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Home buyer & owner's guide to taking care of trees; benefits, risks & tips on energy efficiency

If you have ever flown into the Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport and looked out the window as you descend, you know why Atlanta is often called the city in the forest. Atlanta is the 9th largest city in the US and has the largest tree canopy, primarily on private land. Like with other natural resources, progress and preservation often clash.

Driving through a neighborhood in or around Atlanta you are treated to tree lined streets, shady porches and decks. Each evening I delight in the golden light that filters through the massive oaks at the back of my property sending twinkling flashes of shimmering joy through the leaves like a fairy dance.

Trees for homeowners can have a ton of benefits as well as some risks. Let’s break them down so you can be an educated home owner and embrace the trees and live with them without fear!



This seems like a no brainer right! Trees are pretty, duh! This is not all trees can do for aesthetics. Think about privacy barriers, natural fences and noise barriers. Pretty trees also help curb appeal helping your property to be more valuable and to sell for more money.

You can find a resource for planting to reduce noise here.


  • Trees trap lung-damaging dust, ash, pollen and smoke from the air.

  • Shade from trees reduces temperatures and helps keep air pollutants from becoming even more volatile.

  • Most importantly, trees produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. Studies show one acre of trees produces enough oxygen for 18 people every day.

  • According to American Forests, the forests in Atlanta remove about 19 million pounds of air pollutants each year, worth about $47 million a year.


  • Increasing property value. The presence of larger street trees can add from 3% – 15% to home values.

  • Increasing spending in business districts. Shoppers spend 9% – 12% more for goods and services in central business districts with high quality tree canopies.


  • Improving driving safety by decreasing highway and mid-block crash rates.

  • Preventing crime. Public housing communities with more trees experience 52% fewer total crimes, 48% fewer property crimes, and 56% fewer violent crimes.

Energy Efficiency:

Research has shown roofs, windows and air conditioners that are shaded by trees help reduce energy usage by up to 20 percent.

How to plant trees to maximize energy efficiency:

First: Determine where the sun rises and sets with respect to your home’s location.

Second: Figure out which areas (windows, walls, doors, air conditioning units or decks) receive the most hours of direct sun and indirect sun (reflected sun).

Third: Given the sun’s angle at different parts of the day, determine where the shade needs to be to most effectively block the sun. Does the shade need to be 10 feet above the ground or 30 feet above the ground? Can one tree serve two purposes by shading two windows, walls or multiple heat absorbing surfaces?

Fourth: Determine how much space is available for the tree’s root system. A large tree requires at least 200 square feet of soil surface area and a small tree needs 100 square feet. Finally, be sure the larger trees aren’t planted too close to the house – at least 15 to 20 feet away is needed to allow for future growth. Also, remember to not use evergreen trees on the south and west sides of the house. Planting deciduous trees in these locations allows the warming rays of the sun to reach the house through the trees’ branches in winter.

If you are unable to plant trees everywhere you need or want them, the following list can help you prioritize desired locations, based on their energy saving potential:

1. Air conditioning units on south or west side of the home

2. West and southwest facing windows and doorways

3. East and southeast facing windows

4. West and southwest facing wood sided walls

5. Any deck areas that reflect light to the interior of the home

Planting trees properly is critical to the long-term success of your energy conservation project and can raise your property value by up to five percent. Start by selecting the location for your planting. Tree locations should avoid easements and right-of-ways and should not be placed directly under overhead utilities. The location will dictate the mature size of the tree and its needed planting space. Make sure you purchase a quality tree with a healthy root system (10 inches of container width per each inch of trunk diameter at six inches above the soil line). Prior to digging, make sure all utilities have been located. Dig the hole to the depth of the root ball, and no deeper. Use native soil to backfill and wood-chips for mulch. Staking should not be needed unless the tree is over three inches in caliper. Tree planting is just one piece of the energy conservation puzzle. For other energy saving ideas, please contact your local energy utility.

The Risks:

Trees can pose a risk. It is important that you monitor your trees and keep an eye out for possible signs of danger. While I am not an arborist, here are a few things that you can be on the lookout for:

Tree branches too close to the house- this can lead to problems as those branches act as a bridge to your attic for squirrels and other critters. Make sure that limbs are trimmed away from the house.

Trees showing signs of disease or parasites. Common signs are cavities in the tree, discolored or missing leaves and missing bark.

Root issues. Often you will be unaware if a trees roots are headed into a septic tank or other water source. However, you can spot issues with a root ball in wet weather literally coming up out of the ground. In our Atlanta climate, we get prolonged periods of wet weather that can uproot trees especially when the weather has been wet and then we get high winds. keep an eye out for changes in how the base of your trees look.

For More Information on How to Care for Your Trees in Atlanta Go HERE

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