Home & Garden

Trees are nature's energy-savers

Trees offer many benefits, from reducing pollution, to adding beauty and value to property, to creating wildlife habitat. Perhaps the most tangible benefit is reducing energy bills. We talked with two tree experts — Dan Lambe, vice president of programs for the Arbor Day Foundation, and Scott Maco, a research urban forester with the Davey Tree Institute — to learn more about this.

How should you plant trees around your home for the greatest benefit?

Scott: "Trees save the most energy when planted on the east and west sides of a house. If you can plant only one tree, remember that 'west is best' to shade the home during the hottest part of the day. Trees on the south side of a house won't save much because in summer the sun is too high to be blocked by most trees. And in winter, when the sun is lower, those trees can block the sun from warming the home."

Large trees take years to mature. Is there any way to reduce bills in the short term?

Dan: "The best thing to do while you wait for large trees to grow is to plant smaller, fast-growing trees that will shade your air-conditioning unit. That can increase cooling efficiency as much as 10 percent."

How do you choose appropriate trees?

Dan: "In general, we recommend large shade trees. Some of the best species include oaks and maples, but it depends on your climate."

Scott: "That's right. Deciduous trees are more solar-friendly because they provide shade in the summer and allow the warming sun to heat a home in winter."