Plant a tree or two and watch the utility savings grow


May 21, 1994|By James Dulley | James Dulley,Special to The Sun

Q: I want to landscape my yard with more trees to block the sun's heat in the summer and reduce global warming. I still want to get as much free solar heat as possible in the winter. What do you suggest?

A: With the proper selection and location of trees, you can lower your heating and cooling costs as much as 20 percent. One large tree can produce as much cooling in a single day as running a large room air conditioner.

A tree cools by a natural process called transpiration. As moisture evaporates from the leaves, they cool down, just like when you perspire. This can lower the air temperature near a tree by 10 degrees. Combining this with shading, the total heat reduction is significant.

Global warming (greenhouse effect) can be reduced by planting trees. Trees consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Also, by reducing electricity usage, less carbon dioxide is emitted from electric power plants.

The goal of efficient landscaping is to block the winter winds and summer sun while letting the winter sun and summer breezes through. In general, this includes planting deciduous trees (ones that lose their leaves) on the east and west sides of your house and evergreens to the north.

When selecting trees, it is important to consider the height and shape of the tree as it matures. This allows you to determine how many to plant and how far to locate them from your house to get adequate shading.

The growth rate and winter hardiness are also important selection criteria.

In all but the most northern climates, trees planted to the south are not very effective for shading. The summer sun is high in the southern sky and it shines over most trees onto your house.

The branch patterns of many species of trees is fairly dense. Even after they drop their leaves in the winter, trees on the south side can block as much as 60 percent of the winter sun's heat.

The proper location for trees depends on your specific climate. In cold climates, blocking winter winds and gaining solar heat is the primary goal. A dense row of evergreen trees to the north and northwest is effective.

The goal is the same in temperate climates plus you want to block the summer sun and channel in the summer breezes. A large gap in the trees to the southwest channels in evening summer breezes. Also, some fast growing trees are very short-lived, and you may have a removal expense in 15 years.

Write for Utility Bills Update No. 678 showing a selector guide of 100 types of trees, mature heights and shapes, growth rates, and hardiness zones of where they will grow, and recommended landscape layouts for the various climates. Please include $2.00 handling fee -- cash or check.

James Dulley, The Sun, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244

Q: I had a new super-efficient condensing gas furnace installed this winter. Is it possible to run the water from the condensate drain to the humidifier on the furnace?

A: You cannot use the water from the condensate drain for your humidifier or anything else. This so-called "water" is actually the water vapor which condenses from the flue gases in a condensing furnace. It is laden with chemicals and is usually quiet acidic, requiring stainless steel parts.

You should consider bringing in fresh outdoor combustion air. Since furnaces are often located in a utility area near a clothes washer, the combustion air drawn in contains some detergent and bleach. These increase the acidity of the condensate and can cause premature corrosion.

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