Can a Shade Tree Lower Your Energy Bill?

Can strategic landscaping really lower your energy use (and bill)? 

According to My Florida Home Energy (from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services)  homeowners can save money by planting deciduous trees, which provide shade in the summer months but drop their leaves in the cooler months, allowing the sun to still provide heat to the home.  

Sound worth your time? Here are our best shade tree tips for cooling your home and lowering your energy bill. 

Choosing the Right Shade Trees 

When looking to provide shade for your home, the type of trees you plant matter. Choose deciduous trees that provide dense foliage in the summer to block sunlight but allow sunlight through in the winter when they shed their leaves. It’s also important to be mindful of the mature size of the trees you choose. You’ll want to plant trees far enough away from your home to avoid potential damage from roots and branches as they grow to their full size.   

Don’t have the space or resources for trees? You can also plant shrubs and vines that grow against the walls of your home to help block out the sun and its warming effects. 

What Type of Shade Do You Need? 

Before you begin landscaping, consider your home and goals. How much cooling is needed? Are you looking to cool windows, a sunroom or glass doors?   

My Florida Home Energy recommends considering whether you are looking to provide active or passive cooling. What’s the difference?  

Passive Cooling

Passive cooling allows shrubs and trees to provide gentle cooling breezes toward your home. It’s ideal for homes that use minimal air conditioning for cooling. To take advantage of passive cooling you may want to try these tips: 

  • Remove low tree branches to allow for maximum air movement. 
  • Ensure window-shading plants are located away from the home. 
  • If you’re using shrubs primarily for “low” shade, choose plant species with small leaves and an open branching pattern.

Active Cooling

Active cooling, on the other hand, diverts warm breezes away from your home. It’s a better option for homes that rely largely on A/C for cooling. To make the most of active cooling, here are a few strategies to consider: 

  • Use low-branching trees to protect windows from air movement. 
  • Create dead air space along the walls that face the summer winds. This insulates the home and cuts down warm air infiltration. 
  • In north Florida, use deciduous shrubs on south-facing sides to allow passive solar heating of the walls in the winter. 

Shade Tree Placement 

Now that you’ve created a cooling plan, it’s time to determine where your trees will be planted. Plant trees on the south and west sides of your home to provide maximum shade during the hottest parts of the day, particularly in the afternoon when the sun is most intense.  

Shade trees can also be strategically placed near windows, patios and outdoor living areas to reduce heat gain indoors and create comfortable outdoor spaces. Space trees strategically to ensure proper airflow and prevent overcrowding. This allows for healthy growth and prevents competition for resources among trees.   

My Florida Home Energy recommends providing shade for your AC unit, while being mindful not to block air circulation around the area or cause debris to fall on the unit. 

Shade Tree Maintenance 

Knowing how to provide proper care for your shade trees over time can ensure you are getting the best results from your investment. You’ll want to plant trees in well-drained soil and water them regularly, especially during the first few years of establishment. Apply a layer of mulch around the base of newly planted trees to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Next, prune trees as needed to maintain their shape and remove dead or damaged branches.  

Be patient and plan for the long-term growth of your shade trees. While it may take several years for newly planted trees to provide significant shade, the energy-saving benefits will be worth the wait. 

Trust the Tree Experts 

Whatever your landscaping goals are for your Tallahassee home, the expert team at Miller’s Tree Service is here to help. We’re your local tree experts providing inspection, mitigation, trimming and pruning. We provide afree consultationwith acertified arboristto evaluate the overall health of your trees, identify any structural problems and diagnose any pests and/or diseased trees.   

Contact ustoday to get started.