There are all sorts of upgrades you can make to your home and HVAC system to make summertime cooling more efficient. But one of the most cost-effective changes takes place outside the home, and now is the perfect time to start planning for it. By planting a few trees this spring, you can give an overheated house what it really wants: shade.
Shade trees provide all sorts of benefits. They’re good for the planet, they add curb appeal to your yard, and best of all, they’re great at keeping your air conditioning bills low. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a well-planned landscape can reduce the air conditioning costs of a previously unshaded home by 15 to 50 percent.
Shade trees do this not only by blocking hot sunlight from pouring in through windows, but also by creating an aura of coolness around a home. Trees are always drinking up cool groundwater, which flows out into the leaves and slowly evaporates. This misty air can be up to six degrees cooler than in nearby areas with full sun, so a home that is encircled by trees is a relative cool zone.
Creating a shady area right around your air conditioner’s air intake is also a good idea. When your system pulls in cooler outdoor air, it doesn’t have to work as hard to keep temperatures comfortable indoors.
Find Your Type
Choosing the right shade trees has everything to do with microclimate; what works best in hot, humid areas won’t be as effective in regions where it remains cool and dry for most of the year. Furthermore, a cost-effective landscaping strategy only works if the trees thrive and survive, so it’s important to set your trees up to succeed by selecting native species. PlantNative is a smart resource for determining which trees are right for your microclimate.
But no matter where you live, consider choosing deciduous trees if you’re pursuing an HVAC-friendly landscaping scheme. These trees will sprout big, shady leaves in the spring and summer, but they’ll drop them all in the fall, letting that warm sunlight reach your home when you need it most.
Location, Location, Location
Before you start digging holes and planting young trees willy nilly, it may be worth the effort to consult a professional landscaper. Choosing the ideal location for each tree can make a world of difference.
For example, shorter shade trees are best on the east and west sides of a home, because that’s where the sun is going to shine closest to the horizon. Planting taller trees along the south face of a home is best for providing midday cover and keeping roofs and walls cool.
Shade trees are most helpful in keeping homes cool when they’re planted about 10 to 20 feet from the home’s exterior. Too close, and you’ll end up needing to do extensive trimming or even foundation repair when expanding root systems cause cracks. Too far away, and the hot summer sun will find its way to your windows.
If you think you have a green thumb, start putting together your plan this spring so you can be ready to plant by Earth Day. And if you want the advice of an HVAC specialist along the way, go ahead and reach out to your local climate control experts.