Saving on home energy costs? Would trees help a lot?

osucowboys405June 26, 2012

My electric bills are through the roof.

$500-600 a month for cooling and lights. Average size home.

Water and hot water heater costs not included. Thermostat set to 74-75. I just increased the thermostat to 78.

I'm looking for ways to fix this.

Should I...

- foil the windows?

- buy a few palm tress to put in front of the windows?

- get solar window film and install it myself?

- plant some sort of vine or something in front of the windows?

We have window curtains... standard ones. Usually we keep them closed most of the day, with the curtains open in the evening. Upstairs has a few small windows... those curtains stay open all the time so it doesn't look like a dungeon up there.

Would completely covering the windows with something that lets in less light than normal curtains/blinds really help save electricity?

What if I get a potted tree and put that near the 2 outdoor AC units?

Anything I can tree, plant-related or not?

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Large shade trees really help. I've heard that a large shade tree produces cooling equivalent to a window air conditioning unit (of course, it's outside and not plugged into your window.) We have a number of large shade trees near our house, and our yard is SO MUCH cooler than the surrounding fields and garden.

Also, I've planted hardy bananas in front of South facing windows of the modular home, on our property. They make a cluster and can reach 18" in a season, dying to the ground in the winter. When they are tall, they completely shade those South facing windows, producing a beautiful green filtered light inside the house, and cutting down on heat. During the winter, they die down, and they allow the sun in, to help with heating things up. This species of banana is Musa Basjoo, or Japanese Fiber Banana. It does not produce edible fruit. But my wife loves to use the leaves for making tamales.

Bananas are heavy feeders. So it's important to feed, or they will lose much vigor in a couple of years.

Tahlequah, OK

Here is a link that might be useful: Hardy Banana

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 6:26AM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

Trees make a huge difference, but they take a few years to get big enough. However, the sooner you plant, the quicker they will be big enough :) don't choose quick growing trees, you will regret it later.

If you have oge, they usually offer an energy audit for free. How is the insulation in your attic? How tight are your windows? How old is your a/c unit?

What is your bill like in April or May? (Before the hot kicks in)

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 7:39AM
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I have to ask, Lisa, why not choose quick growing trees? I have to replace a tree, and alot of the ones we were considering are quick growing.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 7:57AM
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Since Im here...does anyone have advice on shading the ac unit? We have a typical heat pump on the southside of the house, it has a stockade fence about 15' south of it and we were considering planting bushes or something about 15' to the east and west of it to shade it.

Does anyone have experience with this or suggestions on what kind of bushes to use? Maybe something other than bushes?


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 8:03AM
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most quick growing trees produce weak limbs, and break in wind and ice storms.

Also, don't plant bradford pear trees. the angle on the limbs of these is very tight, and prone to breaking.

Get yourself a list of "best trees" from the extension center.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 8:05AM
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Wow, that is painful to see! We recently moved into a home almost three times the size of our old house, so have been terrified of being overwhelmed with utility bills.

What is the price you pay per kwh for electricity? Are you on a variable or fixed rate plan? OG&E?

We are on OG&E Smart Hours Variable pricing plan. Cost per kwh is 4.5 cents except during 2-7pm on weekdays, where the price will fluctuate depending on how much is being drawn on the grid. If low usage, price stays 4.5 cents. 11.3, 23 or 46 cents are the other prices during that time. Our 3200 sf home with swimming pool (and associated pump) and 2 AC units is estimated to be $153 for May 25-June 27. We were out of town for the last week, so I'm sure that's lower than it would be, likely $200. We have regular height ceilings throughout, if you have high or vaulted ceilings, you have more volume to keep cool, even if your sf is less. We are also hooked into the smart grid, which means I can log into my computer and watch our usage every day and make adjustments (like putting our pool pump on a timer, for example).

