The bottom line is that being a good steward and going native can save money, both around your home and in the form of tax dollars, if you just change several simple behaviors and take advantage of opportunities. Let’s look at a typical 2,400 square foot home on a one half acre lot. The home is occupied by a family of three people. Based upon EPA estimates and other sources you could expect to annually pay between $5,000 to $6,500 for water, energy and yard maintenance. A home owner can easily save a thousand dollars a year with very little effort by Designing With Natives.
According to the EPA, the average person uses 100 gallons of water a day. While each of us pays a different water rate, a typical rate would be, as mentioned earlier in this chapter, $0.006 to $0.0075 per gallon. If we multiply 100 gallons by 365 days, we get 36,5000 gallons per year, per person. The average household in Berks County, Pennsylvania, is 2.6 people. If we multiply 2.6 times 36,500 gallons, we get close to 100,000 gallons per family. At $0.006 to $0.075 per gallon, the average annual water bill is $600 to $750 per year.
- Approximately 30% of the water used in this region is used outdoors. You can significantly reduce your water costs by reducing the size of your lawn.
- Water conservation measures, such as taking shorter showers, fixing leaks, turning off the water while brushing your teeth or running your dishwasher and laundry only with full loads, can reduce your water consumption by nearly half. For families, this will amount to $300 to $375 each year. Unused water helps to recharge our groundwater and is insurance against the next drought.
Yard Maintenance Costs
When you consider what a lawn costs a family on an annual basis you might be surprised. If you paid for lawn services, the costs would break down as follows, according to The-Lawn-Advisor.com. These costs are based on a half-acre lot.
- Cutting: $20 to 40 per cut; 25 to 30 cuts per year amounts to $550 to $1200 per year
- Weeding: $25/month or $750 per year
- Spring clean up: $200
- Fall raking: $200 to 400
- Chemicals: $400 to $700
An average family could spend upwards of $3000 per year on maintenance. If you reduce your frequency and dosage of fertilizer, you could easily save $350 per year. Reduce the size of the lawn by 25% and save another $400 to $500 if you have others cut and weed your lawn. You will save another $100 on water. You reduce your cost and footprint with every reduction of one square foot of lawn.
Using the national “percentage” averages below, a homeowner who spent $3000 a year for home energy would have paid roughly the following:
- $1,680for heating and cooling
- $698 for appliances and lighting
- $480 for water heating
- $150 for refrigeration
You can save up to 15-30% on your heating and air conditioning costs by planting native plants and growing trees to shade and screen your house from the sun and wind. For the average home owner, this would translate into nearly $500 a year. Energy conservation can reduce costs by up to 50%.
Energy conservation can reduce your heating and cooling, appliance usage and light and refrigeration expenses by up to 50%. This can be worth over a thousand dollars in savings per household each year. Saving energy also prevents air pollution. Did you know that the average house in the United States produces more than 2 tons of carbon each year? This is your carbon footprint. The trees in your yard also sequester and store carbon. A large tree stores 5 tons of carbon over its life. By replanting native trees, you create habitat, reduce runoff and sequester carbon. By planting trees or donating to local tree planting programs you can become carbon neutral.
Landscaping as an Investment in Your Home
The March 2003 issue of Smart Money notes that spending 5% of the total value of your home on landscaping, and doing it wisely, can add 15% or more to the value of your home.
A Clemson University study found that landscaping can result in more than a 100% return on investment. The report concluded that “homeowners wanting to increase the value of their property will do well to consider the cost-effective, return potential of quality landscaping, and to safeguard their investments by hiring licensed, professional landscape contractors to perform the work.” The return on investment is contingent upon the quality of the landscape installation. This study also found that consumers value a landscaped home up to 11.3% higher than its base price.
Ninety-five percent of respondents to a Society of Real Estate Appraisers Survey said that landscaping adds to the dollar value of residential real estate, while 99% said it enhanced the sales appeal of residential real estate.
According to an article in the May 2003 issue of Money magazine, spending on landscape design and installation has more than tripled in the past five years because it offers the best return on investment of any home improvement. Smart homeowners are hiring landscape architects to help them realize their dreams.