Landscaping can cut heating, cooling costs

The typical family spends about $1,900 a year on home utility bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

And each year, electricity generated by fossil fuels for a single home puts more carbon dioxide into the air than two cars.

Proper insulation, weather stripping, caulking and using a programmable thermostat will help save money. Trees, shrubs and plants will make a difference, too.

In fact, the government says shading from trees can reduce surrounding air temperatures as much as 9 degrees.

That saves you money on your air-conditioning costs. Shrubs placed near the base of your house can lower the wind chill near your home in the winter. Trees and shrubs additionally absorb carbon dioxide and re-lease oxygen into the air.

Things to consider:

• Check with your local nursery or cooperative extension service for advice on the best trees for your home and your specific needs. For example, you shouldn’t plant an ash tree in an area that’s under quarantine from a devastating insect called the Emerald Ash Borer.

• Deciduous trees, the kind that have full canopies during the hot summer months, should be planted on the east and west sides of your house to help keep it cool in the summer and allow the sun to shine in the windows in the winter.

• The Department of Energy says shading your air-conditioning unit can increase its efficiency by as much as 10 percent.

• Plant trees a minimum of 10 feet from your house to prevent overcrowding or damage to your home from roots.

• Space your trees and shrubs according to what they’ll look like when fully grown, not what they look like now.