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Ken's Weekly E-Tip: Planting Trees to Save Energy

Springtime has everyone wanting to get outdoors and plant things. Planting the right tree in the right place is one way to save energy. The right tree can provide wind protection, shade and cool air, while adding beauty, privacy, and wildlife habitat to your landscape.

The right tree in the right place also means to pick and plant the right tree so as to minimize conflicts with power lines. Many power outages are caused by trees contacting electric lines. 


Shade Protection 

Plant trees on the eastern and northeastern sides of house to provide shade from summer morning sun, roughly from the hours of 7 to 11 a.m. Plant trees on the west and northwest side to provide afternoon shade, between the hours of 3 to 7 p.m. and often the warmest part of the day. Trees with a mature height of 25 feet should be planted 10 to 20 feet from the house.

Tree shade around outdoor air conditioning equipment can increase the unit's energy efficiency. Locate trees to protect from midmorning through early evening sunlight. Nearby branches should be pruned at least several feet away from the unit to provide adequate air flow.

A minimum of three large trees around your home can reduce air conditioning costs up to 30 percent.


Wind Protection

Effective windbreak trees have crowns that extend to the ground and branches that keep their foliage in winter (evergreens). Junipers, spruces, firs, Douglas fir, and evergreen shrubs are good choices for wind protection.

Trees for winter wind protection should be planted upwind of the area to be protected. This will often mean planting on the west, northwest, and north sides of a building. However, local conditions like mountain ranges may cause prevailing winter winds to be from other directions.


Planting the Right Tree

Naturally, deciduous trees are best for shading houses from the sun in the summer and allowing warmth in the winter. However, there is more to consider about a shade tree than simply whether or not it will lose its leaves. 

If you envision the branches of a shade tree hanging over your house, you will want to restrict your deciduous tree selection to "strong-wooded, medium-to-slow growing" trees, such as oaks, having strong limbs. Fast-growing trees, such as poplars and willows, have weak wood. Property damage can result from weak-wood species. Be careful about tree root location and on-lot sewage systems. Long term damage to your home or sewage system could result.

A four-foot-tall tree might end up being 60 feet tall and 30 feet across. Homeowners should anticipate the mature size and the shape characteristics of any trees they plant. 


Trees and Power Lines       

Consider the location of power lines when planting a tree. Trees that grow into power lines cause electrical outages and increase line maintenance costs. Trees can also end up in poor health because of necessary and repeated pruning necessary to keep them free from energized conductors.

Consider ornamental species such as flowering crabapple and pear trees, dogwoods and other low-growing trees. Please contact Tim Fritz, forestry supervisor, at 800-521-0570 x2204 or email for additional planning advice. You can also contact your local county extension office for more information on tree planting. 


Earn $25 Bill Credit

Let CEC install a load control device on your electric water heater and earn a $25 one-time bill credit and a monthly $2.50 bill credit. Call 800-521-0570 x2195 to learn more. Members having a water heater installed by the cooperative are not eligible for the credits.


Twitter and Load Control   

Participants in our load control program for electric heat and water heaters can find out when and how long control periods are predicted by logging onto and clicking our Twitter logo. Please remember that these are only predictions and actual times may vary.



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