An aerial view of Salt Lake City, UT showing the urban areas and urban canopy

Turn Shade into Savings!

Throughout the Summer months, the heat is a common topic of conversation, especially with the record-breaking temperatures worldwide in July. July 2023 was Earth’s hottest month on record and we could certainly feel it! Salt Lake City’s average high throughout July was 98.3ºF, which is more than 4 degrees over its historical average, making it the third hottest July on record. It was the hottest July on record in St. George, with an average daytime high of 107.5ºF. Illustrating the reality and dangers of the relentless heatwave down south, the park rangers at Zion National Park made a viral video baking cookies on a vehicle dashboard. The heat in July was relentless and with our ACs cranked up to match, our utility bills rose with the heat. Hot Summers like this are guaranteed in our future and so are the matching utility bills. As we all make an effort to stay cool in the Summer without breaking the bank, here’s a tip to help you out - plant trees!

The most unusual thing about July 2023 according to John Cecava, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Salt Lake City, is that temperatures remained so steady from day to night.Overnight lows in Utah were much higher than usual. Without that drop in temperatures at night, ACs, swamp coolers, and fans all across Utah were running 24/7. As resilient as Utahns are, we’re still only human and we’ve gotta stay cool. One thing we can do to save money while staying cool is to plant trees. 

Trees provide relief from the heat through shade and evapotranspiration. The same relief trees provide us while we’re enjoying the outdoors on a hot day can benefit us in our homes. Shaded surfaces may be between 20-45ºF cooler than unshaded materials. This is a staggering difference that can be applied to directly to our homes by planting trees in ideal locations. Large deciduous trees planted on the East, West, and Northwest sides make the biggest difference, reducing Summer air conditioning costs by up to 35%. Even a home that’s shaded just 50% throughout the day will see its air conditioning costs reduced by $20/month on average.

Planting trees to shade other areas of the property makes a big difference too! If you have an outdoor AC unit, you can also plant a tree in a spot where it’ll provide shade for the unit itself, keeping it cool and allowing it run as efficiently as possible. While some people have opted to plant shrubs around their units, this unfortunately impedes the airflow and restricts efficiency. By planting trees to shade AC units instead, airflow is unrestricted. It’s also helpful to create shade over surfaces that radiate heat, like driveways and sidewalks. By reducing their exposure to direct sunlight, we can reduce the radiant heat effect and keep ambient temperatures as low as possible.

By planting trees around your home, you’re also helping the whole community. Temperatures in well-shaded areas are on average 2.9ºF cooler than those with limited shade. Planting trees is one of the best ways to decrease the urban heat island effect and any additions to our urban forest will go a long way in bringing temperatures down for everyone in the neighborhood. When you contribute to the growth and stewardship of our urban canopy, you’re not only going to find lower utility bills, you’ll also find a happier, greener community.