Plant a Tree for Earth Day and Energy Savings
Trees are probably the most natural and beautiful way to lower your home energy consumption. Trees can drastically lower your energy bills year round. In the summer, tress provide energy-saving shade; in the winter, the trees create wind blockage to reduce air leaks and heating costs.
Benefits of Planting Trees for Energy Savings
- Reduce heating and cooling costs.
- Protects home from summer sun and cold winter wind.
- Can provide fruits for consumption.
- Reduces water use and lowers maintenance.
- Helps reduce noise and air pollution.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “a well-planned landscape can reduce an unshaded home’s air conditioning costs by 15-50 percent.”
In addition to the energy savings that well-planned landscaping provides you will also create an environment for beautiful birds to perch and sing. Tree-canopied homes also lower the overall temperature of the community while also reducing the pollutants in the air. In fact, “in tree-shaded neighborhoods, the summer daytime air temperature can be up to 6 degrees cooler than in treeless areas” (EPA).
Now that you know that trees and strategic landscaping can help improve the comfort and energy efficiency of your home, learn some strategies for planting trees for Earth-friendly energy savings.
1. Plant Deciduous Trees
Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall and winter, allowing solar heat to hit your home.
Evergreens don’t shed their leaves, so they’ll provide shade for your home year round.
Deciduous trees change their colors and lose their leaves with the seasons. This create shade in the summer while letting in sunlight during the winter.
We recommend planting three 6-8 foot deciduous trees near your home. Within just a year or two, hey will start to shade your windows. In 5-10 years, the side and the roof will be shaded as well.
Place these trees on the south and west sides of your home. Planting trees on the south side of your home can help screen around 70-90%of the summer sun.
Plant lower crowned trees to the west to create shade for lower afternoon sun angles.
Try to shade all the hard surfaces around your home, such as driveways, walkways, and sidewalks.
2. Shade around your outdoor heat pump unit
Creating shade for your outdoor heat pump can reduce your air conditioning costs by 10% or more.
Check with your local tree expert of arborist for landscaping tips, such as xeriscaping. Speak with your local HVAC contractor for tips on reducing your heating and cooling loads.
In addition, you may be available for rebates, tax breaks, and other incentives from your electric and gas utility companies. To find out if you are eligible for tax credits and rebates, click here.
Just make sure that you don’t have any heavy overhanging branches that could potentially break and fall down on top of the unit. Trim any branches that could pose a danger and a tree expert every once in a while to inspect the health of your trees.
Don’t try to protect your outdoor condensing unit with 2-by-4s or any other covering. This will restrict airflow and cause problems with your HVAC system. There should always be a minimum 2-foot clearance around the entire unit.
3. Plant Shrubs and Vines Too
In addition to trees providing wind blockage and shade, consider planting shrubs and ground-cover plants to reduce heat radiation. This means that the air naturally cools down before it reaches your home’s walls or windows. Plant a hedge around your sidewalks and driveways and consider a trellis for climbing vines.
Vines against walls, hedges, and shrubs can provide shade within the very first growing season. Providing shade close to your home’s perimeter is a great idea for cooling down your home, but be careful not to create too dense foliage, which can create wetness, drainage, and humidity problems.
4. Consider Xeriscaping
Xeriscaping is a drought-resistant landscaping technique that uses native plants and converts traditional grass lawns with alternative ground covering, such as rocks, sands, and other materials.
By xeriscaping around your home, you’ll save a lot of water and energy. Additionally, if you have an outdoor HVAC unit and there is a lot of grass around, you could end up with a lot of grass clippings on the outdoor heat pump which can restrict airflow and cause energy efficiency problems.
If anything, think about xeriscaping the area around your HVAC unit to prevent grass clippings, dirt, and other debris from wreaking havoc on your HVAC unit.
Planning Your Landscaping
Before you start any landscaping project, it’s best to have a plan first. Depending on your goals, you’ll want to address the problem differently.
First sketch out a simple aerial drawing of your backyard. Draw arrows to show the sun angles during winter and summer. Circle the areas around your home that could benefit from wind protection.
Mark any areas where you’d like to reduce noise pollution. Also, indicate any areas that could restrict growth, such as utility lines and poles, sidewalks and driveways.
This is also a great time to walk around your home and look for any drainage problems. Any wet areas with poor drainage won’t be good for your plants.
Use these two visuals to help you with your sketch:
Trees come in all shapes and sizes. Not only should you consider whether or not your trees are evergreens or deciduous, there are also crown shapes and other shape characteristics to take into consideration.
Think about the density of the trees leaves and needles as well. If you want to create wind blockage, go with dense trees like evergreens and spruces.
Consider things like strength, brittleness, growth rates, and lifespans. Speak with a tree expert if you plan any significant landscaping changes.
For more tips on landscaping for energy efficiency and other ways to reduce heating and cooling costs, contact the experts at Pacific Heating & Cooling.
You can reach us 24/7/365 at (253) 292-3995.
Since 1984, we’ve been proudly serving our communities in Federal Way, Graham, Spanaway, University Place, Steilacoom, Sumner, Lakewood, Puyallup, Tacoma and Gig Harbor.