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Arbor Day: Using Trees to Lower Your Energy Bills

treeToday is Arbor Day, a day that celebrates the trees and planting of trees. In celebration, many groups and individuals come together to plant and care for their trees. Trees have been a long-important natural resource for Americans. They’re a key part of our parks, forests, and agriculture. Did you know that the planting of trees can also save landscapes and economies? Besides providing lumber, which requires cutting down trees, the planting of trees helped reduce damage done during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

As part of the 1934 Great Plains Shelterbelt, the U.S. government came together to plant 220 million trees on the perimeter of farms, stretching 18,600 miles. The trees helped reduce wind velocity and lessen the evaporation of moisture from the soil. Carried out by FDR’s Works Progress Administration, the initiative saved the Great Plains farming community and provided jobs to those suffering in the Depression.

But for the modern American, the benefits of trees may not be so tangible, particularly to those trying to save money. However, planting trees in your yard is a great way to conserve energy and create curb appeal for the resale of your home. Shade trees, like maples and oaks, can be planted on the south and southwestern sides of your home to create shade and reducing air temperatures. Through evapotranspiration, a tree releases water vapor that lowers the ambient temperature in the area.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, this can cut the average household’s energy consumption by 25 percent! Besides saving you a bundle of money, they improve the air quality, reduce storm water runoff, and beautify your neighborhood. With a smaller carbon footprint and a reduced urban heat island effect, everyone benefits from the proper planting of trees.

The key is where you plant the trees, and what kind. Consider the size of your yard when choosing a location and size of tree. You will also want to identify power lines, sidewalks, and the overall layout of your yard. To get the maximum cooling benefit, plant the tree centrally and to the south of the house, or in the southwest corner. A deciduous tree placed here will shade out the hot afternoon sun in the summertime, while allowing light through in the winter.

For more recommendations and guidance, visit Energy-Saving Trees, an online mapping tool from the Arbor Day Foundation to help you maximize your energy-saving benefits when planting trees. Many utility companies sponsor the planting of trees, so use the address tool to see if you can receive the trees for free.

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