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Keep Coming, Old Man Winter – My Trees Will Keep Me Warm

December 20, 2011

In two days, its the official first day of winter, I realize that each day going forward, temperatures will continue to get colder and colder.

As I pile on the turtlenecks, the cable knit and the wool, I realize I'm adding so many layers it's like adding on half a person in clothes just to stay warm. Needless to say, I'm a "freeze baby," as they call it. It always takes me longer than usual to get warm on the coldest of days, like my body just refuses to adapt to the cooler temperatures.

It's these nights when I'm curled up inside with a blanket by a warm fire that I think about my trees. Yep, that's right, my trees. They're outside, but they're helping keep me warm in the winter.

During the blazing heat of the summer, I shared how trees help you stay cool. But planting trees can help you in reverse as well by keeping your home warm during the frigid winter months. And not only will trees planted strategically around your home keep you warmer, they'll save you money, too. A Christmas miracle? Nope - just sound science.

Here's how it works.

After leaves fall from deciduous trees, sun pours through tree branches to warm your home. To maximize this benefit, avoid planting evergreens on the south side of your home where they'll block winter sunshine. Plant deciduous trees there instead to get shade in summer and the sun's warmth in winter.


Think of your evergreens as windbreaks. Plant them where prevailing winds originate, typically the north or northwest corner of your property. When evergreens stall harsh winter winds on the way to your doors and windows, your home will stay warmer.

Plant windbreaks no more than one to two tree lengths away from your home, suggests the Arbor Day Foundation. Doing this can reduce 35 mph winds down to 10 mph. Less wind hitting your windows and doors means your furnace works less to keep your home warm, reducing your energy bills by 30 percent.

While windbreaks are generally planted away from a home, shrubs planted near a home can also reduce fuel consumption by creating an insulation layer of still air. Plant so you have 1 foot of space between your home's outside wall and full-grown plants.

And by planting with winter warmth in mind, you'll also pay it forward because not only will you use less energy, the utility companies will use less energy and emit less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere because they use less fossil fuel to create energy. Christmas miracle, indeed!


Other ways you can reduce your heating bills and stay warmer including taking advantage of natural heat and light by opening blinds and curtains on windows facing sun, lowering your thermostat to preserve energy during the day, using curtains made of heavy fabrics to trap more natural heat and light and winterizing your landscape by properly pruning trees so they don't hang over your home and deposit sleet and snow on your roof. (Find some other great ideas here.)

To find out more about the benefits your trees provide, including energy savings, try Tree$ense, Davey's new, free mobile app. For more information, visit www.davey.com/treesense.

In the meantime, strategically plant some trees, and then when the weather outside gets frightful, you can sing "Let it Snow" without fear of losing any warmth in the winter.


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