Plant Some Shade

For Cool Summer Savings

When you think about all of the good things they provide, trees stand pretty tall. Trees add beauty to your neighborhood and your property, and they're great for the environment. On top of that, trees can reduce your energy bills and make your home more comfortable.

Leafy trees on the south and west sides of your home provide cooling shade on hot summer days. And dig this, the net cooling effect of a healthy leafy tree is equal to 10 room air conditioners, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The leaves fall off in the autumn and let in the warming sunlight during winter.

Picking the Right Tree

The right tree can provide you with years of savings and enjoyment, while a poorly chosen species may become a maintenance headache.

When Choosing a Tree, Consider:

Size. Will the tree bump into things, such as overhead power lines, when it's fully grown?

Type. Select leafy trees that provide cooling shade in summer and fall off to provide warming sunshine in winter.

Climate. That red maple may look nice, but it might not work for your climate zone. Choose a species native to your region.

Growth rate. A slow-growing species will take longer to provide that cooling shade, but they often live longer.

Do your research before you dig. Contact your local extension office for some expert advice. Remember also that evergreen trees on the north and northwest sides of your home provide year-round windbreaks from outside air.

Planting Your Tree

To get the most out of your tree and keep it healthy, you must plant it in the right spot. Your community may have ordinances regarding the placement of trees within a certain distance of sidewalks, streetlights, and other utilities.

Trees correctly planted and maintained will live longer and grow faster. While you should follow the planting instructions that come with the tree, here are some general guidelines:

  • Dig a hole about twice as wide and a little shallower than the root ball.
  • Roughen the sides and bottom of the hole to allow for easier root penetration.
  • Leave the root ball about one inch above the surface.
  • Add soil around the root ball and tamp it down to add stability.
  • Water thoroughly around the base of the tree after planting.

Dig This, the net cooling effect of a healthy leafy tree is equal to 10 room air conditioners

For more information, see How to Plant a Tree from the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

Graphic depicting a powerline and the surrounding tree pruning zone. Trees 30 feet or less from pole must have a maximum height of 25 feet. Trees 30 to 70 feet from pole must have a maximum hight of 40 feet or less.
Graphic source: The Arbor Day Foundation and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Safety is critical. Before you break ground, call 811 to have utility lines marked.