Trees Lower Energy Costs

I grew up in Exeter on a property covered by giant spruce, cedar and maple trees. They were always such a huge part of my life, providing me with excellent hiding spots during neighbourhood games of hide-and-seek, giving us piles of leaves to jump into in the fall, providing us with shade to cool off in the summer and housing local wildlife, like robins and white squirrels! But another value that they offer - something that doesn’t always get a ton of attention - is the way trees can help conserve energy and provide us with financial benefits.


Trees can save us money.  Although every property is unique, strategically planting the right tree in the right place can change the temperature around your house, lower demands on energy (especially during peak hours), reduce atmospheric carbon and minimize your energy bills.


Planting deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in the winter) can help you save energy in the summer by shading your home and air conditioner and planting evergreen trees (those that keep their leaves and needles in the winter) can help to block out cold winds and keep your home warm in the winter.  Here are some simple ways to get the most out of planting trees around your home or business!



1. Plant strategically for winter winds.

It may be a little late to do anything about this winter’s harsh weather, but keep the following tips in mind when the next planting season arrives to help reduce your future heating bills: 

For urban areas, plant evergreen trees three to four metres from your home on the west, northwest or north sides (and large-growing cedars can be planted as close as two metres away). For rural properties, plant larger evergreen trees, such as the native white pine, white spruce or eastern white cedar, between ten to 50 metres away from your home. This can help to reduce your heating bills by breaking winter winds and reducing cold air entry around window panes and door frames – especially in older buildings and homes. 



Windbreak trees will also stop snow from piling up near your home as their branches extend to the ground and are full of foliage throughout the harsh wintry months.  


2. Plant strategically for summer shade

Plant larger deciduous trees, such as a tulip tree, an American elm or a bur oak, between three to ten metres from the east and west facing sides of the building to allow for maximum shade on your property during the summer months. 


You can also plant smaller trees, such as a serviceberry, eastern redbud, grey dogwood or pagoda dogwood, about three to four metres from the northwest or northeast side of your home to cash in on late afternoon and early morning shade. 



Trees planted to the south, southeast or southwest may also provide you with summer shade, but only if planted in the right location. Trees on this side should be tall with fairly high and wide crowns, such as an oak or hackberry, and should be planted between three to ten metres so as to properly provide shade in the summer, but remain sparse enough to let the heat from the sun come through in the winter.   


By following these tips when planting this spring, your benefits will be threefold come the scorching summer months: (1) you will reduce the amount you need to cool your home with your air conditioner; (2) you will lower your emissions and help mitigate climate change; and (3) you will save money!



So, after learning about the awesome benefits trees can provide, why not spruce up your yard with some native trees from LEAF’s Backyard Tree Planting Program and save yourself those hard-earned dollars when it comes to your energy bills!


Brenna Anstett is an ISA certified arborist and LEAF’s Field Operations Coordinator.


The Backyard Tree Planting Program is supported by the City of Toronto, the Regional Municipality of York, Toronto Hydro, the Town of Newmarket and the Town of Ajax.


This blog is an edited version of the "Planting Trees for Energy Conservation" (published on January 28, 2014).
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