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Windbreaks Can Save You Money
Trees can do more than just beautify your property. Trees can also serve as windbreaks that make your home more comfortable and reduce your heating bills by 10 to 30 percent.
Unprotected homes can suffer up to one-third of its heating loss through conduction, which is the transfer of heat through a solid material. Conduction through the walls and roof is greatly accelerated by wind. Properly placed trees can reduce the wind speed when it hits your house by up to 50 percent, significantly reducing the conductive energy loses.
Trees reduce wind velocity for a distance of about 10 times the height of the tree. Maximum protection is within five times the height of the tree. That means a house 150 feet from a row of 30-foot tall trees will be well-protected from the wind and far enough from the trees so you shouldn't have to worry about them falling on your home.
Which plants should I use?
The best choice is a dense, fast-growing conifer that will mature to a height 50 percent higher than the house. Experts recommend using Norway, white, and Colorado blue spruce. Blue spruce will provide the most protection, but it grows very slowly.
The trees should retain branches low to the ground. White pines are commonly used as windbreaks, but they lose their branches close to the ground. In this situation, add a row of dense evergreen shrubs.
As always, check to see which plants are most suitable to your area.
Where should they be placed?
Since the prevailing cold winter winds are from the northwest in most of the United States, trees should be planted at a right angle along the north and west of the home. Where possible, the windbreak should be longer than the area protected. For maximum protection, experts suggest planting two to five rows of trees, depending on the species. In general, the tallest trees should be placed closest to the home -- but far enough away so they won't crush your home.
Trees and shrubs can also provide summer shading. As trees intercept the sun's heat, they release cooling moisture into the air. Trees used for summer shading should be placed on the south and west sides of the house. This is especially beneficial in warmer climates. Deciduous trees are the most suitable shade trees. Because they drop their leaves in the winter, they do not block out as much of the desirable winter sun.
Trees should be selected based on their aesthetics, ease of maintenance, and their adaptability to your site.
Trees also provide privacy and noise deflection. They beautify the yard, provide local habitat to wildlife, and soak up rainwater. Healthy trees also increase your property value.
Further Sources of Information
Conserving Energy with Landscaping from the Virginia Cooperative Extension.
Landscaping for Energy Efficiency by the US DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Content updated on 3/28/2006
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