My suggestions for the short term, for immediate implementation and results:
1. find out what rate plan you have and how to work it to the best advantage
2. programmable thermostat (especially useful if you don't have anyone home during the day. If you do, it's not possibly to keep it as warm as I might).
3. CFL bulbs in any long-burning light fixtures (more than 5 minutes.) Using these bulbs in short spurts (pantry, master closet, etc) actually reduces their life span dramatically, so you are better off with a lower watt incandescent or an LED if you can afford it.
4. Insulation, insulation, insulation!
5. Caulk and seal windows, doors, and where any pipes go in and out of your house.
6. Use ceiling fans when you are in the room - these don't work unless your body is in the room to feel the air moving over you.
7. Solar curtains/blackout curtains/energy panels, closed when you are not in the room. Even inexpensive blinds hung on the outside of your house help (older people in my neighborhood do this with matchstick blinds and remove them in the off-season).

Long-term solutions:
1. Plant trees south and west especially. Shading windows is important, but shading your roof and walls helps, too. I can dig out my Oklahoma Gardening book if you want tree recs - need to know how much space you have to grow them and your zone, because that will depend on the variety that you should plant
2. Energy efficient heat and air units
3. Energy efficient windows
4. Radiant heat decking next time you re-roof. These are foil sheathed plywood decking panels that insulate the roof. FYI, can make your cell phone reception go in the toilet, though!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 9:07AM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

Tracey, Moni is right, quick growing trees break very easily.

I will say, I have a non-fruiting mulberry that provides the shade to my house. I love it, and it really helps the heat, but that tree has to be trimmed on each year. It sprouts "water sprouts" all over the place.

I just got done taking out a silver maple that was growing underneath the city electrical lines. Take my word for it, removing trees is expensive!!! Choose the right tree and you will be happier.

Be careful how close you plant them to your house :)


Here is a link that might be useful: Oklahoma Proven

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 10:23AM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

EHow is not my favorite authority, but this article give a quick overview on problems with fast growing trees

Here is a link that might be useful: Problems with Fast Growing Trees

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 10:30AM
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I think window coverings, especially fabric, help a lot both summer and winter because they create a trapped air space. If darkness is a problem, use sheers with mini blinds behind them, and adjust the blinds for light during the day and close at night, but keep the sheers closed. In my bedroom I have curtains with a sheer top and a solid bottom. Light from the top and privacy on bottom. I had to make them to get what I wanted and it sounds ugly, but it isn't.

I only have two windows that get afternoon sun and they have retractable awnings on them that we lower in summer, but raise in winter to allow afternoon sun. The glass door gets a lot of shade.

My heat pump is on the west side of the house and gets direct afternoon sun in winter, but in summer is somewhat shielded from the sun. I built a walkway that goes in front of the air condition, and across the walk, opposite the air condition, installed a trellis that is 9 feet long and 8 feet tall and about 5 feet west of the heat pump unit so it doesn't block air flow, but does block sun. In my case, that puts it in the vegetable garden so that trellis is covered with pole beans from Spring until frost, then left empty all winter. You could do the same using hyacinth beans or morning glories or some other fast growing annual if appearance is an issue.

I keep my thermostat on 76 and have ceiling fans in every room. My house is not large and is built on two levels. The thermostat is on the highest level. The lower level is only about three feet lower than the higher one, but it gets super cold downstairs in summer even with the 76 setting upstairs. I don't hesitate to turn the temp to a lower setting if I am cooking a lot and it is getting too hot. I think my air conditioner has been on since April.

I have lots of huge trees and shade helps a lot. Go somewhere on a sunny day where there is a large tree and walk from the sunshine, to the shade of the tree, and you will notice a huge difference.

The area where my washer is uses a gas hot water heater, but my house is electric. We are prone to power outages in winter and although we have a fireplace, I have one small gas wall heater in my house that we installed to provide emergency heat. I already had a gas line so it was easy to do. It is near my front door which tends to stay colder than the rest of the room. It is also near my computer desk so I sometimes use it in winter for supplement heat during the evening hours. A new door and storm door would probably help with that problem, but the main problem is that the room is 35 feet long and has a door and seven windows (down from 9 when we moved here) and they are not great windows, but that's a future project.

Please understand, that I use what I need to use for comfort, and I have 2 refrigerators, an upright freezer, and a dorm refrigerator that run constantly. We also keep two computers going all day. In the winter I have a heat lamp that comes on when the chicken house gets cold, etc. You can see that although I made changes that helped, I don't skimp on usage.

If you change what you can change and your heating and cooling unit still tends to run too much, then it may be time to replace the unit. That was the case with ours and our bills were higher and higher and it had required service on the air almost every year. This was after I had made all of the above changes. We bought a new unit last fall when our old one was 17 years old.

