Shade tree filters out summer sunlight

Shade Trees – A Different Way to Lower Your AC Bill

Rod Johnson Cooling and Air Conditioning

Perhaps you’ve recently upgraded your AC unit to be more efficient and environmentally friendly. Your filters are all clean and your ducts are freshly vacuumed. The insulation in your attic is well laid and there’s an attic fan going well in there as well. In your mind, there can’t be much else to do to keep you cool and keep your bills down, other than running your AC for shorter periods of time, right?


If your home is directly in the sun, you’d benefit from some shade trees! Too much sun is bad for humans and it’s bad for houses too. Not only can excessive sun bleach and fade the siding and roofing material of your home, but it can unnecessarily heat up your house. This is especially true if your home gets sun right at the hottest part of the day, between 1-4 p.m.

Shade trees can provide some inexpensive, long term cooling to your home. But they can only do their job if you select the right type of tree for your spot. Here’s a few things to keep in mind.

  • You’ll likely start from a small tree, but it won’t be small forever! Don’t forget that your standard everyday oak can grow to be nearly 100 feet high and have a root flair as wide as half of a football field.
  • Make sure you select the right tree for the area. Is it very wet? Dry? Sandy soil? You want to make sure the tree you select is going to thrive in that spot. Contact a local arborist or nursery if you need help picking the right tree for your needs.
  • Check with your power company for refunds and rebates – quite often they’ll part of or all of the cost of a new tree.
  • Try to plant your tree in the early fall or spring. The summer and winter climates are simply to extreme for new trees.
  • After you select your tree and you have it ready to go into the ground, you want to ensure you read the instructions for type of soil. Generally, you’ll want to include a 50/50 mix of your native soil and a good, rich compost. If you have a tree that likes acidic soil, you may need to add a bit of peat.
  • Be sure to dig the hole twice as wide as the tree’s root ball. This helps the roots fan out. Additionally, plant the tree with some of its roots exposed. No lollipop trees!

Our Favorite Shade Trees

  • Northern Red Oak/Valley Oak – Ask anyone to draw a tree and this is the one they’ll come up with. Oak’s grow to be 50 feet tall and fan out widely to give great coverage. Note, that for California, you’ll want to get a Valley Oak, which is resistant to sudden oak death disease. They like moist, well-draining, acidic soil.
  • Freeman Maples – Absolutely gorgeous red leaves make this 75-footer a great addition to any yard. Make sure you plant it in an area that gets full sun with a neutral pH soil.
  • European Black Alder – Thriving in wet areas, the Black Adler can grow to be 20-40 feet wide at the crown and nearly 60 feet tall. This is your go-to for an area that doesn’t drain.
  • Eastern White Pine – These guys are shaped like Christmas trees when they are young, but become 80 foot monsters when fully grown. As with most pines, they like acidic soil, so a great option for near your garden or water sources.
  • Magnolia – Hailing from the southern United States, Magnolias release a lemon-scented flower each season which is simply intoxicating. They can grow up to 60 feet high if they’re in perfect conditions. They still thrive in less than perfect conditions, and will reach up to 20 feet high.