Most trees in cities or communities are planted to provide beauty and/or shade. These are two excellent reasons for their use; but, they also serve many other purposes and it often is helpful to consider all of a tree’s benefits when selecting one for the landscape. By choosing appropriate trees and placing them in the correct locations you can maximize not only their environmental and aesthetic benefits; but, also their economic value. A good starting point for proper tree placement is the National Arbor Day Foundation “Right Tree Right Place” publication http://www.arborday.org/trees/rightTreeAndPlace/.
Individual trees and shrubs have many overall benefits; but, the variability of species, size, condition, and function make determining their economic value difficult. Trees have an aesthetic value, as well as, an economic value. The aesthetic or replacement value can be determined by an ISA Certified Arborist trained in plant appraisal techniques. For more information on tree and plant appraisals please refer to https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/SP614.pdf. Economic benefits of trees are typically associated with reduced energy costs and increased property values. This article concentrates on how the right trees planted in the right places can reduce heating and cooling costs. Heating costs can be reduced when a home has a windbreak. Trees located on the north and northwest sides of your home can block frigid winter winds and lower your heating bill. On the other hand, air-conditioning costs are typically lower in a tree-shaded home. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a young, healthy tree can provide a net cooling effect equivalent to ten room-sized air conditioners operating for 20 hours a day! Also, Dr. E. Greg McPherson of the Center for Urban Forest Research says that a new tree planted on the western side of your home will reduce your energy bill by about three percent in five years and by close to 12 percent in 15 years. While it will take a few years for a newly planted sapling to reach the point where it can cast shade on your home, it’s a relatively low-cost investment and you’ll find it’s worth the wait.
So, how can you determine the economic value or energy savings potential of a tree (or group of trees) within your residential property? The USDA Forest Service has developed suite of state of the art assessment tools called i-Tree. These tools can be found at http://www.itreetools.org/. One of these tools, “i-Tree Design”, provides a platform for assessments of individual or multiple trees at the parcel level. It links to Google Maps and allows you to see how tree selection, tree size, and placement around your home affects energy use and other benefits. The i-Tree Design tool provides the ability to make a simple estimation of the benefits that individual trees provide. With inputs of location, species, tree size and condition, users will receive an understanding of tree benefits related to greenhouse gases and energy conservation.