Energy Savings

Fall is the optimal tree-planting season

PEC arborist shares tips for healthy trees, shade, and savings

While money doesn’t grow on trees, knowing when and where to plant trees can help you save on your electric bill. Arborist and PEC Vegetation Maintenance Supervisor Penny Whisenant explains why fall is a great time of year to plant trees, the best kind of trees to plant this season, and how to shade around your home for savings.

Fall is the optimal tree-planting season

Why is fall great for planting?
Autumn is the best time of year for planting balled and burlapped trees. Temperatures are finally beginning to cool off  across Central Texas, creating the perfect climate for planting trees and shrubs. Trees go into dormancy as the weather gets cooler and the days get shorter. As they shed their leaves, energy that was used to sustain their canopy is sent down to the roots for growth. By planting now, your tree will have plenty of time to establish in the soil and grow new roots. When spring comes, they’ll begin to bud new growth.

What trees grow best in the area?
Trees and shrubs native to the area you live are always the best choice. They’re easier to maintain because they are naturally acclimated to this environment. Across PEC’s service territory, look for mountain laurels or Mexican white oaks.

How do I choose a good tree?
Choose a small, healthy tree with a good structure. Look for a straight trunk and a strong central stem. Don’t buy trees with wounds or damage. Insects and disease can enter through wounds, and wounds don’t always heal properly. If possible, examine the root ball at the bottom of the tree and choose a tree with a moist, fibrous root system. Avoid trees with large roots wrapped around the root ball.

What safety issues should I consider when planting?

  • Electrical lines run underground and overhead, so if you’re planning to dig 16 inches or deeper in your yard, you need to call before you dig. It’s not only the law to call, but it can save your life.
  • Keep small trees at least 26 feet from electric poles, and 40-foot trees at least 40 feet from poles. Trees larger than 40 feet in mature height should be at least 60 feet away from electric poles.
  • Keep vegetation away from pad-mounted transformers. Underground power lines can extend in any direction, and PEC lineworkers need at least 10 feet of clearance on the opening side to safely access the transformer; five feet of clearance is recommended for the sides and back.

Where around my home should I plant trees to create shade for savings?

Once you determine where it’s safe to plant, look for areas that need shade. This includes places near windows and walls that soak up the sun’s rays. Keep at least 30-50 feet of distance between medium to large trees like pin oak, green ash, white oak, walnut, red oak, and pecan trees.

Create shade around your AC unit with shrubs or mountain laurels. Keeping your AC shaded and cool can help increase its efficiency by up to 10%.

Hardwood trees with full canopies are great for planting on the west side of your home to help limit heat from the afternoon sun. The leaves on full canopy trees help block heat late in the day. Plant trees on the south side of your home to reduce up to 90% of sunlight hitting your walls, windows, and roof. Trees and shrubs provide shade around your home and can keep pavement cool. This helps to decrease the air’s temperature by the time it reaches your walls and windows. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, strategically planting around your home can help cut as much as half of your air conditioning costs, so your effort is well spent.

If you have questions or see trees growing near our power lines and facilities, contact PEC Vegetation Maintenance at 888-554-4732.