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Shade trees slash power bills

 Posted by on November 19, 2008
Nov 192008

By John DeFore
Green Right Now

Everyone knows that shade from the sun keeps you cooler, but a new study has quantified the benefit in a way homeowners might want to note. The right kind of shade, it turns out, can easily shave ten percent off your summertime electric bill.

David Laband, a professor in Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, studied 160 area houses between May and September — quantifying the amount of shade trees cast on each and comparing their power usage. Those with a sizable amount of what he called “heavy shade” had bills over ten percent lower than those with no shade at all. (11.4%, to be exact, which in this study amounted to between $31 and $33 per month in savings.)

Trees providing lighter shade could help a household achieve similar savings, but many more trees were needed. One of Leband’s hopes is that this information will encourage real estate developers not to bulldoze big old trees because they interfere with house plans. Even if builders re-plant young trees in more convenient spots, the loss of shade will be significant.

Of course, where trees stand in relation to a house makes a difference. “We looked at the amount of shade in the early morning, early afternoon and late afternoon,” a statement from the researcher read. “If you have trees on the west side of your house, you will have a much lower power bill.”

The study cost over a quarter of a million dollars, vastly more than the electric-bill differential in the houses Laband studied. If the data he collected filters out into the development community, though, where “green building” is gaining traction, it might not take long to pay off.

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