Tired of High Power Bills? Try Tree Power Instead
Just when you think you've got credit card bills from the holidays under control, winter rears its ugly head and high heating bills rise up to take their place. If you’re like most people, every year you trudge to the hardware store for weather-stripping and caulk in an effort to seal out winter winds and forestall those expensive power bills.
However, there is a way to save money on your utility bills that comes more naturally - trees! According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the strategic placement of just three trees can save an average household between $100 and $250 annually in energy costs.
The key is to position your trees so they can act as a windbreak. Properly planted, windbreaks channel winds away from or over a house. Even the downward fall of rain, sleet and hail can be absorbed or deflected by trees. What kind of tree should the average homeowner consider for windbreaks? Evergreens, which keep their leaves/needles all year, are a good choice. Plant them to screen the southwest and northwest areas of your property as snow and wind generally come from these directions during Ohio winters. Trees intended as windbreaks should be positioned two to five times the mature height of the tree away from your home. If you are uncertain, get professional assistance to assure correct placement and selection of species.
If you're still skeptical that a few trees can save you money on energy usage, consider the fact that dew and frost are less likely to occur under trees. This is because less radiant energy is released from the soil in treed areas at night. Bottom line - trees help keep the air near your home warmer.
And if too much warmth around your home is a problem in summer -again, a minimum of three large trees can dramatically reduce air conditioning costs. The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Many local urban foresters work to plant trees in order to moderate the heat island effect caused by pavement and buildings in our cities and villages.
As for shading your home, what kind of trees yield the best results? Deciduous trees with high, spreading leaves and branches are great. They provide shade and block the sun's heat during hotter months. By dropping their leaves in the fall, they allow sunlight to filter through in colder months. To maximize summertime roof shading, place trees on the south side of your home. To minimize lower afternoon sun angles, plant trees with lower branches positioned to the west. Shading all hard surfaces such as driveways, patios and sidewalks is also a good idea as this decreases heat radiation and helps cool air before it reaches your home's walls and windows.
Trees can save you money on utility bills all year long. When embarking on a tree-planting project to improve your house's energy-efficiency, be sure to consider the following tips:
- Your house's orientation to the sun
- The amount of shade you'll need
- The intensity and direction of wind around your home
You can rely on professional landscapers, nurseries, county extension offices or your community's urban forester (if you have one), to help you plan for mature growth and suggest trees that will thrive in your area.
Next time you're enjoying the beauty and color of your neighborhood trees, remember they can also help you stay warmer in winter and cooler in summer while you reap the benefits of lowered energy costs.