Planting a tree

Want a great “two-fer” that will save you energy and increase the value of your home at the same time?

Plant a tree. Better yet, if you’ve got the space, plant a few trees. These towering wonders of nature will return their investment multiplied in increased real estate value, as well as aesthetic charm.

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Nature’s Energy-Saving Umbrellas

Despite helping moderate our climate and providing food, fuel, and shelter, trees also provide relieving shade from the hot sun. In fact, trees can block 70-90% of the sun’s radiation on a clear summer day, and reduce air conditioning needs by as much as 35%. That’s why the U.S. Department of Energy says three properly placed trees could save you $100 to $250 a year in energy costs, which more than pays for the cost to buy, plant, and maintain the trees.

Here’s an added side benefit. Because leaves help filter out pollution, the air around your home might actually be cleaner thanks to the trees. Quieter, too, since trees buffer noise pollution from traffic, lawn mowers, and other noisy equipment.

Shady trees

Increased Curb Appeal

In the short term, trees help you save energy. In the long term, they will increase the value of your home. For example, trees added an average of $8,870 to a home’s sale price in Portland, and decreased its time on the market by two days, according to a 2010 Forest Service study.

Think about your own preferences. Would you rather buy a home that looks like a box sitting in the middle of a vacant lot—or one framed by beautiful trees that add life and character to a home?

Even if you don’t plan to sell your home anytime soon, you’ll enjoy it much more if you have a few trees to admire. Indeed, trees can have a calming effect on people, so much so that studies have shown that neighborhoods with more trees have fewer incidences of violence than communities with fewer trees. They even seem to help people heal faster. Patients recovering from illnesses or injuries have been shown to recover more quickly when they have a view of trees and nature from their windows.

Where to Plant Trees for Maximum Benefit

To get the greatest energy conservation benefit, plant deciduous trees on the west side of a house to provide cooling shade in the summer and warming daylight in the winter as they shed their leaves. Plant evergreens on the north side of your home to block cold winter winds.

If you can avoid it, don’t plant on the south-facing side of your home. Winter sun entering south-facing windows will heat your home and reduce the need for your furnace to kick on. If you do plant on the south-facing side of your home, choose deciduous trees that will let warming winter sun in but keep the hot sun out in the summer.

Plant trees to shade air conditioners, patios, sidewalks and driveways. Concrete can absorb the sun’s heat and then radiate it back into the evening, creating heat islands that can be unbearable. Remember that a hot air conditioner will work harder than a shaded one.

Take into account how big the tree will get, how much shade it will cast, and how much water it will need. Don’t plant below power lines or too close to your home’s foundation, as tree roots can damage even cement barriers, as well as water pipes and underground electrical wires. Also, beware construction or other activities that could compact the soil around a tree and stifle root growth. Keep trees pruned to encourage shapely growth and prevent dead branches from crashing onto your house. Arbor Day has put together a short but helpful video that shows the path of the sun and how it affects the shade trees cast.

Not sure what to plant? Contact your county extension agency or local garden center to determine which native trees do well in your region. You can get saplings inexpensively from cities that participate in Arbor Day programs. Or, spring for a taller tree that will give you the shade you want more quickly.

Have you increased energy efficiency by planting more trees? Let us know in the comments below!