Money doesn’t grow on trees, but strategically planting a few around your house could cut your summer electric bill.
Trees can shade homes from the sun, keeping them cooler and placing less reliance on electricity-sucking air conditioners.
This year, Mays Landing-based Atlantic City Electric is offering 2,000 free saplings to customers to plant.
For the third year, the utility partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation through its Energy-Saving Trees program.
An online tool at www.arborday.org/ace estimates the energy savings a bald cypress or sugar maple can provide. The website uses satellite photos of South Jersey properties (similar looking to Google Earth) to estimate cost savings based on where on the property it is planted.
For example, a single tree in an ideal location outside a Cape May Court House home can save more than $5 per month when it matures, the website says.
“You have a significant amount of heat you’re keeping from going onto the house and heating up the attic with hot air,” said Jared Carlson, development manager at the Nebraska-based Arbor Day Foundation.
With trees, patience is a part of the process.
The saplings are 2 to 4 feet when shipped through the mail. It may take a decade or more for them to grow enough to shade a home.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Service says at least three large shade trees strategically positioned near a home can cut air-conditioning bills up to 30 percent. Trees can be used as wind blocks in the winter.
In the U.S., about 15 utilities are partaking in the program this year, and the nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation plans to extend it more in the coming years, Carlson said.
Atlantic City Electric’s parent company, Pepco Holdngs Inc., was involved with the original pilot program several years ago, he said.
The program costs Atlantic City Electric about $30,000, including the trees and delivery costs, spokesman Frank Tedesco said.
Because customers are planting trees themselves, the Arbor Day Foundation’s website includes warnings against planting trees underneath utility wires or too close to homes.
Cristina Frank, lead environmental scientist at Pepco Holdings, said the reservation period for trees opened March 20 and will continue until all trees are given away. They will likely be shipped in late spring, she said.
About 1,400 trees still were available as of Sunday.
There is a limit of two trees per household. They include sugar maple, American beech, white dogwood, bald cypress, Washington hawthorn, river birch and hackberry.
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