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Green Yards for Green Homes

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Uploaded on Oct 19, 2010

Take it from Mark -- planting trees can trim your energy bills.

What may surprise you is that there is a way to save energy right in your own yard — by planting trees and shrubs. Not only can they make your home, neighborhoods and communities more beautiful and add value to real estate, proper landscaping can also help reduce energy costs by providing shelter from the wind and sun.

Some trees and shrubs are best suited for shading when planted in certain areas, while others work well to create natural windbreaks during strong winter winds. They should be selected and planted with care in appropriate locations so you can gain the full benefit of energy savings.

Deciduous trees are trees that lose their leaves in the winter time. When planted on the east, west and south sides of the house, their full canopies of leaves can shade your home from the hot summer sun and cut air conditioning costs by 20%-40%. While shades and drapes can also be used for this purpose, shade trees have been shown to be seven times more effective. During the winter, the bare branches of these trees allow sunlight to filter through to your home so you can take advantage of some natural solar heating as well.

When planting trees, be sure to consider the ultimate spread of the tree so they won't be too close to your house. Large trees should not be planted closer than 15 feet from a house. Smaller deciduous trees may be situated closer, but no less than 10 feet from a house.

Deciduous vines are woody plants that absorb and reflect the sun's rays in the summer helping to keep heat out of your home. They lose their leaves in the fall, allowing sunlight to warm a home during the winter months. You can plant deciduous vines on trellises to shade walls and windows on the south side of your home, or train the vines to grow directly on outside walls. Keep in mind that some types of deciduous vines such as Boston Ivy and Virginia Creeper may be damaging to wood siding, but not to brick or stone walls. Also keep in mind that some vines grow very quickly and require substantial pruning to keep them under control.

Cold winds from the northwest can cause large amounts of heat to be lost from your home during the winter, especially if your home is located on a large open piece of property. Evergreens can create a windbreak to change the force and direction of the wind away from your home, reducing heat loss and helping you save 20% or more on your winter fueling costs.

To create an effective windbreak, evergreens should be planted to the northwest, with the ends of the windbreak extending well beyond 50 feet on both sides if possible. The site of the planting should be at least 50 feet away from your home. A windbreak is effective for a distance of eight times its height.

Shrubs can be used to minimize the loss of cool air away from the house in the summertime, as well as provide some additional protection from the wind during the winter. When you plant dense evergreen shrubs 4 to 5 feet away from a foundation wall, they will shield it from the wind and create a dead air space between the wall and the plants creating some natural insulation. The same shrubs can also be used to shade outdoor air conditioning units.

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