Oops! I Forgot The Most Cost Effective Green Measure!

On Tuesday’s Webinar, I relented and gave a “Top 10” list of Home Performance Measures.    As I explained, the danger in this is that not all houses are the same and so they rarely fit perfectly into this type of prescriptive thinking.    Even more dangerous is to rely on the list and because everything is checked off, not bother thinking about, “What else could I do?”


Chinese Elm aka Lacebark Elm. Notice that the shade is not complete with some light showing through. This allows growth under the tree instead of a "dead zone" which can happen with full shade.

My challenge was to have everyone think of what they would put on their Top 10.   What to add,  What to subtract?     Even before the end of the webinar, my list had fallen short.    The question was asked, “What about shade trees and getting the sun off the Western glass in hot climates?”    Bingo!    That is one of my favorite recommendations and one that I “always?” promote.    But this time I had forgotten, probably because, although very Green, planting a tree seems to fall in a different category in my mind from all the other construction items.

I recently took my own advice and planted one of my favorite trees to shade some western exposure at my own home.   I love Chinese Elm because it provides good but not 100% shade.   My other favorite for Central California is the Chinese Pistache, Keith Davey variety.   Beautiful fall color, a quick grower and hardy in Central CA.

Chinese Pistache showing typical fall color.

Chinese Pistache showing typical fall color.

Bottom Lines:

1.  A list is valuable if it makes you question, “What else?”

2.  A list is harmful if you assume it is complete & there is nothing else to think about

3.  You can expand your list to the Top 12, or 20, or 27 … or……

Back to the value of Trees and Shade.    You can easily calculate the value of shading western glass by recalculating Manual J Load calculations, both with and without the tree.    The easy way to do this is just change the orientation of the window from West to North.   A window in the shade, acts like one on the North side of a building.     Depending on the number and size of the windows, shading can easily reduce a ton of Air Conditioning Load.   Trees are definitely a winner and worthy of a place on the Top However Many List!

(Of course if trees just wont work,  that sun blasting onto your western windows can be handled with Solar Screens or other shading devices)

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