficient filtration, pumping and heating technology so you minimize the amount of energy and water you have to expend to keep it in swimmable condition. Don’t set the temperature above 80 degrees, and try using a solar blanket when the pool is not in use to help keep it warm and prevent evaporation.
Energy-saving options exist outside the home just as they do indoors, and while making the most of these opportunities requires extra effort from the homeowners themselves, considerable benefits are there for the taking.