Sustainability has become a key consideration in every aspect of our lives, and homeowners are increasingly turning to smart landscaping to enhance their home’s energy efficiency and resource management. Smart landscaping’s cutting-edge technologies can not only beautify our outdoor spaces, and the way we interact with these elements but also contribute to a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle.
Smart landscapes encourage wildlife, use water wisely, and significantly reduce energy costs while benefiting both your home and the neighbourhood. Water-smart landscaping creates attractive landscapes that manage water effectively, by grouping plants into specific “hydrozones”, while maintaining healthy soils that cycle nutrients, minimize runoff, and retain water.
In this article we explore the various elements of smart landscaping, focusing on the integration of solar power, smart illumination, automated irrigation, and low-maintenance approaches to creating an energy-efficient outdoor environment for your family.
Harnessing solar power in your landscaping
Using solar power to energize your landscape elements reduces your reliance on traditional energy sources, enhancing the sustainability of your outdoor spaces.
Solar pathway lighting: Embedded solar-powered lights along pathways and garden edges provide subtle illumination at night. Solar-powered spotlights and up-lights can serve as accent lights, highlighting garden sculptures, specific plants or architectural features. Your pathway lights charge during the day and automatically turn on at dusk, providing an eco-friendly and cost-effective alternative to traditional outdoor lighting.
Solar water features: Solar-powered fountains, birdbaths and pond pumps can be installed to add tranquil elements to your landscape while enhancing its aesthetic appeal. Solar pumps can circulate water without the need for grid electricity, reducing your environmental impact.
Solar-powered outdoor outlets: You may already have a whole house solar system, but if not, solar-powered outdoor outlets will allow you to charge tools, and devices, or run small appliances in your outdoor space. They can power speakers, lawn equipment, or even a bar fridge next to the barbecue, making your outdoor area more versatile and energy-efficient.
Solar-powered outlets comprise two or more solar panels paired and wired to form arrays, with an inverter at the back of each solar panel, responsible for converting DC electricity to AC. The inverter has a socket that transmits electrical energy to the meter. When you connect your equipment, the accumulated AC energy begins to supply power to your tool, appliance or device on demand.
Solar panels for outdoor structures: If you don’t have a whole house solar-powered system, you might consider installing solar panels on outdoor structures like pergolas, gazebos, or the roof of your shed. Even a small solar system can provide lighting for the shed or gazebo, with an electrical outlet, thereby reducing your reliance on the grid, while lowering energy costs.
Smart illumination for efficiency and ambiance
Smart lighting systems not only provide energy efficiency but also enhanced control, security and flexibility.
LED lighting: LED lights consume less energy, have a longer lifespan, and are available in many colours and fixture designs. Use them for accent lighting on trees, architectural features, or to highlight specific areas of your garden.
Motion-activated lighting: Consider installing motion-activated lighting in key areas of your landscape, such as pathways and entry points. The sensors not only enhance security but ensure that lights are only on when needed, minimizing energy usage.
Smart lighting control system: The smart lighting system forms the basis for an entire home automation system and will allow you to program and control your outdoor lighting remotely. You will be able to set schedules, adjust brightness levels, and even change the colour of your lights using a smartphone app or voice commands.
The majority of off-the-shelf solutions, however, are closed systems. This means that only the supplier’s official apps will work with most of the equipment, such as smart bulbs, requiring you to restrict yourself to a single ecosystem. A hardware-agnostic cloud-based solution is more versatile for building your smart lighting system, particularly if it ties into your home’s master control panel and systems.
Solar-powered string lights: Solar-powered string lights are a great way to enhance the ambiance of your outdoor space. They can be draped over pergolas, wrapped around trees, or used to outline pathways. You can combine them with candles for an intimate party setting, add interest to backyard walls, or suspend them low above a dining table. They charge during the day and illuminate your outdoor area with a warm and inviting glow at night.
Automated irrigation systems for water efficiency
Modern automated irrigation systems have customizable settings so weather forecasts, soil moisture levels, and plant types are considered to avoid overwatering, ensuring optimal water usage. Conserving water contributes to environmental conservation, helping to reduce the demand on your municipality’s vital water reserves in the summer while reducing the water bill.
Drip irrigation: Drip irrigation delivers water directly to the base of the plants, minimizing water wastage through evaporation or runoff. It’s more efficient than traditional sprinkler systems and it can be easily automated. Smart drip irrigation systems can be programmed to deliver just the right amount of water based on specific plant needs and weather conditions.
