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Make Your Yard Work for You By B. Denise Hawkins L


ocation, location, location is the mantra in real estate, but it also ap- plies to your yard this time of year when the search is on to lower energy bills and create curb appeal. Position- ing the right combination of plants and trees can yield shade, beautify, and unearth energy savings. Such smart or energy-effi cient landscaping, claims the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), can on average, provide enough energy savings to see a return on your initial investment in less than eight years. Again, think location. Carefully positioned trees can reduce a house- hold’s energy consumption for heating and cooling by up to 25 percent. Using computer models, the DOE determined that proper placement of only three trees on your property can save an average household between $100 and $250 in yearly energy costs. This spring, make your yard work for you. Just a few simple landscap- ing considerations can make a big diff erence in your home’s comfort and in the effi ciency of your heating and cooling systems: • Use trees and plants to shade a win- dow air conditioner.


Having shade can increase its effi ciency by as much as 10 percent. For good airfl ow and access, position plants more than three feet from the air conditioner. • Shrubs and trees can form wind- breaks or protective walls that keep wind chill away from a home. That’s important because wind speed lowers outside air temperatures, and ultimately saves on higher heating costs. Common turf grass and other low-growing plants are ideal barriers. So are evergreens, especially when combined with a wall


or fence to defl ect or even lift wind over a home. For best protection, plan on leaving between two to fi ve times the mature height of the trees or shrubs be- tween the windbreak and the protected home.


Made in the Shade


Indoors, you may be protected from the sun’s rays, but your energy bill can rise as your air conditioner works harder to keep your house cool and comfort- able. Planting shade trees can add to your comfort at home by dropping the surrounding air temperature by as much as nine degrees Fahrenheit. But choosing just the right tree may require a compass and patience while they grow


home, the tree will shade the roof in fi ve to 10 years. • Make planting shade trees due west of west-facing windows your fi rst priori- ty. • Select a tree that can be planted within 20 feet of the window and that will grow at least 10 feet taller than that window. If you have the space, use as many trees as needed to create a continuous row along all major west-and east-facing windows. • Contrary to intuition, the least energy effi cient place for a tree is to the south of a house. Diff erent trees can serve a variety of


purposes. To block summer heat while letting sun fi lter through in the winter months, use de- ciduous trees or those that lose their leaves seasonally. Evergreens and shrubs, on the other hand, are ideal for providing continuous shade and blocking heavy winds. Also, keep in mind that not all shade plants are tall. Shrubs and sturdy ground- cover plants also provide good shade by reducing heat radiation and cooling air before it reaches your home’s walls and windows. Start planting savings and let your yard do all the work—a well-placed tree, shrub, or vine can deliver


to work for you: • When selecting shade trees, keep in mind the mature height of the tree and the shape of its shade canopy in rela- tion to the height of your home. These factors are important because they should infl uence how far from the house you decide to plant a tree. Always avoid planting near underground utility lines. • Shading takes time—a 6-foot to 8-foot deciduous tree planted near a house will begin shading windows in a year. Depending on the species and the


eff ective shade, act as a windbreak, and reduce your energy bills.


B. Denise Hawkins writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profi t electric cooper- atives.


Sources: U.S. Department of Energy, Together- WeSave.com, Energy.gov


8 - Northeast Connection


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