How Trees Help Conserve Energy and Purify Air

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Most people find trees aesthetically pleasing, but did you know they can also help conserve energy? They help us stay cool in the summer and lower our energy bills by shading our homes. In the fall deciduous trees shed their leaves allowing the sun to shine through and warm the house just as temperatures are starting to drop. When considering what type of trees to plant around your home it is important to take into account the desired look of your landscape, but at the same time you can consider using the landscape to help you have the energy efficiency you would like.

Choosing Your Trees

In choosing trees for your property, your selection of trees and placement of those trees will help with this energy saving practice. First choose which type of trees you will plant whether deciduous or evergreen trees that will be on the west and south sides of your home as these areas are where the sun will put out the most heat during the winter and summer time. Place them far enough away so that they provide the most desired affect and weather control once fully grown. This placement is based on Idaho and how the sun affects the area. There are pros and cons on both types of trees so if you choose to plant pines or spruces they are better served as wind breaks and privacy barriers. They do provide shade in the summer as the sun sets, but in the winter they cause an increase in your heating bill as the sun is not shining its last rays at the hottest time. The benefit that you have to consider is that in the winter the wind block that pines and spruces provide does keep the home from the southwesterly winds that tend to cause more cold homes and increase heating bills. A deciduous tree will provide wind blockage during the summer, but not in the winter. However it allows for the last heating rays of sun light in winter to help heat your home just a little longer.

Next choose trees with the largest canopy at full growth as it will require less trees to be planted, it will give you a lager shaded area to enjoy cool weather at the hot times of summer, and will give you a longer cooling during the summer as it gets hottest as the sun is going down. In the winter, depending on the trees you have chosen, you will benefit from either a good wind shelter or if you chose deciduous trees, then you will benefit from more moisture and nutrients to penetrate down into the soil.

Planting Your Trees

When planting your trees, don’t plant them under power lines as the power company at a later time my need to come and prune the tree. Unfortunately, they aren’t pruning for looks, they prune for clearance of the power lines and it weakens the tree as well. Also, don’t plant the trees too close to the house or other structures so you protect those structures from tree limb damage in high winds and winter snow weight damage. Whether you plant evergreens or deciduous trees, make sure to plant them far enough away from those power lines so that when the canopy is fully grown, you won’t have a free pruning job from the power company that leaves your tree unsightly and damaged. Also, it should be noted that you can avoid this type of issue by pruning the tree yourself, or by having professionals come prune your trees so the branches don’t grow into the power lines. Pruning will serve to maintain the beauty of the tree.

Another aspect to consider when planting is how much work you want to invest in the upkeep of your trees. Idaho is a desert type climate in the valley areas, and even the mountain areas can be dry if not enough moisture is accumulated during the year. This dryness makes your ability to provide the trees with adequate water a strong consideration. Birch trees are a popular tree choice in Idaho. These trees are a swamp tree from the south and need a lot of water each week to maintain proper health, whereas maple trees seem to do quite well with fewer waters in a week. Always remember that your sprinkler system for your lawn will not be enough water for the trees to grow properly, in fact it will contribute to shallow root zones and when you get high winds, the tree will fall over due to the fact that the roots aren’t anchored properly. Also, you need to consider that if you want to help retain moisture around your trees you’ll need to place mulch around the base of the tree at a depth of three inches out to the drip line, which means as the tree’s drip line increases, so will the mulch base. This serves a few benefits. First, it helps provide protection from mechanical damage from mowers and trimmers. Secondly, it helps give you an area to apply fertilizer that can be watered into the root system so the roots develop stronger, and finally, as stated before, it helps retain moisture so you can space out your watering needs.

Watering Your Trees

Trees need to be watered at a depth of eight to twelve inches at the drip line of the tree. The drip line is the edge of the tree canopy or where the edge of the leaves are on the branches of the tree. Placement of your hose should be at North, South, East, and West with the hose at a trickle to water to saturation, usually an hour per spot or when the water starts to puddle up. Do this every other day while trying to establish newly planted trees, because lack of water is the main reason for tree failure. After two years of this watering schedule you can go to once to twice week varying when you water so you cause a little bit of stress to strengthen the tree. Another watering option is to use soaker balls that can be placed on the end of a hose, but again set the water at a trickle for an hour per compass spot. Where we’re talking about energy efficiency, watering the tree needs to addressed, so make sure you take the watering needs of the tree into consideration when choosing your trees.

Energy Efficient Placement of Your Trees

Where you place the trees will also have an affect on how the energy is used in areas other than your home. Trees that create shade over paved surfaces reduce urban island effect and ozone formation. They can also help reduce evaporative hydrocarbon emissions and ozone formations. They do this by collecting particulate pollutants on their foliage, thus reducing ozone on your street and neighborhood.


Lastly, depending on how many trees you plant around your home you help to improve the air quality. Trees and other plants use carbon dioxide to make their food. They scrub the carbon particles that create bad air and release oxygen into the air. Your landscape is your own personal air filtration and purification system. As you can see whether it is by helping conserve energy or improving your air quality, trees are an investment that keep on giving.