There are a number of reasons why Phoenix residents have some of the highest electrical bills in the country each summer. Certainly the high temperatures and heat index play the biggest roles, but another piece of the puzzle is the lack of shade trees surrounding homes. While residential areas in most other states have enough large shade trees to help block some of the summer sun and bring indoor temperatures down a few degrees, many Phoenix and other desert dwelling residents don’t. Without those crucial shade trees, you end up spending more on air conditioning each summer than a home in a similar climate with shade trees will.
Adding just three to five shade trees in the eastern, western, or southern areas of your home’s lot can lower your annual electric bill by about $50. This is because shade trees planted in these areas help block some of the sun from beating down directly onto your home. So while the ambient temperature around your home may still climb, you won’t be adding the greenhouse effect with the sun pouring in through your windows. In turn, your AC unit doesn’t have to work as hard to cool your home, saving electricity and money.
A full complement of mature shade trees planted around your home can lower the indoor temperature by as much as 20 degrees during the height of summer. Combined with other temperature-saving tricks such as attic fans, good insulation, and programmable thermostats, shade trees can help you keep your home much more comfortable year-round, while also producing oxygen and cleaning the air.
Keep in mind that most trees are planted when they are saplings. This means that they may only be about 4 – 5 feet high when you plant them. Averaging about a foot of growth a year, it could be a while before you see the full benefit of their shade.
That said, planting the trees approximately 10 – 15 feet from your home on the east, west, and south sides will help maximize the shade that they do give off immediately. You may find that even though the saplings have a ways to go to get to their mature heights, they can still block some of the sun from entering the windows on the lower levels of your home, keeping these rooms cooler and more comfortable. And because heat rises, keeping your home’s lower level cooler can help ensure that your whole home stays cooler.
Not every species of tree will do well in a desert area. Likewise, many of the plants that do flourish in Arizona aren’t going to reach the heights necessary to provide you with the shade you need to lower your summer electric bills. Therefore, be sure to choose trees that can handle the desert environment, and that should reach heights tall enough to provide you with some shade, such as:
You may want to make an appointment with an arborist who can visit your home and ensure that you’re picking the right type of tree for your soil and location. Combining the trees with other types of landscaping can also benefit the trees, helping them to mature quickly, while preventing soil erosion.
Plant shade trees around your home anytime between September and May. (While trees provide the bulk of their benefit during the summer months, summer is not the optimum time to plant them.)
Consider adding some shade trees to your landscaping and help reduce your AC bill come next summer. You can even get free trees from SRP!
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