Residential Trees Conserve Energy

On a really hot day, our instincts typically tell us find some cool alternative to misery in the sun’s rays. For some, this summer fun in lieu of heat exhaustion comes in the form of a refreshing swimming pool. For others, it’s the comfort of their home air conditioning or a high speed fan. The most basic of instincts, it’s safe to say that when given the option to either stand out in the sun’s heat or to sit in the shade of a large tree, the majority of people will choose the tree. But why?

As the sun heats the foliage in a tree’s canopy, water evaporates from the leaves, causing a cooling effect in the canopy and surrounding area. (It sounds a lot like our human ability to cool our bodies through sweat evaporating off of our skin, doesn’t it?) The resulting cooler temperatures through what is called “evapo-transpiration”, combined with the lack of direct sunlight hitting anyone (or anything) seeking shelter underneath the canopy adds up to a significantly reduced air and surface temperature in the shade of a tree.
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When putting two and two together, it’s obvious that when shade trees are planted adjacent to homes in a position where they will provide some shelter from the heat of summer the home will ultimately be cooler than one with a roof that is exposed. The temperature reduction on the roof results in a cooler interior temperature, meaning that the AC does not have to work as hard or use as much energy to cool the house. The bottom line here – energy savings for home owners. In 2012, trees in Edmond’s residential areas actually saved an annual total of $4,640,783 for Edmond residents, a collective 46,498 megawatt hours for the year! As trees grow in size, they continue to provide even more savings as long as they are maintained in good condition. Trees around the home are an investment that continues to increase in yield!

Summer is not the only season when trees contribute to energy savings. Evergreen trees planted on the north side of the home will redirect cold winds around the home, preventing them from as significantly reducing the interior temperature. This protection results in less energy generated for heating the building. Edmond residents saved 13,938 million British thermal units in 2012, resulting in total annual savings of $224,284.

Experiencing the benefits of trees can take time since they take a while to grow and increase in effectiveness each year. What better time is there to introduce these features to your property than now? Stop by the Open House on October 9th to pick up a seedling, and the Tree Distribution on October 25th to grab a 3 gallon tree and get a head start on your energy savings.
The data in this article resulted from a study conducted in 2012 on the quantified benefits of trees growing in Edmond’s residential areas. The study was conducted by a consultant through a USDA Urban and Community Forestry grant received by the Urban Forestry Department and administered through Oklahoma Urban and Community Forestry Council and Oklahoma Forestry Services. Home energy use is the first installment of a year-long, quarterly educational program unveiling this information about what Edmond’s trees are doing for the people who live around them.

Check out more topics from the Fall 2014 issue of Edmond Tree Mail