Four types of drip irrigation are available: micro-misting systems, soaker hoses, emitter systems, and drip tapes. Water is directed only where it’s needed, so it’s an excellent way to prevent overwatering, reduce water waste and reduce monthly water bills.
Soil moisture sensors: Soil moisture sensors can be added to your drip irrigation system to measure the moisture content in the soil. The sensors communicate with the irrigation controller, ensuring that plants receive water only when needed.
Weather-based irrigation controllers: Some smart irrigation controllers communicate by Wi-Fi and adjust watering schedules based on local weather conditions. These controllers access weather forecast data and adapt your irrigation schedule to account for rain, humidity, and temperature changes. It’s one more level of data input that ensures that your landscape receives the optimal amount of water without unnecessary irrigation during periods of rainfall.
Smart sprinkler systems: The better smart sprinkler systems allow you to monitor and control your irrigation from a smartphone app. They often include features such as zone control, rain delay, and water usage tracking. Some will even check the status and factor in local municipal sprinkling restrictions during the summer. By providing real-time data and control, smart sprinkler systems further contribute to water efficiency and conservation.
Hands-off care: low-maintenance landscaping
After your landscaping contractor completes the landscaping, the maintenance traditionally has fallen upon the homeowner. Not everyone can afford a gardener year-round. Fortunately, smart plant care solutions are available today to help you with precise and correct ways to nurture your plants, factoring in sunlight, humidity, and soil conditions.
Native and drought-tolerant plants:: Choosing native plants, and those that are well-adapted to your region’s climate, is one way to reduce the need for irrigation and chemical inputs. Native and drought-tolerant plants will usually require far less water and maintenance.
Native plants are pollution-free, not mass-produced in nurseries overseas and fed a diet of chemicals. Local plants help sequester carbon from the air and store it in the topsoil. They support pollinators and other local wildlife, and they will attract a variety of local birds, butterflies and wildlife to your property, offering them food and shelter.
Mulching: It’s important to apply mulch around plants and in garden beds to retain soil moisture, suppress weed growth by preventing light from reaching the soil surface, and regulate the soil’s temperature. Mulching reduces the frequency of watering, while minimizing the growth of unwanted plants, and contributes to the overall health of your landscape. Mulching breaks up the clay and allows better water and air movement through the soil while delivering nutrients to sandy soil and increasing its ability to retain water.
Smart fertilization and pest control: Fertilization and pest control are an essential part of keeping your outdoor plants healthy. Smart fertilization and pest control enable you to give your plants the precise amount of nutrients or treatments on schedule. Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, your smart system can tailor the use of fertilizer and pest control products to the specific needs of individual plants, soil composition and the local climate.
Smart mowers and robotic lawn care: Modern robotic lawn mowers allow homeowners to maintain large lawns automatically, without labour, and with zero oversight. Robotic mowers are tireless yard workers and can cut several tunes a week to keep your lawn looking pristine, without incurring labour costs, bothering the neighbours with the sound of a gasoline engine, or the accompanying fuel expenses.
The mower is managed by GPS and mapping technology, and cuts only the very tip of each blade of grass, to feed back into the soil, avoiding raking and compost piles, while improving turf health. Most robotic mowers cut with small razor blades, creating smooth cuts rather than creating a jagged tear with a large dull blade on a traditional mower.
Weed-killing lawn robots use AI and visual processing technology to distinguish up to 95% of common broadleaf weeds from the blades of grass, and will kill them with either a direct dose of herbicide or the zap of a laser.
Permeable hardscapes: Permeable surfaces allow water to infiltrate the soil, reducing runoff and the need for additional drainage systems, making them excellent choices for pathways, driveways, and other hardscapes. Permeable hardscapes can help reduce ponding and flooding. They allow water to soak through and replenish drinking water supplies, and prevent polluted runoff from reaching your local streams and rivers.
A bed of gravel is typically installed underneath the hardscape surface to provide storage; the spaces between the gravel hold the water and enable it to filter slowly into the soil.
Smart landscaping is a holistic approach to energy efficiency that combines innovative technologies, sustainable practices, and thoughtful design. By harnessing solar power, implementing smart illumination, utilizing automated irrigation systems, and adopting low-maintenance strategies, you can create outdoor spaces that are not only visually appealing but also environmentally conscious.
As technology continues to advance, the possibilities for smart landscaping will expand, offering even more opportunities for your family to reduce their environmental footprint. Smart landscaping practices can transform your outdoor space into a sustainable and energy-efficient haven.