We talk a lot about home improvement projects that can help you save energy. But even if you’re not so handy with a hammer, we hope this one will appeal to you. The project? Planting shade trees.
Where to Plant
With a little bit of planning, you can plant your trees in places that will optimize the benefits. Here are a few simple guidelines to get you started:
- Plant trees alongside your driveway. In direct sunlight, the dark asphalt will absorb the energy and transform it into heat, which is then radiated back at your house. A shade tree will help keep it nice and cool.
- Plant trees to shade your air conditioning unit. A unit in direct sunlight has to work a lot harder than one in the shade (hey, who can blame it?). Cut it a break and help it keep cool with a shade tree. Your energy bill will thank you for it.
- Planting trees on the east and west side of your house can help protect against the sun as it travels across the sky, but don’t neglect the south side of your home. When planting on the south side, however, make sure you plant the trees at least twice as far from the house as the mature tree is tall. Otherwise, you may end up with shade you don’t want in the colder winter months, even from a tree that has lost its leaves.
- For trees that mature to 25 feet tall, make sure you keep them at least 10 to 20 feet from your house. You’ll also want to prune low branches to ensure you maintain your view from the windows, while leaving the higher branches to provide the shade.
- Be careful! Never plant trees underneath or close to power lines—that’s just asking for trouble. And if you have a septic system, stay mindful of the tank and pipes—roots that get too close can cause problems if you aren’t careful.
What to Plant
Okay, you’ve figured out where you want to plant your trees, but there are so many kinds to choose from! So when you go visit the garden center or your friendly neighborhood arborist, here’s what to keep in mind:
- Evergreens look nice, but the problem’s right there in the name—they never lose their leaves. While they can offer shade in the summer, they also offer it in the winter, when a sun-warmed home is a good thing.
- Fast-growing trees might seem like a good idea, but steer clear of known pests like the silver maple or the princess tree—both these species can become invasive, and the silver maple’s shallow, aggressive root system can get into pipes, foundations, and more. Better alternatives for quick growth are tulip trees, red oaks, or cherry blossoms.
- When in doubt, ask! Your local nursery or landscaper can offer great advice on planting the right trees for your neck of the woods, factoring in things like environment, weather, soil, and more.
Planting shade trees is a great long-term investment for homeowners looking for ways to more naturally control their energy costs. Once established, you’ll definitely be seeing more green—and we aren’t talking about leaves.