"There are many adjustments and additions, at various price points that homeowners can make to outdoor spaces that will make a big difference in their bank account," says James Walbridge, President of Tekton Architecture and member of the American Institute of Architects' (AIA) Custom Residential Architects Network.
To help get homeowners thinking along these lines, Walbridge offers the following advice:
The most efficient outdoor space allows sunlight to enter the home during the winter months while reducing it in the summer. To achieve the optimal effect, determining the sun's path in relation to your home is the most critical factor to consider.
According to Walbridge, the southern-facing side of the home is normally the most beneficial place for outdoor space. However, working with an architect can ensure you're making the best choice for your particular property and home orientation.
Properly placed trees and plants are the easiest way to ensure shade during the summer months, which keeps the home cooler and air conditioner use to a minimum.
When selecting shrubbery, look for drought-tolerant plants that don't require much water and maintenance, which will also reduce your water bill. Additionally, opting for trees that lose their leaves in the winter allows the lower winter sun to enter and warm your home while still acting as a wind barrier.
Awnings and trellises are popular ways to decrease direct exposure to harsh sunlight in the summer. Trellises are usually permanent additions; however awnings can often be retracted in the winter. If your budget is a little larger, consider an extension of your roof, a porch or a permanent overhang.
Extend Your Living Spaces
French doors or folding window walls are aesthetically pleasing ways to extend the indoors, out. Both will allow air to move through the house, reducing the need for heating or cooling.
In climates with all four seasons, a few extra steps are needed to ensure outdoor spaces serve their purpose. Windows or glass sunrooms should be properly sealed or protected with films to ensure there is no leakage of air. These spaces should also be closed off properly during the winter months.
Whenever possible, install energy saving windows and doors. These products might have a larger cost upfront, but will reduce energy costs over time.
Finally, take advantage of natural weather conditions when designing outdoor space. "In a dry climate, fountains, ponds or pools can help cool things down. Meanwhile, features like a wraparound porch work well in a humid client," Walbridge said.
An architect can help homeowners maximize energy savings on existing outdoor space or design a new area. Here's where you can find an architect in your area.
With a few upfront costs, you can lower your bills long-term and improve the look and feel of your home's outdoor spaces.
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