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Choosing trees for energy efficiency

Early spring is a great time to think about changes to your home’s landscape. The two best strategies for improving the energy efficiency of your home with landscaping are to incorporate shading in the summer and wind blocking in the winter.
Summer shading
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, shading your home is the most cost-effective way to reduce air-conditioning costs in the summer. Planting deciduous trees on the south, southwest, and west sides of your home can cut the heat during summer months, while allowing sunlight through during the fall and winter.
Before planting, consider the mature shape and height of trees and where they will shade your home. A tall tree on the south side of a home, for example, will provide all-day roof shading in the summer, while a smaller tree on the west side can protect your home from the lower afternoon sun.
Plant trees an appropriate distance from the house so they do not disrupt the foundation or the roof as they grow. Incorporate shrubs and vines until newly planted trees begin offering shade, in five to 10 years.
Wind-blocking techniques
A windbreak on your property can help deflect cold winter winds that may be increasing your heating bills. Windbreaks commonly use a combination of evergreen trees and shrubs to block wind from the ground to the top of the home. For maximum effect, plant them on the north and northwest sides at a distance from your house of between two and five times the height of the mature trees.
Incorporating a wall or fence can further assist with the windbreak. You can also plant shrubs and bushes closer to your home—but at least 1 foot away—to help insulate it in winter and summer.
Important safety reminders
Dial 811 a few days before you plan to dig (not counting weekends and holidays); for more info go online to Call811.com. Contact your local electric co-op to discuss how far away newly planted trees should be from overhead electric lines before making changes to your yard.
PATRICK KEEGAN  and AMY WHEELESS write on energy efficiency for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
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