Why Trees Matter: Energy Savings

Wed, January 28, 2015 1:05 PM | Danielle Corral

Last week we wrote about the VPA’s involvement with the City of Phoenix’s urban forestry goals and our participation in a tree planting event for the upcoming Super Bowl. We briefly touched on the benefits of trees but over the next several weeks we want to go more in depth about why planting trees is so important.  First, let’s talk about the energy savings that trees provide since this is often a primary concern for customers of the Shade Tree Program.

Planting trees can save the average household $100-$250 a year on utility bills. Three trees placed strategically around a home can reduce its energy consumption for cooling and heating by 25 percent and its summer air conditioning demands by as much as 50%! In Arizona where our highest utilities bills are often caused by running the air-conditioner, that is a substantial energy cost savings. Because cool air travels downward, standing under a tree, alone, can drop the temperature by 25°F. Imagine the energy savings from surrounding a home with several trees. Handy online tools like this one from Arbor Day help locate the best places to plant trees to optimize energy cost savings or online diagrams, like the one pictured right, illustrate how to determine where to place trees and other landscaping plants. Heating and cooling homes comprises about 60% of total residential electric usage in the US. Not only will you be saving hundreds of dollars in utility bills by planting trees, but you’ll be helping to reduce the amount of energy we all use.

Along with cooling homes, trees can also cool a city nearly 10°F by providing shade, by breaking up the heat released from concrete, and by releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves. A 10°F drop in Arizona can be the difference between 100°F and 110°F and anyone who has lived here during the summer knows that’s a major difference. Imagine the energy saved from grocery stores that need to keep their food at colder temperatures or those department stores we walk into that are nice and cool when it’s over 100 degrees out. Urban heat is responsible for about 5-10% of total US electricity demand and 20% of smog in highly concentrated urban areas is due to air-conditioners. If we were to strategically plant trees to optimize their cooling effects, it is estimated that the total cooling energy savings in the US could be as high as $5 billion annually.

Energy savings is only one of the benefits of planting trees. The next blog in this series will explore another reason why trees matter.

References:

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/library/pdfs/16632.pdf

http://energysavingtrees.arborday.org/#Home

http://www.yourhome.gov.au/passive-design/shading (diagram)

http://actrees.org/files/Resources/factsheet_energy.pdf

http://actrees.org/resources/about-trees/tree-facts/

http://www.treesforever.org/energy

http://www.treesforever.org/servlet/servlet.FileDownload?file=00P6000000MojjNEAR

http://www.treepeople.org/benefits-trees

http://www.fs.fed.us/ucf/treesforpeople.shtml

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