Did it do any good? Yes, much more than we expected. For several years I had used the feature of paying 'average' which just billed me the same year round, based on annual usage. My 'average' was about $270 dollars and after having a new unit installed, my winter usage dropped to $240 which was still more than usage, but I decided to just keep paying average until we reached the summer months and I could see what cooling cost was going to be.

A week or two ago I called the power company and asked them to remove me from 'average billing. The lady had a good laugh when she looked at my billing history, because my bill for last month was $91, and I was overpaid by over $700. I'm not sure I will have to pay another electric bill this summer. At this rate it won't take long for that unit to pay for itself in energy savings.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 10:32AM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

Since I brought up the energy's the info:

Here is a link that might be useful: OGE Energy Audit

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 11:19AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Clearly trees will help a lot, but it will be a few years before they're big enough to make much difference in your electric bill.

In our first few years here, when our trees were small, I planted cannas along the southern and western walls of the house to help shade the walls. They were 6-8' tall within a few months of being planted. I also put up trellises and grew morning glories and moonvines on the trellises, also to shade the walls. Now that we've been here 14 years, the trees shade the downstairs perfectly and part of the upstairs, but aren't tall enough yet to shade the roof. Maybe one of these days they will be.....

Anything you can plant in front of windows to keep sunlight off of them will be great, but there's not much you can plant now that will get big enough fast enough to have much of an impact this summer. Maybe bananas, cannas or annual vines would give you shade fairly fast, but not much else will. We have room-darkening mini-blinds plus curtains on the windows to give us a double layer of sun protection.

We have short ornamental trees that shade our AC unit, and we built a screened porch, later upgraded to a glassed-in sunporch, across the western (back) wall of the house to give some of the back wall of the house some shading from the sun. It made a big difference. It is partially shaded by deciduous trees in summer so we don't have the greenhouse effect heating up the sunporch too much. Then, in the winter, when the trees have dropped their leaves, it does function as a passive solar collector, so when it gets toasty warm on the sunporch, we open the breakfast room's french door on cold days and let the sun-heated air flow into the house.

You'll never regret planting higher-quality slower-growing trees. With a lot of the fast-growing trees, about the time they get tall enough to give you good shade, they get sick and start dying, or a wind storm brings them down on top of your house or call.

I'm going to link a page from the Oklahoma Forestry Service that has a listing of tree selection guides focused on different cities or regions.


Here is a link that might be useful: OFS Tree Guide Page

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 11:26AM
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Wow that is lot!

We have bought energy efficient guarantee home. That means builder assured that on an average our total energy cost (including cooling and heating) will not exceed $75 per month, else builder promised to pay rest. So far our monthly average bill not crossed $75. I have enrolled in Average Monthly Billing. You may not believe our Jun electricity bill (5/12/2012 6/13/2012)is $52.50 (628 KWH in 32 days)!

I am competently agree with MiaOKC, I have signed up SMART GRID study. They have provided display unit with monitor out enery usage on hourly to daily basis. We are on OG&E Smart Hours Variable pricing plan, never use high energy consuming appliances during peak hours. We keep thermostat at 77 and programmed turn it off b/w 2-7pm (peak rate). Being a energy efficient home, it will be cool until 7pm. Secondly I always look for appliances and any electronics with Energy Star brands. I have hooked up appliances to individual button strips so that I more control over stand-by things. All in all I never bothered about the electricity or gas bill. So far only bill somewhat bothered me last year was water bill!

Irrespective of the energy bill, I love love plant trees around the home. I have covered the west facing walls with roses, cannas, now with new water garden with trellis.

Here is how our west facing windows look in spring (from inside)

How it looks now (summer, from outside), west wall covered climbing roses, chinese wisteria, tall cannasa, arc trelly with morning glory and moon flowers. These new trees are the chinese pistache (top story) and understory will be


Thanks for the information about the hardy banana. Last year I bought one hardy draft variety from eBay, but it did not survive the mildest winter we had. Then lost hope for the banana. Your info about the Musa Basjoo bought back some hope. One of the traditional recipe calls banana leaves. My wife usually buy them from Asian market. But having it right in the backyard would be nice! Where I can buy online? any recommendation for local supply? Is goo time plant?

