Saving Energy the Natural Way

house-tree

Trees, shrubs and vines all provide valuable shade to moderate summer heat gain in your home. Such plants also create a cool micro-climate that can dramatically reduce the temperature by as much as nine degrees Fahrenheit in the surrounding area. During photosynthesis, large amounts of water vapor escape through their leaves, cooling the passing air. The generally dark, coarse leaves absorb solar radiation.

Deciduous trees — trees that loses their leaves each year — offer one of the best ways to cut home cooling costs. When selectively placed around a house, they provide excellent protection from summer sun by shading roof, walls and windows. A mature well-placed deciduous shade tree can reduce cooling costs 20 to 40 percent. After the leaves drop in autumn, deciduous trees permit winter sunlight to reach and warm the house.

Experts recommend planting trees on the northeast-southeast and northwest-southwest sides of your house. Unless you live in an area where it is hot year-round, do not plant trees directly to the south. Even the bare branches of mature deciduous trees can reduce the amount of sun reaching your house in the winter.

Factors to consider in choosing the right shade plant include height, growth rate, branch spread and shape. Shrubbery planted a few feet away from the house will provide extra shade without obstructing air currents. Plants trees and shrubs so they can direct breezes. Don’t place a dense line of evergreen trees where they will block the flow of cool air around or through them.

Vines grown on trellises can shade windows or a whole side of a home. Set trellises away from the wall to allow air to circulate. Placing vegetation too close to your house can trap heat and make the air around your house even warmer. Prevent vines from attaching themselves to your home’s facade and damaging its exterior.

Trees and shrubs can be planted to shade the outdoor portion of a home’s air conditioner for more efficient operation, but be careful not to obstruct the air flow around the unit.

Be sure your tree-planting sites are safe, both above and below the ground. Check the site for underground and overhead utilities or other obstructions. Avoid planting trees under utility lines. If you need to dig, particularly at a street-side location, contact your local utility company to help locate any underground obstructions.

Throughout the year, the sun’s position changes in the sky. Be aware of seasonal sunshine patterns. In North America in the summer, it appears high in the sky, is more intense and shines for more of the day that it does in the winter, when it is lower in the sky. When selecting a planting site, note the size and direction of shadows, especially during the summer months.

Don’t overlook low ground cover such as grass, small plants and bushes. A grass-covered lawn is usually 10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than bare ground in the summer. For best results, try to use native plants that survive with minimal care and require little water. Whatever plants you choose, make sure they can withstand local weather extremes.

http://www.energyloans.org

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