Save Energy with Smart Planting and Shading

Plan ahead for spring with tips from MGE.

A white two-story house shaded by a leafy green tree.
While we often think of landscaping as a way to add curb appeal, planting smart can also help you save energy. In fact, smart landscaping can save up to 25 percent of the energy a typical household uses, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
To achieve maximum savings, it's key to plant the proper tree or shrub in the proper place. You need to consider what's located above and below your desired planting location, as well as the mature height and spread of a plant. Use these general planting tips for energy efficiency:
  • Plant large, leafy trees on the east, west and south sides of your home to provide maximum summertime shade and lower the surrounding air temperature. They should be planted at least 20 feet from the side of your home. A six-foot-tall tree planted near your house will shade windows in the first year. That same tree will shade the roof in 5 to 10 years.
  • Trees with lower leaves and branches work well on the west side of your home to offer shade from lower sun angles in the afternoon.  
  • Position trees and shrubs to shade air-conditioning units. Equipment that operates in the shade will use less electricity; however, be sure not to block the airflow.  
  • Plant bushes next to your house to create air space that will provide insulation year-round.  
  • Prevailing winter winds come from the west and north; use dense windbreaks to protect from cold winter winds.

Plant with safety in mind

Be sure to contact Diggers Hotline at least three days before doing any digging in your yard. MGE and other participating utilities will mark the location of underground facilities on your property and indicate safe overhead line clearances. This free service will help you stay safe and avoid costly fines.

It's also important to plant trees away from overhead power lines. Trees that grow too close to power lines can cause outages. Find MGE's list of the 10 best trees to plant near power lines at


Add external shading

External shading devices are another option to help prevent unwanted sunlight from entering your home. Shading devices include awnings, overhangs and trellises. They don't have to be complex and can be as simple as putting together a few two-by-fours.
For south-facing windows, a shading device should be based on window size. For example, with a window that is 36 inches tall, the shading device should be placed 10.8 inches from the top of the window. It should be 25.2 inches deep extending out from the house. There are online calculators to help determine where to install a shading device based on window size.

For west-facing windows, the shading device needs a vertical component to block summer sun. Adding hanging vines to the shading device will help further block the sun. Consider creating a grid-like structure with plastic or rope, then add climbing vines. Vines that have leaves in spring and summer that fall off in fall or winter will help keep sun out during the summer and allow in warmth during the winter.

Get free advice from MGE energy experts

MGE is available to answer your questions and provide tips on landscaping for energy efficiency. Our energy experts are available 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at (608) 252-7117, or you can send them an email at

published: May-09-2024