Thanks -Chandra

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 1:20PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Chandra, I'm not George, but I can answer your question about where to buy hardy bananas. They normally are available every year at nurseries and garden centers. I usually see them at Lowe's, Home Depot and sometimes even Wal-Mart. Normally all nurseries have them, usually from about May through July. You might check locally before you order online so you won't have to pay shipping.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 1:27PM
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joellenh(6b Jenks)

I just read an article about landscaping for energy costs in smart homeowner mag. Yes, you need trees on south and west windows that lose their leaves in the fall to allow winter sun in. Yes, you need some tall bushes to shade that a/c unit. A more immediate, cheaper solution would be solar screens. I plan on putting them on the whole west side of our house while we wait for trees to grow. Me have a million west facing windows, and I will seriously poop my pants if I get a $400 electric bill.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 2:13PM
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Cowboys, I feel your financial pain. Three times the national average for our utilities. Most folks do not use electricity in this area unless they have no other alternative. I frequently cook over wood fire to reduce electricity. Yep. I'm cooking outside. Trees help wonderfully but as someone suggested, the fast growing trees such as poplar are invasive and can become problematic for various reasons. We have huge pecan and elm and black walnut trees right near and over our home. The temperature here is approximately 10 degrees cooler than anywhere else (in the shade) and we enjoy the occasional ruits. I highly recommend some good trees but keep them well pruned to avoid roof and home damage laterZ.

For most the dryer is the energy hog. My hubs and I went through and checked every single appliance great and small. We save a bundle by drying the clothes on the line. No soft and snuggly towels but at least our utility bills are down a bit.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 2:58PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

I think someone mentioned this earlier, but fans make a huge difference, but they are only necessary when you are sitting right there. There is no point in running them if you are not in the room.

I have a programmable thermostat too, I run my house at 80 degrees when I am not home. 75 during the evening and 70 while I am sleeping. I bumped it up to 78 last night though because the electricity was flickering off and on and I was afraid the neighborhood grid was having trouble keeping up with all the a/c units.

I have the average billing and I love it :) My average is 56.00 a month, but I have a tiny house, with new windows, new a/c unit and a shade tree on the south/west...and a neighbor with a huge pecan tree next door that also shades my house.

If you have the smart meter (OKC), then you can log in and watch your energy usage hour by hour. I find it fascinating. It thrills the inner geek in me!

From last week:

and from last year: (just happened to have this pic!)


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 3:09PM
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a clothes dryer takes up as much energy as an air conditioner. do you have room for a clothesline? i don't know what your situation is.

i find having ceiling or table fans on makes the air conditioner work less. and we try to leave it off until we can't stand it anymore.

palm trees? NO. i suffered so much in mexico one year when a boat i was in broke down and i had nothing to shade me but a palm tree for 3 hours. talk about sunburned.

one thing i learned is don't plant a silver maple, they break in ice storms.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 3:44PM
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Chandra, I have a banana tree that has survived several winters now even in my colder location. It is on the south side of the house and growing in a little nook that protects it somewhat. One extremely cold winter I was afraid I had lost it, and maybe I did, but the next Spring, two trees came back from the root. Mine grows next to the chimney and is taller than the lowest part of the roof. They are pretty tough if you buy the right one.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 4:13PM
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We put bubble wrap in the windows-- that is better than foil in that you can see out them some and keep the curtains open! Two layers of bubble wrap, one on the windows, and one a couple of inches back as a curtain across the window embrasure works better than one as a heat stop. It creates an insulated space between the window and the room of the house. We taped the bubble wrap together with transparent packing tape. Don't know about the price of the solar film, but the bubble wrap paid for itself in a few months. It seems to knock off about a tenth of the electric usage for a 1750+ square foot home. Every little bit helps.

We're saving money for additional insulation in the attic, after checking that a/c had no leaks in the attic. That is supposed to be the big one, since our attic gets 131F and higher. Hah! The existing insulation was not so good, despite passing an 'energy audit'.

Anything you can use as a light stop between the house and the sun can help, too. Trees, bushes, outside fabric panels or vines on trellises a foot or two from the outside house walls.

