When you start thinking about energy-efficiency, you might need to look outdoors for additional savings. Smart landscaping can go a long way toward increasing the comfort of your home.

Here’s the root of the matter. During hot summer days, the sun beams through windows and bakes your roof and driveway, which makes your air conditioner run more often. Natural shading will help cool your home and can significantly lower your energy costs.

According to the Department of Energy, a well-designed landscape saves enough energy to pay for itself in less than eight years.

Three carefully positioned trees around your home can reduce your cooling costs by up to 25 percent. In addition, shading your outdoor air conditioning unit can help lower the energy used to cool your home, as long as it doesn’t block adequate airflow. Research shows that summer air temperatures in tree-shaded neighborhoods can be three to six degrees cooler than treeless areas.

Plant deciduous trees, which lose their leaves in the winter, to effectively shade west and east facing windows. You can create cooler areas around your house by shading all hard surfaces such as driveways, patios and sidewalks.

Evergreen trees and shrubs planted on the north side of your home will help lower the wind chill and reduce your winter heating costs. Don’t plant evergreens on the south or west side, because they will block the sun’s natural warmth during cold months.

Before you get started on your energy-efficiency landscape, be sure to call 811 to learn where underground lines, pipes and cables are buried in your yard. Also, don’t forget to follow our important tree planting guidelines regarding planting near NES power lines and equipment.