Use Plants to Reduce Wind and Fuel Costs

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Plants can serve as windbreaks and somewhat as insulators around your home, helping you to save money on your electricity or gas bill. An unprotected home loses much more heat on a cold, windy day than on an equally cold, still day. Well located trees and shrubs can intercept the wind and cut heat loss. Up to one-third of the heat loss may escape through the walls and roof by conduction. Wind also increases the convective air currents along outside walls and roof thus increasing heat loss.

Infiltration or air leakage can account for as much as one-third of heating losses in some buildings. Cold, outside air flows in through cracks around windows and doors, and even through pores in walls. This produces drafts that may cause you to compensate by raising the thermostat to unreasonable levels just to remain comfortable. Both windbreaks and foundation plantings can cut down the penetrating power of the wind.

Studies of windbreaks show that they can reduce winter fuel consumption by 10 to 30%. One study in Nebraska compared fuel requirements of identical test houses which maintained a constant inside temperature of 70F. The house protected by a windbreak used 23 percent less fuel.

The height and density of trees determine the amount of protection they will provide. Windbreaks of two to five rows of trees and shrubs generally provide good protection. Evergreen trees provide the best protection, although low, branching deciduous trees can significantly reduce wind speed. Even a single row of evergreen trees will give some protection.

Windbreaks reduce wind velocity significantly for a distance of about ten times the height of the trees. Maximum protection is provided within a distance of five times the height of the trees. A windbreak 30 feet high protects an area extending as far as 300 feet downwind and some protection is provided for as far as 20 times the height of the trees.

Foundation plantings create a “dead-air” space which slows the escape of heat from a building. These plantings also help reduce air infiltration around the foundation of the house. Evergreen trees and shrubs are thicker and are more effective than deciduous plants. To be most effective, the evergreens should be planted close together to form a tight barrier. In summer, the same dead air space helps insulate your home from hot, outside air, reducing the need for air conditioning.

If you need suggestions for suitable plants for screening, give me a call at 704-283-3801.