Trees over the roof make me nervous from the rubbing against the roof or falling upon the roof standpoint. They would also make any potential future solar collectors work poorly. On the other hand, trees look pretty!

Other people probably made these suggestions up-thread, or have better suggestions. :-) Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 4:21PM
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At two of the houses I lived in, I planted crape myrtles withing 2 feet of the AC unit. It can take the hot air emitted from the unit.


PS, I did the master gardener training in both OKC and Tulsa. I only give advice on things I truly know about. For other things, I read Dawn's advice. It is priceless to me.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 4:30PM
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Lisa, I completely agree about the Smart Hours monitoring. I log in quite a bit to see what my house is doing while I am away. Nerd alert! :) Today I got an email (you can do text alerts, too) there is a critical price event, i.e., OG&E says it's effing hot out there and the grid is straining, so we have special urgent pricing of the highest price, 45 cents, from 3-6pm (to encourage people not to use so much power, it's straining system resources). Our smart thermostat which is hooked into the grid can be set to veer toward comfort or cost when you program it, so if I have it set to the most cost-conscious option, even though I am at work until 6pm, the AC will shut itself off to conserve $$ since the price is so high today from 3-6. If I have it set to comfort, it will stay running on whatever I have it programmed, and damn the cost! Pretty smart. You do have to tell it what you want when you are at the thermostat. Wait until I have an app that I can tell it to change while I am sitting at my desk downtown!

Chandra, good point, I'd forgotten about "vampire electronics." These are things that suck power even when you are not using them - one of the most notorious is the DVR cable box, which uses 40% more power than non-DVR cable boxes, and runs at full power even when it's not being used. Power strips that you shut off when you are not using (think of one for your entertainment center, one for your toaster/microwave/coffee pot, etc) can impact your usage.

I hadn't thought to shade our AC units, they are on the west side of the house and on the driveway, so there is a cement sea around them. I will have to see if there is anything I can do - it would have to be right up close to the unit as we need to be able to drive right next to them.

Reading about insulating the windows guerrilla style, read that mylar camping blankets tacked on the outside of the window are great and cheap. It's evidently better to stop the light from getting into the house at all, rather than try to cool it or reflect it back once it's inside the window.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 4:47PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

Mia, I know, isn't it fun? Sorta. Looking at today's and yesterday's makes me think I need to check the thermostat again. Wow, look at it go up at 2:00 yesterday. I was not home, that is just how much more it takes to cool it to 80 when it is 100 plus degrees outside. You can see where I kicked it up to 78...and coincidentally about that time I left the house and turned off the tv, fan, and printer (was scanning photos).

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 5:02PM
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I am inept in copying mine...same basic house as Lisa's...but today I show $0.03 up until 1pm when I jumped up to $0.36...from there, 2:00pm I was at $0.13, and then back up to $0.37 at 3:00pm! Strange - I have my thermostat set at 80degrees while I'm at work. You'd think that my usage would be more gradual (like Lisa's), but I guess not. Yesterday was similar from 23 to 11 to 37 cents from 1 to 2 to 3 o'clock. My house faces south, with only the garage and kitchen on the west (taking the brunt of the afternoon sun) thank goodness!

Interesting stuff - I'm sure insulating my attic further would help to cut that cost down even more.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 6:00PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

Sharon, my other computer has a lovely app called "snip it". Wonderful thing!

I can't remember when my thermostat is set to cool down to 75, but it is between 4 and 5, I think.

Here is a link that might be useful: snipping

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 6:17PM
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Mia, be careful on putting something to shade the AC to close. It needs an area around it, clear of "stuff" to work efficiently. At least most units do.

Check on how much clearance you should keep at yours first.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 6:17PM
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I don't remember ever having my thermostat that low. Mine is on 84 right now.

Not bad in the house... as long as a fan is blowing on me. :)


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 7:23PM
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Sharon, check which pricing plan you are on, OG&E offers several. In one scenario, if you are on a price plan that changes, your costs may go up and down but your usage might stay constant. You can click the "use" tab (Lisa's picture shows the cost tab, but if you look to the right you will see power and use and price, just check the boxes) to see what your actual usage is. If your AC was cycling on and off to keep your house at 80 degrees, your use may have been cycling up and down, equaling those changes in your cost. So if your thermostat is set to 80 while you are away, and at 1pm it gets to be 81, it will cycle on for a while until it goes down to 80 (cost goes up). Then it turns off for a while (cost goes down.) Then it senses it's hit 81 again, and cycles on (cost goes up) until it gets it back down to 80. The hotter it is outside, the longer it would have to run each time to reach the equilibrium point of 80 degrees.

