In the dead of summer Edinburg residents can save up to 20 to 25 percent on their electric bill just by planting trees around their house, according to city experts.
Elms, ashes and live oak trees can cool your home by as much as 15 degrees, according to Ed Kuprel, Edinburg’s lone master forester. Kuprel says planting trees on the south and west side of your home or around your A/C makes an enormous difference when the temperature hits the triple digits, as it did last week.
“Those are the best locations. If you can try to shade those areas of your house to keep the light from shining directly you’ll feel the difference,” he said. “When you see a tree cut the angle of the sun you’ll feel the temperature difference. It’s enormous.”
Tree varieties best suited for the job include Mexican Oak, Royal Poinciana, jacaranda or a golden rain tree. For those who want something that grows fast, a Rio Grande Valley Ash or a Flamboyant works well, but residents have to consider that a fast growing tree typically has weak growing branches, according to Kuprel.
“Generally the rule is 10 to 15 feet away from your house for the big canopy trees,” he said. “You want to take elms and ashes and live oak. You have to take careful watch over them because they spread out, so keep those 15 to 20 feet from your house. You get beautiful shade with live oaks.”
Kuprel, along with Edinburg Parks and Recreation and city officials are currently working together to plant trees along the right of ways and along city streets. Officials are also in the initial stages of applying into the Texas Tree City USA program sponsored by the National Arbor Day Foundation. The recognition could pave the way for more grants and national attention.
“You have to plant so many dollars per citizen of your citizen, $2 to $3, and I think we’re doing that between maintenance and our Parks and Recreation,” Kuprel said. “And you’re given a plaque. I think one city in the whole Valley, I think Brownsville, is currently the only Tree City USA and you’re open for all kinds of national attention. It’s part of the Cool Cities Initiative and grants and awards.”
According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement endorsed by the City on July 15, 2008, Edinburg has pledged to develop and enforce policies in order to reduce sprawl, preserve open space and create a walkable community.
“Sometimes all it takes is a little kid with an acorn as opposed to a big monster piece of machinery,” Kuprel said. “A $300 tree and a backhoe can be replaced with a kid grabbing a little seed, which a lot of times will outgrow a $300 tree.”