Just as you'd consider daylighting as part of your overall lighting strategy, you should consider landscaping as part of your overall heating and cooling strategy. Shade from trees, shrubs, and vines can help cool your home, just as sunlight and windbreaks can help warm it. But don't count on Mother Nature to accidentally grow the greenery you need. Take a moment to learn about your climate, your microclimate, and your specific needs. Then start to design one beautiful botanical solution.

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1. Find Your Regional Climate

We've got roughly four climate regions in America. If you live in the Cool or Temperate Zones, you'll probably be more interested in learning how to maximize sunlight to increase heat and how to create a windbreak to lower the wind chill factor. If you live in the Hot-Arid or Hot-Humid Zones, you'll probably be more interested in shade to cut the heat. But your regional climate only tells half the story. You need to know your microclimate to truly understand your specific situation.

2. Consider Your Microclimate

Your microclimate is the climate immediately surrounding your home. If you live near a body of water, you might have higher humidity than the rest of your region. If you live in the foothills, you might have cooler temperatures. Once you're familiar with your microclimate, ask your local nursery or landscape architects about which trees and plants grow best near you and which would be the best for your energy-saving strategy.

3. Use Trees and Plants for Shade

Trees and plants grow in all sizes and shapes, so you have a complete toolbox to work with. For example, leaf-shedding deciduous trees are a good option when you want shade in the summer and warm sunlight in the winter. On the other hand, lush evergreens can cool your home with year-round shade if you're in a Hot Zone. But don't plant dense foliage too close to your home or it might create problems with your moisture control.

4. Create Windbreaks

Wind chill is a very descriptive name for the cold you feel when the wind blows. It can drop the outside temperature a significant amount and require increased energy to warm your home. A natural solution would be to build a windbreak with one or several dense evergreen trees and shrubs. For the best results, try to plant your windbreak at a distance of two to five times the mature height of your trees.