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Shade Trees Can Help Reduce Energy Use

By Scott Skopec, Superintendent, Right-of-Way Maintenance
The cost of almost everything we do today is going up. This includes the energy we use. Can we reduce these costs in some way and help our lives become a little more green and beautiful?
The answer is "Yes." There are many ways we can accomplish this in our homes and in our lives. As summer approaches, consider natural ways to stay cool and keep your home cool.
Last summer my family and I went to Six Flags on a very hot day. The crowds of people, heat-absorbing pavement and the sun in our faces made the day seem even hotter. We brought a picnic lunch to eat outside that day, and found ourselves in search of a cool spot.
Six Flags has shade trees in and around the parking lot, on tree islands. The coolest place we found for our picnic lunch was under a tree in the parking lot. Many people were doing the same thing — it was hard to fit everyone under the shade tree. I'm not sure what the temperature difference was between the sun and the shade that day, but it sure was a lot cooler under that tree. We need to think of our homes in the same way. To reduce energy use, find ways to use shade to keep you and your home as cool as possible.
Every home and yard is unique. With that being said, we each need to do a little planning and research before we purchase trees and plants if we want to achieve the maximum cooling benefit and avoid other problems. Planting trees and shrubs in the wrong place can cause headaches and be costly down the road.
Proper Places For Trees Around Homes.
For example, you don’t want to plant trees under power lines or too close to your house. Poor tree choices and lack of planning may cause you to lose your tree or may damage your home. Think of how tall trees will grow when you choose the tree and its location.
You'll also want to choose trees and shrubs that grow well in our region, to make certain they can thrive. To learn the type of trees that grow well in our hardiness zone, check with the Arbor Day Foundation. Visit
When you plant the right tree in the right place and choose the right landscaping materials, you add value to your home and invest in long-term energy savings. By planning and planting the correct plants we can each make a difference, saving energy and contributing to a "greener" life in many ways.
Consider these statistics about the capacity of shade trees:
“The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.” — U.S. Department of Agriculture
“Landscaping can reduce air conditioning cost by up to 50% by shading the windows and the walls of a home.”— American Public Power Association
“If you plant a tree today on the west side of your home, in 5 years your energy use should be 3% less. In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12%.” — Dr. E. Greg McPherson, Center for Urban Forest Research
“Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30% and can save 20-50% in energy used for heating.” — USDA Forest Service
“In laboratory research, visual exposure to a setting with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension.” — Dr. Roger S. Ulrich, Texas A&M University
Shade from trees improves our comfort, can reduce air conditioning use and the summer peak demand for energy. This reduces the pressure on the resources we use to produce electricity.
Planting and landscaping away from overhead power lines and underground utilities can also improve public safety and prevent the unintended disruption of utility services. And for safety's sake, before you plant, call 1-800-DIG-RITE or 8-1-1.
Scott Skopec is the Superintendent of Right-of-Way Maintenance. He is instrumental in helping the cooperative earn the Arbor Day Foundation's "Tree Line USA" designation each year. To inquire about tree education and right-of-way maintenance contact Skopec at 800.392.3709, ext. 247 or

Check out the Trees & Power Lines Page for more information