An arborist’s solution to the energy crisis

Thu, 10/02/2008 - 8:37am
By: The Citizen

By Brian Arnold
Special to The Citizen

Don’t worry about paying four dollars for a gallon of gasoline, as you can offset some of that cost by planting trees.
I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t like trees. In my work, I’ve meet a few fellows that, to one degree or another, make their living knocking them over and hauling them off, but I’ve not met anyone who doesn’t like them. For many of us, including several of those fellows referenced above, get a great deal of enjoyment from the outdoors, where trees are.

Without trying to sound like a “bleeding heart”, it’s shameful, in my opinion, how under appreciated and under valued trees are in regards to the economic impact that they make. For as easy and instinctive as it is to appreciate the aesthetics of trees, other benefits that that they provide are sometimes taken for granted. These benefits include, not the least of which, energy conservation.

I suspect that if the energy conservation and other benefits that trees provide were common knowledge, there would most certainly be a greater demand for their preservation.

During summer, a site with shade trees can be as much as 20 degrees F cooler than a similar site that is in full sun, as trees reduce temperatures by shading surfaces and dissipating heat through evaporation. With this in mind, it probably isn’t too hard for many to believe that a tree can impact the cooling cost of a home.

However, if more people realized that well placed trees can cut cooling cost by 25 to 50%, there would likely be more incentive to either preserve trees providing respective benefit, or to plant trees that eventually will. By preserving or planting deciduous trees, a home can be shaded during time of summer heat, and receive virtually full sunlight during winter, when heating from the sun is desired.

Simply planting or preserving, whichever the case may be, a single shade tree on the west side of a home can have a significant impact upon cooling costs. Trees on the south side of a home have comparatively greater impact too, as compared to trees on the east or north side. However, regardless of location, a tree can provide energy savings.

For immediate gratification, planting a tree that will shade the air conditioner unit is said to reduce cooling cost by as much as 10%.

In regards to heating costs, the University of Georgia informs that trees that provide a wind break reduce “chill factor” and reduce cold air infiltration and exchange of a home by reducing wind. This can result in a savings of heating costs by 7% or more.

In addition to energy conservation, trees benefit us in ways that can be provided by no other means.

For one, trees cleanse the air by absorbing carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and by filtering dust and other particulates from the air. Of coarse by doing so trees produce oxygen, which we use from time to time, as a by product. Considering the quality of the air in the Atlanta area, this should be of interest.
Trees also reduce storm water run off and erosion. According to UGA, trees act as filters removing nutrients and sediments while increasing ground water recharge.
According to the Center for Urban Forest Research, streets with little or no shade need to be paved twice as often as streets with tree cover.

There have been numerous studies that demonstrate that trees contribute to Economic Stability and property values. Regarding real estate values, trees and other landscape plantings have been found to increase selling prices up to 20%.

That’s a hunk.

Trees absorb and abate noise, and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife that make our environment more interesting.
Given time, hopefully more of us will become a bit more “tree literate” and create a higher demand for tree preservation, and hopefully it will occur without Congressional action.

Brian Arnold, Horticulturist & Certified Arborist, is Manager of Tree, Shrub and Turf Care at Natures Landscape Services, Inc.
His email address is

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