Tree Power Program

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COLUMBIA - You don't have to look at the weather records to know this was a hot summer. Columbia suffered through 24 days with triple digit temperatures. That heat wasn't as bad for people with properly placed plants around their homes.

"I planted a river birch probably seven years ago and this summer especially because it was so hot, I really really valued the shade it brought," said Columbia Water & Light's Connie Kacprowicz.

Kacprowicz is one of thousands of Columbians to take part of the Tree Power program that is designed to reduce electrical demands by using energy-efficient landscaping. To get homeowners started, Columbia Water & Light provides free audits to show where and what kind of trees to plant around their homes. For instance, placing a large maple tree on the south or west side of a home will protect the house from afternoon sun while keeping it a few degrees cooler.

"It use to be that my house was hit by the sun all afternoon long and now from about three o'clock on, the tree completely shades," said Kacprowicz.

Tree Power is for more than just the summer. In the winter, evergreen trees or shrubs can protect homes from northern winds and provide year-round insulation.

According to the city, a well-landscaped house can save as much as 30 percent on utility bills. In July 2012, the average Columbia resident spent $134.01 on their electric bill. They could have saved as much $40 with the Tree Power program.

Since 1992, roughly 4,500 people have joined the Tree Power program. The perk being that Columbia Water & Light has given all participants a coupon for a free shade tree. It's just a matter of choosing one.

"It depends on where you want to plant the tree," said Superior Garden Center's Bailey Yotter. "If you want something that's going to be a little more ornamental, I'd choose the crab apple, but if you're planting something close to the house, definitely the river birch."

Yotter added, "If you want want something for shade, the maple or pin oak is the better choice."

Superior Garden Center is the The Tree Power program partner. The business supplies participants with the trees requested through the coupon program.

To find out if your house qualifies for the Tree Power program, contact the city by emailing or calling 573-874-7325.