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Solar heat absorbed through windows and roofs makes your air conditioner work harder and consume more electricity. But incorporating shading into your landscape design can help reduce both solar heat gain and your electricity bill.
Shading from trees can reduce surrounding air temperatures as much as 9° F. Because cool air settles near the ground, air temperatures directly under trees can be as much as 25° F cooler than air temperatures above nearby blacktop.
To block solar heat in the summer but allow it in during winter, plant deciduous trees. To provide continuous shade and block heavy winds, use dense evergreen trees or shrubs.
Deciduous trees with high, spreading crowns (leaves and branches) should be planted on the south side of your home to provide maximum summertime roof shading. Trees with lower crowns are more appropriate to the west, where shade is needed from lower afternoon sun angles. Trees should not be planted on the southern sides of solar-heated homes in cold climates because branches will block some winter sun.
Although a slow-growing tree may take many years before it shades your roof, it will generally live longer than a fast-growing tree. Also, because slow-growing trees often have deeper roots and stronger branches, they are less prone to breakage by windstorms or heavy snow loads. Slow-growing trees can also be more drought resistant.
A 6- to 8-foot deciduous tree planted near your home will begin shading windows the first year. Depending on the species, the tree will shade the roof in five to 10 years. If you have an air conditioner, shading the unit can increase its efficiency by as much as 10%.
Trees, shrubs, and groundcover plants can shade the ground and pavement around the home. This reduces heat radiation and cools the air before it reaches your home’s walls and windows. Use a large bush or row of shrubs to shade a patio or driveway. Plant a hedge to shade a sidewalk. Build a trellis for climbing vines to shade a patio area.
Vines can also shade walls during their first growing season. A lattice or trellis with climbing vines, or a planter box with trailing vines, shades a home’s perimeter while admitting cooling breezes in to the shaded area.
Shrubs planted close to the house will fill in rapidly and begin shading walls and windows within a few years. Avoid allowing dense foliage to grow immediately next to a home. The resulting humidity will create maintenance-related problems and in dry conditions could be a fire hazard.
Whatever your landscaping plans are this year, consider the benefits of shade trees and plants to reduce your home-cooling costs. Learn more at www.BentonREA.org/energy-savings/energy-saving-trees.