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Ask a Specialist: How can trees reduce energy costs?

By By JERRY GOODSPEED USU Extension horticulturist

When you consider the cost of a tree and its lifetime of reducing both heating and cooling costs to homes, it is one of the best values on the market. Consider this information.

The major savings on well-placed trees is in reduced cooling costs. Well-placed trees shading a home can reduce energy costs by up to 12 percent.

Trees have the ability to reduce the heat that radiates from concrete and blacktop. Those who step outside barefoot quickly appreciate shaded spots on the concrete or blacktop.

Trees can reduce heating costs by blocking the wind. Proper placement can maximize heat absorption from the winter sun and still provide shade in the summer.

Evergreens make the best wind breaks, and deciduous trees are ideal for shading the south and west sides of a home. One advantage in planting a deciduous shade tree on the south and west is that it offers shade in the summer, but after the leaves drop in the fall, it still allows enough light through in the winter to help warm the house.

Fall is an ideal time to plant trees. Many nurseries and garden centers have reduced prices this time of year.

When planting trees, there are simple rules to keep in mind. First, trees grow, and some will get extremely large. With that in mind, determine the size they will be at maturity and make sure they have enough room to expand. Most trees should be 10 to 15 feet from the house. As trees mature, they will give the house the shade it needs. Far too many trees are planted too close to the house as anxious homeowners want immediate shade, but this creates problems over time.

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