I used my "Use" tab to track my "resting" usage, i.e., go back and look at 2am on a day in February, when I have nothing running, no dishwasher, no dryer, no AC (gas heat may be going) I can see what "vampire electronics" sap my house's energy usage and determine if I need to turn things off via a power strip. I am a Bravo TV junkie, so I haven't been able to pull the plug on my DVR. It records my stories while I work during the day!

On our 1100sf house in the Village, I got a quote from a guy for blow-in insulation for $450. I'm sure we could do it cheaper renting the machine from Lowe's or HD, it's free to use if you buy so many packages of the insulation. At those electricity prices, it may be cheaper to insulate than buy more electricity!

Moni, thanks for the tip. AC guy is hopefully coming tomorrow with our new compressor (while we were out of town our upstairs AC quit on us, so we've been camping on a blow-up mattress downstairs. Thank God we had a separate unit!) so I will ask him about what is doable out there.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 7:27PM
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The others have good advice. I think you'll find something needs to be fixed or replaced.

We've planted a mixture of trees around our house. Some grow faster and some slower. We are hoping that by the time the fast growing trees start dieing, the slow growing ones will have some size on them. We have planted out away from the house so we don't have them falling on us in nasty weather.

I wanted to comment on the male mulberry that doesn't produce fruit. Not sure how it is here in Oklahoma. Those things were a nusiance when we lived in New Mexico. They attracted large numbers of birds. Where you have birds, you have bird droppings. Many of trees I saw were placed in unfortunate locations. My neighbors didn't want to pay to have their trees cut down so they quit parking in their driveway. Also, because large numbers of birds attracted, the birds were extremely loud. I like birds, but not in consistantly large groups.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 9:11PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

I have the nonfruiting mulberry. I haven't noticed any nuisance amount of birds. I'm not sure why or why not, but it may be because there are other, more attractive trees in the neighborhood. On my walks through another neighborhood I pass under a tree where apparently a bunch of birds hang out :) They left behind quite a mess. I need to look up and see what that tree is...and not plant one of those!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 10:46PM
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lisa h

We have a non-fruiting mulberry on the west side of our house that was a wonderful canopy over the deck and a large part of the house. It provided tons of shade, unfortunately the ice storm in Jan 09 took out most of the tree. There is one trunk left which I need to remove, but it still provides us needed afternoon shade. We removed over 70% of the tree ourselves, that was damaged (split and hit our house).
Fruitless Mulberrys are great canopy trees, but they do grow quickly. Since we bought the property fifteen years ago, I was trimming that tree yearly to keep the limbs at least eight feet off the roof.

For the OP, I would suggest an energy audit like many suggested.
How old is the home and the HVAC unit?
Does the attic have proper ventilation, aka adequate soffits and ridgeline venting?
How well is the attic insulated?
Keeping the heat out is as important and keeping the cool inside.

I agree with planting trees for shade and varieties that are hardy and not prone to breakage due to weather or growth habits.
You could also consider trellises as a short term solution as others mentioned. This thread has me reconsidering placing a trellis or two on our south side. I have a bed there that grows warm weather varieties, peppers and cantelope this year along with some annual flowers. The brick in that area gets very hot until late afternoon shade from my maple tree.
I might try some cardinal climber there this week.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 4:48AM
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One of the best ways to make sure your energy bills are at an affordable rate is to make sure that your home is properly insulated. There are a lot of products out there, but one of the best for keeping energy costs down is Owens Corning EnergyComplete. Unlike a lot of the competitors, EnergyComplete offers top plate sealing, as 40% of air loss occurs there. More information on EnergyComplete can be found at the link below. Hope this helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: Owens Corning EnergyComplete Insulation

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 10:38AM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

The Daily Oklahoman had an article/blog today about energy audits.


