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Using shade trees for energy conservation

When you think of shade trees, you most likely focus on the shade they create outside. But trees that shade our homes also help moderate inside temperatures far better than curtains or blinds.

Trees that shade the house during summer lower air conditioning bills by blocking the sun from windows, exterior walls and roofs. Air conditioners cooling a fully shaded house have been shown to work only half as much as those in a house exposed fully to the sun. Other research shows that shade trees can reduce heat gains by 40 to 80 percent, depending upon their placement and density.

Deciduous trees are generally the best choice. These trees let the sun shine on the house in winter when the sun’s added warmth is welcome and provide shade during summer when it’s needed.

Evergreen trees, which retain their foliage year round, provide constant shade, which is not desirable when weather is cold. However, evergreen trees do provide good windbreaks for winter winds when planted on the north side of the house.

When landscaping for energy conservation, deciding on the right placement, number and type of trees requires careful planning. Although now is the time to make decisions on where shade is needed and where to plant trees, don’t forget that the ideal time to plant trees in Mississippi is November through February.

Rebecca Bates is an MSU Extension-Lincoln County agent, and can be reached at 601-835-3460 or by e-mail at rebecca.bates@msstate.edu.