Plant trees and cut your energy bills by 30% (© Sean Justice/Getty Images)

© Sean Justice/Getty Images

Did you know that just three trees properly placed around a house could save up to 30% of energy use? This is according to the U.S. Forest Service Center for Urban Forest Research. One study found that trees planted on the south and west sides of houses in Sacramento, Calif., reduced summertime electricity bills by an average of $25.

Trees provide many benefits to all of us, every day. They provide cooling shade, block cold winter winds, attract birds and other wildlife, purify the air, prevent soil erosion, clean our water and add grace and beauty to our homes and communities. In Chicago, the city's 3.6 million trees reduce air pollution by about 890 tons annually, a $6.4 million benefit, according to the Forest Service. And in Portland, Ore., street trees growing in front of or near a house added an average of $8,870 to its sale price and reduced time on the market by nearly two days. (Bing: What are the best trees for your yard?)

Planting the right trees in the right places conserves energy and reduces your energy bills, while helping to fight global warming.

Try these tips for getting the most energy- and money-saving benefit from the trees you plant on your property.

Plant deciduous trees on the east and west sides of your home
Deciduous trees (ones that lose their leaves), planted on the east and west sides, will keep your house cool in the summer and let the sun warm your home in the winter, reducing energy use, according to the Energy Department.

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Large deciduous trees planted on the east, west and northwest sides of your home create soothing shade from the hot summer sun and reduce air-conditioning costs by up to 35%.

  • You use less energy.
  • The utility company uses less energy, especially at peak demand times.
  • Less fossil fuel is consumed by the utility to create the energy.
  • Less fossil-fuel consumption means lower carbon-dioxide emissions.

Plant deciduous trees to shade high-heat spots
Trees or shrubs planted to shade air conditioners help cool a building more efficiently, using less electricity. A unit operating in the shade uses as much as 10% less electricity than the same one operating in the sun.

Slide show:  Fast-growing shade trees

Trees that shade patios, sidewalks and driveways cool the concrete, the entire yard and even the neighborhood.

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Plant evergreen trees to the north and northwest of your home
After the leaves fall, the sun pours through tree branches to warm your home in winter.

The sun travels lower on the southern horizon in winter, so you’ll want to avoid planting evergreen trees on the south side of your home, where they’ll block winter sunshine.

Instead, plant an evergreen conifer windbreak on the north and northwest of your home to block cold winter winds. That could help you save up to 30% on your heating costs. Once again ...

  • You use less energy.
  • The utility company uses less energy.
  • Less fossil fuel is consumed by the utility to create the energy.
  • Less fossil-fuel consumption means less carbon dioxide emissions.

The best protection from wind occurs when the windbreak is no more than the distance of one or two tree heights from the house.

Read:  Protect your trees during a remodel

The downwind side of the trees is where the most snow accumulates, so plant your windbreak at a distance equal to one or two tree heights from your rooftop and driveway if you can.

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