Here is a link that might be useful: Energy Audit

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 2:02PM
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Dawn and Carol,

Thanks for the info on the hardy banana. I am going to visit local stores tomorrow to find one.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 4:21PM
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cowgirl_kitkatt(ok 7A)

i was looking at shading my ac unit. the recommendations i found said no closer than 3 feet from the unit. im planning on planting a ring of cannas. my brother-in-law did this and believes it helped.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 6:04PM
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The solution is kindergarten simple.

Here's some facts though to ease your mind.
Every square foot of sunlight carries almost 100 watts of
heat. It's really about 88 watts but say 100. We'll subtract 12% (100-88) later.

So imagine you have windows 24" x 36" . That's about 6 sq feet. And they can let in 100 watts per sq foot. how many watts of power = 600 watts.

Here's where that makes sense: An electric floor heater
is about 1500 watts. So imagine in the Summer turning on a floor heater and leaving it on for 1/2 hour then turn it off for 1/2 hour all during the day. That's about how much heat can come through that one window.

Will putting something to keep heat out help.

Next on the roof.
Insulation doesn't keep heat in or out. Is slows down how long it takes to come. So it's going to come in no matter what unless.
You block it.

Imagine your roof is 20 feet x 40 feet and you have a 2 story house. That's a 1600 sq foot house. 800 on the top floor = 20 x 40 and 800 on the bottom. that's no matter.

So 100 watts x 800 = 80,000 watts of heat

It's going to get through. So will it help to shade it?

Let's be real. If only 1/10th of that heat gets into the house that's still the same as 5 x 1500 watts of heat on all day in Summer.

Would you turn on a heater in those examples above.
Then don't let the heat come in

How to do it cheap.

Anything on the windows help. Foil is ok. it will last
for years if you fit it to the window first and then
glue it down on cardboard. Then you can place it into the
window. Maybe even make it so it flips down , etc , for the view.


Painting the roof white helps a lot compared to black roofs. Is the cost worth it? It's probably not compared
to other choices like planting tress but

a. Tress can ruin a roof. Chinese elm puts tiny leaves which keep water on a roof no matter what. That rots
and so some tress avoid.

b. Trees take time to grow but you can buy them 'fully' grown. And install them fully grown.
b2) Palm ? They're not going to shade much but
you just calculate what they'll shade , the cost, the
cost per sq ft of shading and pick the tree with the lowest
cost per sq foot of shading.

c. Other roofing choices. Foam roofing is not hard to do
yourself. You must read up on it. Practice. Then you
can do it yourself. Pull a permit from the city.
The equipment used is $15,000. You can sell it again for
probably the same price if you clean it. That cleaning IS
a part of reading how to maintain it.

Cost for 2000 sq foot roof in materials is about $3000 for
everything. Foam and the white latex coating that's reapplied every 10-15 years. As long as it's reapplied the
foam should last a 'lifetime' (50 to 200 years)

Without reading any of the posts there's are other ideas probably. Have a flat roof? here's an idea.

Put up trees on the roof. Be sure to have a registered
architect or structural engineer. But you could have
a garden on the roof shading within a few weeks. put a lot
of trees in containers and you could make some money selling them as they got too big.

And birds lvoe it if there's grass and wild plants. it's a real viable 'way to do business' now a days in old and new construction.

KEYWORDS To search

Green roofs

Attic insulation. It's easy and cheap.
If you can put it under the actual roof rather than
on top of the attic 'floor' it will do more for the amount.
In fact that under the actual roof is an ideal place to practice when you buy the foam machine. Again you must read and study before you do it. But it really is 'stupid simple' You can foam the under roof for $2000 and put an
r-8 or r-12 where it will do a lot of good.
Cost is about $1500 for 2000 sq feet. You can't rent the foam equipment from my research but buying it is not a bad choice. It's simple well designed equipment nearly identical to airless spray paint sprayer.

do both. under actual roof and top of attic floor.

THere's no reason not to.

Here's an FYI.
Making your own insulation is 'easy' .
5 layers (about) of paper, foil, paper, foil, etc is exactly
what was used in the commercial building trade for under
the roof insulation. The paper can be from newspaper end rolls. Fireproofing it can be done with a couple of cheap, safe to use, easy to buy chemicals. Read up by reading about fireproofing for theaters and stage productions. If you have a community theater ask the director or stage production manager where they buy fireproofing liquids. Or make your own as was done for hundreds of years.

