Everyone knows trees are valuable, but did you know you can actually calculate their specific added value to your property? If you’ve ever had to purchase a tree for your yard, you know that it can be an expensive investment, even for a young tree. And maintaining this tree can also be costly, such as leaf removal or tree trimming. Having mature trees in your yard or property is usually seen as a valuable commodity: they provide shade for the house, can act like a screen for unwanted noise or views, protect slopes from erosion, and are pretty to look at. But they can block a desirable view, create a leafy mess, cause damage to the home from broken limbs, and roots can damage driveways or underground pipes. So, should you be planting more trees in your yard or paying for their removal?
Overall benefits of trees
To get to the bottom of the question, “how much are my trees worth?” let’s take a look at the Tree Benefit Calculator. With just a few pieces of information, this website can tell you just how much value your trees are adding to your property. For example, in my climate zone, a 25-inch diameter Big Leaf Maple tree provides overall benefits of $196.00 per year to my property. Other species, and their size, may lead to a larger or smaller cost benefit. A similarly-sized Douglas Fir provides an annual benefit of $232, with varying benefits to the property value, energy savings and CO2 absorption. Click here to see your own specific tree benefit calculator. Overall, all trees provide benefits to our environment, and it’s always in our best interest to maintain them. Let’s take a look at the specific cost benefits of owning trees.
Storm water absorption by trees
The calculator estimates that within the course of one year, this 25-inch diameter maple tree will intercept 2,188 gallons of storm water runoff on my property. The image below shows just how much a tree does for water runoff, important for both wet climates that see a continual rain as well as semi-dry climates that occasionally see flash-flood type of conditions. When rain falls, leaves and branches slow down the flow of water to the ground. Roots absorb water and also act as a filter for water running into our waterways. As our towns and cities become covered with more concrete and asphalt, it’s incredibly important that trees are planted to help filter water before it ends up in our rivers and lakes. And if you’ve ever had a neighbor cut down a lot of trees, then see how your property fills with water during a rain storm, you can immediately see the impact that those roots had in absorbing water. In fact, property flooding isn’t necessarily due to too much water; it’s too much water with too few trees to absorb the excess.
Property value increases with trees
The presence of trees (or lack thereof) can greatly impact your property value. Using the same data, Tree Benefits calculates that this single maple tree will raise my property value by $120 this year. Much of this calculation is based on Leaf Surface Area (LSA) models, “that’s a researcher’s way of saying that a home with more trees (and more LSA) tends to have a higher value than one with fewer trees (and lower LSA),” according to their website. The higher the LSA, the higher the property value. The Pacific Northwest Research Station recently conducted a study of just how much trees raise property values in the city of Portland, Oregon. Considering the annual maintenance cost that cities spend on trees, understanding the economic value of these trees is important. In fact, this study found that the presence of trees along the street increased the sale prices of houses in east Portland neighborhoods by an average of $8,870 and reduced time on the market by an average of 1.7 days. Trees in front of the house also increased the home’s sale price by an average of $7,130. “Citywide, street trees add $1.1 billion to Portland’s property value, or $45 million a year. Annual maintenance costs of $4.6 million are a small fraction of the trees’ value and are mostly borne by property owners.”*
Energy benefits of trees
Trees can provide necessary shade for houses, which creates a cooler interior environment. My example of the single maple tree is expected to help me conserve 92 Kilowatt/hours of electricity this year. The illustration below shows the three major ways that trees can help reduce the amount of electricity or natural gas homeowners spend heating or cooling their homes. Trees provide shading for a house, making the house cooler and can reduce the amount of heat absorbed by the structure. Evapotranspiration, which is the process of liquid water converting to water vapor and subsequently cooling the air, helps create a slightly lower air temperature. Additionally, trees and tree canopies can slow down surrounding wind, reducing the amount of heat lost through the house (like windows).
Air quality improves with trees
Most of us are aware that trees can provide oxygen to our environment as well as absorb carbon dioxide, creating a better air quality. Air pollution is a health hazard for many people in the world, leading to asthma, cancer or serious respiratory diseases. Trees can absorb numerous toxic chemicals like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone. Trees can also absorb tiny particles like dust, ash and smoke, which can get into our homes and our lungs. Trees can lower the overall air temperature, reducing the production of ozone, and release oxygen into the air. The destruction of forests negatively impacts our overall air quality, but planting even one tree on your property can positively impact your surrounding environment and air quality.
Carbon dioxide absorption by trees
Carbon dioxide is released into our environment in multiple ways, but most common are vehicles and other forms of transportation. My single maple tree is expected to reduce atmospheric carbon by 694 pounds this year. To give a sense of comparison, an average mid-sized car can generate about 11,000 pounds of CO2 per year. So although one tree doesn’t cut out a person’s entire carbon footprint, planting trees in your yard and helping to preserve trees in your neighborhood can significantly help absorb CO2 in your environment. According to Tree Benefits, trees sequester CO2 in their roots, trunks, stems and leaves as they grow. Additionally, trees can help reduce the need for heating and cooling, which can also lead to a lower CO2 production.
Want to learn more about the benefit of trees? Check out the National Tree Benefit Calculator.
*Data and information from itreetools.org
Top image credit: Alderwood Landscaping