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California study shows shade trees reduce summertime electricity use
Date:1/5/2009

PORTLAND, Ore. January 5, 2009. A recent study shows that shade trees on the west and south sides of a house in California can reduce a homeowner's summertime electric bill by about $25.00 a year. The study, conducted last year on 460 single-family homes in Sacramento, is the first large-scale study to use utility billing data to show that trees can reduce energy consumption.

"Everyone knows that shade trees cool a house. No one is going to get a Nobel Prize for that conclusion," says the study co-author, Geoffrey Donovan. "But this study gets at the details: Where should a tree be placed to get the most benefits? And how exactly do shade trees impact our carbon footprint?"

Donovan, a research forester with the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest (PNW) Research Station, is a co-author of the report with economist David Butry of the National Institutes of Standards and Technology. The report, "The Value of Shade: Estimating the Effect of Urban Trees on Summertime Electricity Use," has been submitted for publication to the journal Energy and Buildings.

The researchers chose to do their study on homes in Sacramento because of the city's hot summers and the fact that most people use air conditioners. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District operates an active tree planting program and residents are eligible for up to 10 free trees annually through a program delivered in partnership with the Sacramento Tree Foundation.

Some of the study's key findings are:

  • Placement of a tree is the key to energy savings. Shade trees do affect summertime electricity use, but the amount of the savings depends on the location of the tree.
  • Trees planted within 40 feet of the south side or within 60 feet of the west side of the house will generate about the same amount of energy savings. This is because of the way shadows fall at different times of the day.
  • Tree cover on the east side of a house has no effect o
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Contact: Sherri Richardson Dodge
srichardsondodge@fs.fed.us
503-808-2137
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station
Source:Eurekalert

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