If you’re outside on a hot day, the first thing you do is look for a shady tree. The air temperature under a tree can be up to 25 degrees less than the unshaded area around it, in part because of “evapotranspiration” – the process by which plants release water vapor.

House shaded by trees

So a strategically planted tree not only adds beauty to your surroundings, it can eventually provide shade that can keep your house cool and lower your utility bills – especially in southern states, where, in summer, up to forty percent of electricity is used for air conditioning.

And cutting back on cooling will in turn reduce the global-warming carbon pollution that comes from power plants.

But unlike appliances, trees don’t come with energy efficiency ratings, so Joe Maher of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center is trying to quantify the energy savings they can provide.

Maher: “I think understanding the energy efficiency aspect of it can be an important part in making informed decisions both for governments and for individual households.”

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Maher’s research indicates that depending upon the amount of shade, trees can reduce household energy consumption by between five and fifteen percent – so you can think of that green, leafy oak in your yard as mother nature’s air conditioner.

Reporting credit: Leah Menzer/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center
How to Plant Trees to Conserve Energy for Summer Shade
Planting Trees For Energy Conservation: The Right Tree in the Right Place
Landscaping for Shade

Lisa Palmer is a freelance journalist and a fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, SESYNC, in Annapolis, Md. Her writing covers the environment, energy, food security, agriculture,...