News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
FRIDAY, MAY 25, 2007

Landscaping has more
value than aesthetics

Dear Jim: We are planning to landscape our new house. We like a wooded yard for cooling shade and also the idea of helping to reduce greenhouse gases. Where do we locate the trees and which are best? Mark G.

Dear Mark: Wise landscaping can do more than just create a pretty yard. It can also lower your utility bills, summer and winter, and improve your familyís comfort year-round. Trees, being one of the key components of any residential landscaping design, can have the greatest impact.

You mentioned greenhouse gases, which come from burning fossil fuels. By having to run your air-conditioner less because your house is shaded with trees during summer, less coal, oil or gas have to be used to generate electricity. Also, the evaporation of moisture from the tree leaves actually cools the air around your home similarly to how perspiration cools your skin.

By taking advantage of passive solar heating during winter, with the proper placement and selection of trees, less natural gas, oil or electricity is used for heating. Trees, and all plants, are the only natural process to convert greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide) back into oxygen and carbohydrate.

The primary goal of efficient landscaping with trees is to shade your home during summer, yet allow the sun to pass through during winter. Additional goals are, depending upon your climate, to allow cool evening breezes to flow around your house or to provide moisture for evaporative cooling.

Before you start your landscaping plan, check with a local landscaper to determine your temperature zone. This refers to the minimum winter temperature range. For warm climates in Zone 10, the range is 30 to 40 degrees. For cold climates in Zone 1, the range is -30 to -40 degrees. If you select trees that prefer a climate more than one or two zones outside your range, they may not do well and may require excessive care.

In an average temperate climate, a typical efficient tree landscaping plan has deciduous trees to the south, southeast and southwest. The leaves block the sun during summer, but when the leaves fall during winter, the sun shines through to heat your home. Leave a small gap to the southwest allowing cooler evening breezes to reach your home.

Plant dense evergreens along the north, northeast and northwest sides. These block the cold winter winds. With the shorter days and the sun being lower in the sky during winter, not much solar heat comes from these directions.

In hot, humid climates, shading during summer is most important. Taller trees should be planted closer to your home to block the sun which is higher in the sky. Leaving a gap for breezes is not as important. Avoid planting too many low, heavy foliage plants near the house because they may increase the humidity level.

Landscaping for hot, dry climates is somewhat similar, except plantings near your home are good. With the dry air, this creates evaporative cooling from the leaves.

Dear Jim: I need to install some type of sump pump backup system for when the power goes off. We seem to lose electric power often when there are severe thunderstorms. Is a battery or water pressure system best? Richard S.

Dear Richard: Your problem is common. The worst rain storms are when you need the sump pump the most and then the electricity goes off. A battery backup system is most reliable because it is not dependent upon anything external from your home.

In order to keep batteries charged, connect them to a solar panel. This uses the sunís energy to charge them for free. The best systems automatically switch to trickle charge when the batteries are charged.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Decatur Daily, 6906 Royalgreen Drive., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit

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