Harnett County,
North Carolina

Cooperative Extension 

Can landscape plant affect my energy bill?

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Question Can landscape plants affect my energy bill?

Answer Yes. This is most obvious in the South during summer. The best relationship between energy and landscaping is exemplified by trees. Computer models from the Department of Energy predict that three properly placed trees can save an average household $100 - $250 in energy costs annually. Landscaping helps block and absorb the sun's energy to help decrease heat buildup in your home. Studies conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found summer daytime air temperatures up to 6°F cooler in tree-shaded neighborhoods than in treeless areas.

Despite the obvious – shade is cooler than direct sunlight - there seems to be a trend these days of not planting trees for shade. Hurricanes over the past few years have left many folks scared to plant trees.

Some people believe they will not be living in their current house long enough to see a tree grow up. This so-called “starter home” syndrome prevents folks from planting for the future. While other people simply don't think about anything outside of their house.

There is a silver lining to our current economic situation. Expensive energy may help people conquer their fear of falling trees. Also, sluggish home sales will help people settle into their current neighborhood. Rising energy costs may even cause people to consider the world outside their homes.

Landscaping is a natural and beautiful way to keep your home more comfortable and reduce your energy bills. In addition to adding aesthetic value and environmental quality to your home, a well-placed tree, shrub, or vine can deliver effective shade.

The plants most functional for providing summer shade are those planted to the south and southwest of the home. To shade the roof of a one-story home about 20 feet high, place the tree 15 to 20 feet from the house. Large trees should not be placed closer than 20 feet while medium-sized trees may be placed up to 15 feet away. Small, flowering trees may be placed closer than 15 feet to provide some shade. Small trees may be used for wall or window shade, but do not grow large enough to provide adequate roof shade.

Vines may be used in some locations where space is too limited to plant trees. Deciduous vines are most effective. For masonry walls, deciduous vines shade the walls in summer but drop their leaves in the fall to allow warming of the walls in the winter. Where clinging vines cannot be used, twining vines may be trained onto trellises placed near the walls.

The presence of shade also encourages people to go outside, relax and enjoy nature. For more info on reducing energy consumption, visit http://home.doe.gov/news/1652.htm or http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/eh143 If you do not have internet access, then call me at 910-893-7533 or email me at gpierce@harnett.org The final words of one famous Confederate government employee were “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” - Gen. Stonewall Jackson

Gary L. Pierce

Horticulture Extension Agent

Harnett County

 
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