To save money always. Go to a Chinese bulk product site. Look up the price they sell a TON of something for.
Then look at what you pay. You'll soon figure out a decent multiple, say 10x , their price and then never pay more than that. in the case of fireproofing
sodium silicate also called 'water glass' is $250 / ton or 10c / lb. Buy 50 lbs for $10 and you've got yourself a deal. Mix it with water, spray it on , let it dry and try to burn the paper or cloth. It won't burn.

Ok that's my dump. Enjoy and keep it cool.

Putting up a few solar panels to heat water will keep heat off that part of the roof. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 11:41PM
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I think one solution is build a new house on the property, unless you can retrofit the original house with better insulation. Spray on polyurethane insulation on your rafters will help. Increasing insulation in the walls and ceilings will help. Never use fiberglass insulation because convection heat flows within it. A closed cell foam insulation short circuits convection heat transfer and performs much better. In the future, if you install a new roof, be sure to provide an air gap with firing strips. If you replace the siding, add 3/4 to 1 inch of rigid foam insulation.

We have learned the hard way by owning 2 conventional homes with average insulation. These came with large heating and cooling bills. Build a super insulated home in Montana that has relatively low heating and cooling bills. We used 6 inch structural insulated wall panels and 12 inch ceiling panels. This is the most comfortable house I have lived in. It has central AC for cooling and radiant floor heat for heating.

We are designing another structural insulated panel (SIP) house now. We are a small family of 4 and want to size down and simplify a bit. The size of this new house will be 1500 square feet and have 8 inch SIP walls and 12 inch SIP ceilings/roof. The heat loss calculations show a 5,000 BTU/HR and heat gain of 1,500 BTU/HR. Will heat with solar thermal and cool with solar electric. I'm looking for the smallest AC system so the humidity can be extracted. The mini-split ductless system, I found are variable 3,000 to 9,000 BTU, which is too large.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 2:33PM
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Thanks for the suggestions.

I've been setting the unit higher-- 78-84 during the day, 76-78 at night. I keep it usually right at 80 during those 115 degree days.

It looks like our electric bill this month will be around $375. That's cheaper than last year's $500+ July at least.

Keeping it at 80 during the 110-115 degree days also made the unit keep functioning. Last year we had the unit go out a few times between the AC and heating problems.

We are looking at programmable thermostats.

Does anyone have one?

I figure with the programmable thermostat we can turn the heating down to 64 during the day and up to 70 at night.
Summer, 80-82 during the day, 78 at night.

I'm not sure if we'll see much savings with a programmable thermostat with those settings, but it's worth a try.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 12:13AM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

I have a programmable thermostat. I like it and I don't like it. In many ways I could control it better manually. If I am not home, there is no need to have the air at 75. However, it does save me a lot by making sure it bumps up to 80 during the day. I frequently would forget to turn it up. Mornings are not my best remembering time!

Last winter I left my thermostat on "hold". I like the house cold, so I would just bump it higher when I got home, but it was never a problem to remember to lower it before I went to bed.

A friend of mine just got the smart energy thermostat from OGE. She loves it. It tells her exactly how much she is paying at that moment. My house is so small and I am fairly conservative, I don't think it could save me very much...but with your bills, it might be worth looking into!


    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 2:28PM
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I use a programmable thermostat in the summer and set it to 68 from 5:00-7:00 am, when it's coolest outdoors and the a/c can handle that with the least strain. That gets the interior temp down far enough that it takes several hours even on a hot day before the a/c needs to come on again to maintain the house at my daytime setting of 78, especially with all the window blinds and shades closed. (Of course, to get the maximum benefit you have to minimize the opening and closing of outside doors, etc. during the day. Anything that lets the outdoor heat into the house is bad.)

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 10:02PM
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Dear Friends,
Kindly You Can Save Your Money and Secure Our Planet By:
1-Don't pay another Electric Bill until After Reading this Unusual Report
2- Make your power company pay to you and save the planet from pollution
3- Convert your gas car into electric car despite having little or no mechanical background by following this excellent guide

Here is a link that might be useful: SAVE ELECTRICITY

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 8:01AM
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