By Lindsay Seventko, American Forests

The Department of Energy estimates that strategically planting only three trees around your home can reduce energy costs by up to $250 annually. Imagine what a small forest can do! Begin by planting tall deciduous trees to the west that will shade your home during the summer, but will also allow warming sunshine through in the winter when the leaves fall off. This method of planting alone will cut your energy bills by about 3 percent in five years, and by about 12 percent with 15-year-old, mature trees.

Conversely, place evergreens to the north of your home where they will block the cold winter wind. Plant 2-5 times the height of the trees in distance away from the house to maximize the wind barrier and protect your entire home from the effects of wild chill.

Smaller trees that are closer to the house should be situated to directly shade the air conditioning unit. This strategy alone can improve efficiency by 10 percent. Also, cluster stands of trees around the driveway and patio, cooling the pavement and concrete.

It’s important to remember to avoid planting too close to power lines, utilities or your home’s foundation. Keep the full height and spread of trees at least 10 feet away from power or utility lines in case a problem with utilities requires digging, which may damage tree roots.

These simple strategies of planting around your home can save up to a quarter of your energy bill! Using these tips to create an urban forest in your yard will not only offset your carbon footprint and create a beautiful urban forest area, but also return back the cost of investment in years of energy bill savings.