Plant a Tree To Reduce Utility Bill 11 Percent

A recent Auburn University study provides some real numbers to back a theory we’ve all known was true for some time–planting a shade tree near your home reduces energy bills significantly in the spring and summer months.  The study, conducted in Auburn, Alabama, included 160 homes with different levels of shade. Each home’s energy usage was monitored and compared to other houses with similar energy-using patterns, size, type of cooling system, etc.  Here are some highlights from the study:

  • Houses with trees on the west side of their home had a “much lower power bill”
  • Older homes had the most shade coverage, because people did not use to rely on air conditioning as much to keep them cool
  • For each degree you raise your thermostat in the summertime you can save 3.3% on energy costs
  • Children under age 12 consume the most power in a home as they watch television, play games and frequently leave lights on.  (I could have told them this one!).

Fall and early winter are the perfect seasons to plant a tree.  This time of year many nurseries are trying to reduce their inventory of trees heading into the winter, so you may find a deal on trees to plant around your lot.  The ideal tree to plant on the west side of your home is one that has heavy foliage in the summer, but loses most of its leaves during the winter to allow sunlight to shine through and warm your home naturally.

While you have the shovel out, consider planting a tree near your outside air conditioning unit. The shade will keep the unit cooler and help it operate more efficiently.  Be sure to plant far enough from the unit to allow proper airflow, and account for the tree’s growth over time.

In my town real estate developers plow trees down when planning neighborhoods.  It literally hurts to watch the trees being knocked over because they could provide much needed shade to new homeowners, reducing their electric bill and the amount of energy they consume. Hopefully this study, and more like it in the future, will encourage developers and builders to plan around trees as much as possible to offer homeowners a shaded lot.

Photo courtesy of alykat


  1. Yes, planting trees for windbreaks and shade can definitely save heating and cooling costs. You need to take care though–trees can also cost you big $$ if its the wrong tree in the wrong place. For instance our next door neighbors tree pushes up our asphalt driveway every other year with its huge roots. The landlord had it all redone last year and I hate to tell him this but its going to be needing to be done again. The best thing to do is ‘study’ before you plant. Like most things a little foreknowledge will save a great deal of time and money later.

  2. Another suggestion – Vines on trellisses, extended out a foot or so from the house will also help shade and cool. This is a great way to grow grape vines, kiwi, and other fruiting vines… shade and food all in one 🙂

    Just do not get a vine that will attach to your house siding or stucco, as that can cause deterioration to your home over time.

    The cool thing about grapes is that they love the heat so will do well, and will disappear for the winter months, only to reappear the next spring 🙂

  3. A tree? I never heard that before, but I guess it makes sense. I found another site which gave some free, simple ways to save electricity. But What I need is help after I use methods to save energy? Any other tips or info on gov’t programs? Thanks

  4. I am laughing so hard…especially since I live in the middle of a 100 acre forest. This doesn’t save me from paying 10K to convert my oil furnace to an electric furnace with a heat pump though. Dang tress. 😀

  5. I can definitely relate to the children under 12 thing! Our three girls leave lights and TVs on all the time. Still, with CFLs and LED nightlights, we’re starting to make some headway.

  6. My husband has switched almost every bulb to CFLs and I have watched our bill go down a lot. Some don’t look so pretty but I don’t care when I get my bill. It’s especially important to have in rooms where the children are a lot. I have recently bought some glass lanterns that throw colours on the walls and what a show! The kids and I love it.