HOUSTON - They say money doesn't grow on trees, but that doesn't mean your trees can't save you some cash. If you have trees on the south and west sides of your house, you can consider them money trees.
Researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture say trees in those positions will lower your summer cooling bills by at least five percent.
Interestingly, trees on the east side of a home have no effect on AC bills, but trees on the north side actually increased summer cooling bills.
But if you don't already have the trees, it will take a little patience to benefit from these savings.
Growing trees takes some time.
The Texas Forestry Service says some of the fast-growing varieties are Cottonwood and Sycamore trees, which can be at house-shading height for a one-story home in as few as three or four years.
Sometimes the Texas Forestry Service even gives away free seedlings. Just keep an eye on their Web site at .
Other varieties of trees need as much as 12 years to grow to a shade-giving height, said John Teas of Teas Nursery in Houston.
Teas' favorite tree is the Live Oak. In fact, he and his family planted the stately oaks that line Fannin Street in the Texas Med Center area and the trees on the Rice University campus.
Teas said a one-story home requires a tree to be about 15 feet tall, and the tree should be planted about 12 feet away from the structure.
A two-story home needs a 30-foot tree.
Seedlings, mulch and fertilizer typically cost about $50, Teas said. You can buy mature trees and have them installed, but that will cost you about $2,000. It could take decades to recoup that cost with your lower AC bills.
Teas says planting a tree is as easy as digging a hole.
Here are the steps:
Remove the seedling from the container pot.
Choose a spot on the west or south side of your home, about 12 feet from a single-story house and about five feet from a two-story home.
Dig a shallow hole twice as wide as the diameter of the container your tree was in. (If the ground is hard, water it for a couple of hours before digging.)
The depth of the hole you dig should be shallow, about three inches shorter than the height of the container pot. You want the top of the roots to be exposed .
Put fertilizer in the hole.
The tree's roots will have grown in a circular pattern from being in the container. Slice off a bit of the sides of the roots with a sharp knife, cutting straight down from the top.
Put the tree in the hole.
Put dirt back in the hole.
Water, but don't over-water. Teas likes to say "How long can you live without water? Now how long can you live under water?" His point is, it's better to have a tree that needs some water than a tree that is drowning in water, because that will kill it.