Reduce Your Energy Bill with Shade Trees
Trees offer much to the people who plant and care for them. Trees are beautiful to the eye, they warm the heart and inspire the soul. Trees are also very practical plants to have around and can serve a variety of purposes, including providing cooler temperatures and blocking the sun during hot summer months.
How Do Trees Cool a Home?
While trees are often used to shade homes from the summer sun, trees themselves are nature’s air conditioners. Through a process called transpiration, trees naturally cool the environment around them. Transpiration is similar to perspiration, or sweating. Trees naturally lose water through their leaves. This allows them to move water and the minerals it contains throughout itself. This water evaporation also has a cooling effect on the tree, allowing it to lower its temperature in the summer heat. A study done on this phenomenon estimates that “the net cooling effect of a young healthy tree would be equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners running for 20 hours a day.”. Trees planted around a home will naturally lower the temperature around them when it’s hot outside.
Trees also cool a home with shade. During the summer, heat from the sun heats the exteriors of homes, raising their temperatures and making more work for air conditioning units. With proper placement, shade trees can reduce energy bills from $10-$30 a month. The savings starts with a mere 17% of shade covering knocking off around $10 a month. If that shade is increased to 50%, it will take about $30 off a monthly energy bill.
If you don’t have shade trees now and are put off the idea by the time you’d have to wait for the tree to grow, consider these facts. Within 5 years of planting, you’ll be seeing a 3% energy savings and by 15 years you’ll be saving 12% a month on your energy bill.
How Do You Plant Shade Trees?
Other than selecting the right tree, this is the most important part of planting shade trees: choosing the right spot. You want to choose a location for the tree or trees that will block the morning and afternoon sun. The ideal way to provide shade for your home is to plant a mix of large and small trees. The large trees should reach a mature height of 25 feet or more. Plant these trees by east and west-facing walls and windows. The small trees will block the sun during the early morning and later afternoon when the sun is lower. Then, the mature, tall trees will block the sun when it is higher in the sky during the late morning and early afternoon.
Next, you want to plant trees to the south and southwest sides of your home, to help shade the roof during the summer. These trees should be tall and have high, spreading crowns, or spreads, of branches. Please don’t plant smaller trees here, which will provide too much shade in the winter, even after the loss of their leaves.
If you can manage it, it is also a good idea to plant a tree to shade your air conditioning unit. Shade here will protect your unit from the sun and heat and will allow it to use less energy while prolonging its life.
When spacing trees and choosing locations next to your home, be sure to consider the mature tree’s width. For example, if your tree has a mature width of 30 feet, it requires 15 feet of space between itself and your home. Smaller trees work with the same rule, but as they are smaller, they can be planted closer to home.
What are the Best Shade Trees?
The best shade trees are deciduous trees, which lose their leaves in the winter. The harmonious, seasonal process of leaf shedding allows the tree to block the sun from your home in the summer, and then allow its warming rays to come through in the winter. Here is a list of popular, fast-growing shade trees.
This tree has the widest range of any tree in North America. It grows in zones 1-7.
Northern Red Oak
This medium to large tree supports the local wildlife population. It grows in zones 3-8.
This tree features gorgeous white flowers and huge, heart-shaped leaves. It grows in zones 4-8.
Red Sunset Maple
The winter buds, small flowers, leaf stems, twigs, and summer fruit of this tree are all a beautiful red hue. It grows in zones 4-8.
This tree requires less water, making it a good choice for energy conservation. It grows in zones 3-9.
This common oak is pleasing and easy to plant. It grows in zones 4-8.
The river birch features curling bark and can tolerate wet conditions easily. It grows in zones 4-9.
This is an adaptable tree well suited to a variety of soil types and climates. It grows in zones 5-9.
This attractive tree’s leaves turn into rich, vibrant colors come fall. It grows in zones 5-9.
True to its name, this tree produces tulip-shaped leaves and flowers. This tree resists pests and can be grown in zones 4-9.
This impressive tree produces rounded cones and has been found alongside dinosaur fossils. Dawn Redwood grows in zones 5-8.
Sun Valley Maple
This low-maintenance beauty is easy to grow in zones 4-7.