*Local Learning Series written by Lani Houck, arborist at the Roseville Urban Forest Foundation in Roseville, CA.

How to use Trees to Shade Your House, but Not Your Solar Panels 

Trees can save energy by shading your house. By keeping the sun off your house, trees can keep your house cooler in summer. That helps save you money and helps save the earth from greenhouse gases. (Trees also do other beneficial things like sequestering carbon, cleaning the air, providing habitat for wildlife, reducing crime, and improving health. And they look good while doing it.)  

Solar panels can generate energy as long as the sun shines on them. 

So site trees where they shade your house, but not your solar panels. 


This small tree is short enough to stay out of the path of the sun. If it were to grow taller or was a large-sized tree, it would block the solar collectors in a few years. 

Shade the hot sides of your home; the western exposure is the most important, followed by the eastern and southern sides of the house. Windows allow a lot of heat into the house too, so shade those especially. Also shade air conditioners to reduce their energy use. 

Since solar collectors also need to face the sun, they frequently face east, west, or south also. To avoid having the trees shade the solar panel, you have to make sure that the tops of your trees will not grow into the area that the solar collectors need to be kept clear.  


Instead of calculating solar angles, treetop heights, and so forth, just use the table below for help in placing a tree of a given height at the right location relative to your solar panel. 



Now that you know the appropriate height of the tree, choose one that will thrive in your landscape. Most important is that you match the irrigation need of the tree to how much the landscape will be watered. Need some help with tree choices? 

  • Selectree is also a great source of information on most species of trees that grow in California. 

Be sure to check the tree tag at the nursery to verify the tree’s height when you’re selecting your tree. You don’t want to find out in a few years that your tree is going to shade your solar panels. 

Now you just need to plant and care for your new shade tree. Visit our website for more information. 

How to plant your tree video 

Choosing the right tree for your landscape    

How to hire an arborist 

We are the Roseville Urban Forest Foundation (RUFF), a small non-profit based in Roseville California who have been helping people plant and grow trees since 1995. We host public tree plantings, provide tree and nature-themed books for kids, and help our community reap the benefits of healthy trees. 


Roseville Urban Forest Foundation, PO Box 229, Roseville, CA, 95678, 916-250-2902, www.RosevilleTree.org  


Author Lani Houck 


I’ve been working with RUFF as an arborist since 2001 and trees are my passion. I have had the fun of helping thousands of families choose trees for their gardens, educating people on pruning and tree care, and teaching thousands of volunteers to plant native trees.