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Here's how you can cut your energy bills with trees

Trees can help you reduce power usage by 25% in both summer and winter.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Hot summer days are for seeking some shade. Your home also benefits from being out of direct sunlight.

“A shade tree can help reduce the temperature underneath by up to 10-15 degrees,” said Brandon Kirby with Rainbow Garden in San Antonio. “For example, if it’s 100 degrees outside, it might only feel like 95 degrees under a tree. If you’ve ever spent any time in 110-degree heat, it’s a big difference.”

That difference in temperature means your air conditioner will not need to work as hard, lowering your power bill. CPS Energy is offering customers a $50 rebate for every tree they plant, up to five trees, for a total of $250.

“We have over 30 species that qualify,” said Heath Bentley, CPS Energy’s environmental analyst. “They are mostly native or non-native species that are well adapted and non-invasive to this area.”

Here are the steps: 

  • Buy a 5 gallon or larger tree by April 30 (You can purchase up to 5 trees.)
  • Copy your receipt
  • Fill out the application
  • Mail to CPS Energy by May 15
  • A $50 credit will appear on your power bill.

The $50 credit you get for buying the tree will appear on your CPS Energy bill within 12 weeks, but the 25% savings you see from the shade tree is going to take a little longer.

“Some of these larger shade trees can take some time for them to be large enough to shade your home,” Bentley said.

It can be 10 to 15 years to see the benefits on your bill.

Plant the tree on this side of your home to see the greatest savings:

“The west side of your house,” Kirby said. “What you’re going to do by planting on the west side of the house is ensure in the hottest parts of summer that the tree is going to cast shade over the house that will protect your house during the hottest part of the day.”

It can also help lower your winter power bills.

“When the tree defoliates and drops its leaves, you’ll allow that Western sun in to cascade over your house, warming the house and also reducing the need for heat in winter,” Kirby said.

The CPS Energy tree rebate program does allow you to plant on any side of your home.

Trees should be planted 20 to 30 feet away from your home. Always call 811 before you dig a hole to plant your tree so you do not interrupt an underground utility.

Trees will need some extra care during their first year. You will need to supplement the soil you plant them in to help the roots get a strong start.  Kirby also suggested adding mulch to the top of the soil.

“Mulch is like armor for the roots,” he said. “It’s going to help keep moisture in and the heat out.”

You will also need to water it regularly. Kirby suggested placing a hose at the base of the tree, turning the hose on a quarter turn, and letting the water soak the ground for 30 minutes.

“It ensures the water makes its way all the way down to the bottom of the roots," Kirby said. "Then the tree goes down searching for soil rather than out with shallow roots.”

Be aware trees will require some maintenance as they grow. Limbs will need to be trimmed regularly to keep them from falling and damaging your home or powerlines.

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