First appeared in Tarheel Gardening.
Burrrrr, do you remember the winter wind? The season awaits when we’ll once again be zipping our jackets against the cold to keep our bodies warm. Your house feels the same chill you do. Have you ever noticed how much warmer you are when sitting next to a barrier that blocks wind? The same warmth generated by blocking the wind can also happen with your home. As you break the wind that chills you to the bone, your house can also stay warmer with a windbreaker.
Typically for North Carolinians, the winter wind comes from the north and northwest. Winter winds take heat away from the home by forcing cold air into your house through small cracks in the windows, doors, foundation, as well as small unseen gaps in the walls. Reducing the wind’s force on your home will reduce heat loss.
Planting a windbreaker or barrier with a series trees and shrubs located near the home will minimize the wind’s chilling effect. Windbreaks deflect and redirect wind flow lessening wind chill and the need to turn up the heat.
According to the Agriculture Program at Texas A&M, heat savings of as much as 23 percent has been achieved when comparing on homes landscaped with windbreaks than homes without.
Landscape windbreaks typically found in the country consist of evergreen trees and shrubs lined up in straight row or in a somewhat linear pattern. To spice up a home landscape, windbreaks are planted in a more informal arrangement, consisting of mainly dense evergreen trees and shrubs with plants having foliage that extends to the ground.
Ideally, the windbreak allows some air flow. A total block can create a strong vacuum on the leeward side (direction downwind.) Ideally, foliage density on the windward side of the break should be about 60 percent. Also, using species of varying heights and staggered rows will created a diverse arrangement for purpose and aesthetics, offering a natural look.
When planting a windbreak or barrier, they are generally aligned east and west, along the north side of the house. Also consider the ultimate spread of tree or shrub branches, and plant far enough away to prevent their contact with the house. With regards to a planting distance from the house, a general rule of the road is to plant the windbreak away from the house 3 to 5 times the height of the mature trees and shrubs.
A few good choices for windbreaks are Chamaecyparis, Eastern red cedar, oriental arborvitae, rhododendron, as well as yaupon hollies and yews.
A windbreak of trees and shrubs should be planted longer than the length of the house by more than 10 – 20 feet on both sides. This helps diminish the effects of turbulent winds swirling in around the ends. The wind break can also serve as a privacy hedge.
Button up this fall, both you and your home. It may take a few years for the trees and shrubs to mature enough to offer and heat savings; but if you don’t start today, you don’t benefit tomorrow.
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