How to Beat the Summer Heat with Trees

Trees properly placed around a house can save you money and help cool your house in the summer.  This is according to the U.S. Forest Service Center for Urban Forest Research, but the concept is easy for everyone to understand.  Go outside sometime this summer and stand in the sun for a few minutes.  Then walk over to your nearest tree and stand in the shade.  I bet you will notice that the shade the tree provides is much cooler than standing in full sun.  This same concept can be replicated by planting trees in the right places to cast shadows on your house during different times of the day.  Find out where to plant around your house and what trees are best. 

Trees provide many benefits to all of us, every day. They provide cooling shade, block cold winter winds, attract birds and wildlife, purify our air, prevent soil erosion, clean our water, and add grace and beauty to our homes and communities. Planting the right trees in the right places conserves energy and reduces your energy bills, while helping to fight global warming.

 Plant Deciduous Trees on the East and West Sides of Your Home

Large deciduous trees planted on the east, west, and northwest sides of your home create soothing shade from the hot summer sun and can reduce summer air conditioning costs by up to 35%.

The Basics

Use: Deciduous trees (ones that lose their leaves) cool your house in the Summer and allow sun to heat your house in the winter (because they lose their leaves).

Planting Location: On the south, east, and west sides will keep your house cool in the summer.  

-East Trees cast shadows on your house in the morning sun.  The temperature is cooler so they don’t have as great of an impact on your electric bill.

-South Trees cast shadows on your house in mid-morning and early afternoon.  Research done by US Forest Service has shown that you should plant these trees 40 feet or closer to your house to have a large enough shadow to cast. (Of course it depends on how tall your tree is.  The taller it is, the larger shadow it casts).

-West Trees cast shadows that block the afternoon sun when temperature is hottest.  These trees will have the most impact on your summer energy bills.  But together East, South and West will create the most energy savings in the summer.   Watch animation of how trees cast shadows

Type of Tree: Taller trees with dense canopies will do the best.  Examples include London Planetree and Yellow Buckeye

Other Ways to save energy with trees. Plant Deciduous Trees to Shade High-Heat Spots

Trees or shrubs planted to shade air conditioners help cool a building more efficiently, using less electricity. A unit operating in the shade uses as much as 10% less electricity than the same one operating in the sun.

And trees that shade patios, sidewalks, and driveways cool the concrete, the entire yard, and even the neighborhood.

Ultimately planting tall, dense deciduous trees on the west, south, and east sides of your house or around your air conditioner will:

  1. - Cause you to use less energy
  2. - Create less demand on the energy grid because the utility company uses less energy, especially at peak demand times with West Trees
  3. - Use less fossil fuel, because the utility consumes less to create the energy
  4. - Reduce carbon dioxide emissions because less fossil fuels are consumed
  5. - Absorb greenhouse gases through the tree itself helping to reduce climate change
  6. -Absorb stormwater creating cleaner water
  7. -Create cleaner air

Calculate the value of your trees  or the trees in your community.

10 Comments

  1. What great information, Ben. My property is barren of trees except for a weeping cherry that I purchased 2 years ago. (I’ve been slowly doing foundation plantings.)

    I’ve been looking for information as to where to plant trees around my house to lower energy costs and your information is very timely.

    I enjoy your newsletters and thanks for all that you do!

    Linda in the NC Foothills

  2. Our soil is very sandy and its very hot here.We havent had much rain this year. What can we do to improve the soil ,so we can plant some trees? What will grow faster than others here in North Carolina
    Thanks

  3. Why is it that only certain companies are allowed to ship plants to Arizona. I can buy some of ArborDay.org plans thru local nurseries or even on-line nurseries. Is there ANY plant I can buy from ArborDay? If not, I guess I do not need to be reading your material, because if you cannot grow trees in the State of Arizona, how can you have any experience in recommending any plant for this area?

  4. Peggy,
    You will need to amend your soil with compost, manure, pine fines, grass clippings, etc. It is an ongoing process, but worthwhile. The compost and organic matter improves the water-retaining capability of your soil. You may have to bring compost in by truckload to improve your whole yard. You might check with your county’s Department of Natural Resources or your county extension to see if they provide free compost.

    It is also a good idea to plant trees that tolerate sandy soil. You can ask your county extension for recommendations. Also NC State University provides a listing of trees of your state via the link below. You will need to check the soil requirements for those you are interested in though.
    http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/trees-new/common_namesa_e.html

  5. Excellent post. What an enormous awareness you have provided here. I express my gratitude for this well-informed post. Trees are very helpful in filtering of harmful UV rays and also provide a calming environment by absorbing noise and improving healthy activities.
    garden design sydney

  6. hi sir ,i have one doubt,i would like to know which tree absorbs more radiations from sun and gives cool breezes to us?waiting for the answers if any one knows please mail me

    • I am not sure anyone has done research on that topic. There is research on which trees provide the most carbon value, clean the air the most, reduce storm water. In the case of the research I have read they focused on trees that cast the best shadows. I would assume the trees that absorb the most sun would be similar: large trees with dense canopies.

      The 3 trees below are large trees with dense canopies.

      TuliptreeJapanese ZelkovaYellow Buckeyeova

  7. I love trees, and the more I’ve gardened, the more I realize the value of U.S. native trees and plants. The value goes beyond the great success of the plantings, but also to the low maintainence, low water use, high environmental and wildlife benefits, harmonious garden design, and the positive feelings of keeping our native species alive and well. Could you somehow note the native trees, etc. in your publications? Maybe with a symbol or letter? And many thanks for your always helpful information.