A Reflective Roof Yields Huge Energy Efficiency Savings

by Owner on April 15, 2009

If you’re looking to build or remodel a home, one of the most important decisions you can make involves your home’s roof. The roof is essential not only for keeping the elements out but for keeping the temperature in the house constant. When making your decision on roofing materials you should consider a reflective roof, which will save you a lot of money with a big boost in energy efficiency.

The problem with today’s black roofs is that they absorb heat instead of reflecting it. That results in a lot of extra air conditioning to compensate, especially in hotter climates.

Also, when many buildings in a city have the same black roof material, all of that heat absorption causes the “heat island effect,” a phenomenon where cities can be 2-8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than otherwise. This creates extra heating misery for everyone, requires yet more energy usage for air conditioning at all hours of the day and night, and creates more ozone and pollution.

The best roofs offer high reflectivity of the sun’s rays so that little heat is absorbed into the building and is mostly reflected back into space instead. A reflective roof can result in substantial energy savings: Energy Star estimates you can save as much as 50% on your energy bills by using a reflective roof! Better yet, if many people were to adopt the same practice it would seriously lower or eliminate energy costs associated with the heat island effect.

Metal roofing offers the most reflective surface and is also amazingly sturdy–it can last up to 50 years. However, it can also be prohibitively expensive. A better option for most people is to build a roof from more traditional materials but apply a reflective roof coating that essentially turns it white (the most reflective color) instead of black (the least reflective). This reflective paint coating is easy to apply and easy to maintain, although maintenance will be a bit more frequent to ensure it’s working right and not being blocked by dirt or debris. You should also select a roof coating that blocks UV rays.

Lacking that, just selecting a roof color that is as close to white as possible will give you many of the same advantages as a reflective coating.

A roof with a reflective coating should be only modestly more expensive than a regular one, and the difference in cost should be paid for within just one or two years because of the money you’ll save on energy costs. You may also increase your roof’s effective life, since a more constant temperature will reduce the temperature shock and stress you get when cold precipitation falls on a hot roof.

More peripheral benefits of a reflective roof include perhaps being able to purchase a smaller cooling system than you would have needed otherwise given the lower cooling demands of the house. You’ll also contribute to lowering the amount of air pollution and ozone in your community during the hot summer months.

If now is the time to change or build your roof and you’re thinking about roofing materials, there is every reason to go with a reflective one. If energy efficiency isn’t enough of a reason, then consider the tax credits you’ll get with the Obama stimulus plan over the next several months for installing one!

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