Columbia offers free option to keep your home cool

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COLUMBIA - When the temperature heats up, there are plenty of ways to stay cool.

Columbia Water and Light is giving people a new free way to cool down that could also help cut down on their electric bills.

It partnered with Rost Landscaping to form the Tree Power program, which encourages people to buy a shade tree and incorporate energy-efficient landscaping around your home.

Shade trees are simple: when fully grown, they block the sun, allowing a house to stay cool without using too much air conditioning.

"The idea behind it is that effectively planting shade trees can reduce your cooling costs during the summer by up to thirty percent," Columbia Water and Light spokesperson, Connie Kacprowicz said.

There are regulations when it comes to planting shade trees. Consumers must plant trees where they will not overhang the house or obstruct views from inside. They must also avoid planting trees directly on property lines as they can bring electric currents to the surface

To obtain a tree, customers must be a consumer of Columbia Water and Light and receive consent from a landlord if the customer does not own their home.

"Columbia Water and Light gives electric household coupons to come out and get their free shade tree. They come out here and they pick their trees themselves and they can take it home with them that day," retail manager for Rost Landscaping, Lisa Fairley said.

There is one small catch: Rost Landscaping doesn't plant the tree for free. Landscapers will plant your tree for a $50 fee.

Consumers have different options for what kind of tree they can take home. To apply for a shade tree call Columbia Water and Light or apply online at the city's website.