Planting Trees Can Help You Lower Your Electricity Bill

By Vernon Trollinger, April 30, 2013, Energy Efficiency, Green

Planting trees on your property is one of the best ways to help you protect your home from both hot and cold temperatures. Trees growing along the southern (particularly the southwestern) side shade your house from summer sun. In the winter, they lose their leaves allowing the sun’s rays to warm your home. Planting trees and shrubs along a northern perimeter (particularly in the northwestern corner) act as a wind-break to shield your home from harsh winter winds.

But does it save you money so that you can lower your electricity bill?


The US Forest Service has run computer simulations based on an energy-efficient home with a $250 yearly air conditioner bill. The simulations showed that placing just two 25-foot tall trees on the western and eastern sides of a home reduces the heat load.

Of course, not all of your trees need to be right next to your home. Careful landscaping all around your yard creates a “micro-climate” zone. Planting trees and shrubs can block hot summer sun and reduce the ambient air temperature in your yard all around your house. In the winter, cold north winds are deflected by wind breaks and make the ambient air warmer. This specific maintenance of shade trees and wind breaks can translate into larger savings on your electricity bill.

Sure, if you’re planting trees for shade that are brand-new, it’ll take years for them to become mature, so it’s best to buy your shade trees from a nursery that are over 5 feet tall. For instance, some varieties of poplar grow incredibly fast —between 8 and 15 feet a year. Also, a stand of 3 or more trees can shade a two-story home from summer sun in just three years.

Of course, it’s best to research the right kind of tree for your soil and climate conditions so that you don’t waste money by purchasing a tree that will die because it’s in the wrong ecosystem. The best place for determining which tree is best for you is the Arbor Day Foundation website.

If you live in a city, remember that trees are important not just for a lower electricity bill, but for your health, too. During the summer, cities tend to be 5°F hotter than surrounding rural areas just due to the significant number of dark colored roofs and streets absorbing heat. This results in higher cooling load for buildings, which then creates a higher demand for electricity used by an air conditioner. In urban environments, trees that shade streets and sidewalks from the sun also help lower ambient air temperatures and reduce air conditioning demand. Shade helps eliminate “heat islands” that have been shown to increase harmful smog and ozone and contribute to greenhouse gases in our earth’s atmosphere.

So, help beat the heat this summer wherever you live. Don’t just plant a tree this spring; plant 4 or 5. That way, everyone can have it made in the shade with a lower electricity bill.

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