How Your Roof Affects Your Energy Consumption

Reader Contribution by Bobbi Peterson
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One of the keys to being energy-conscious is in the details around your home. This includes the type of roof you choose when building or replacing an old one. One of the best ways to have a green roof is to look into the option of a “cool roof” when planning your next home improvement project.

What Is a Cool Roof?

This particular type of roof is designed to have a surface that absorbs much less heat than a standard roof. It reflects the sunlight from the surface, which can be done several different ways — from reflective paint to reflective shingles to tiles. It might not seem extremely significant, but the installation of a cool roof can reduce the temperature of the surface by more than 50 degrees.

When you consider the cost of air conditioning a home during the summer months, the energy savings you’ll have will be significant and worth the transition.

What Exactly Are the Benefits of Cool Roofs?

The savings on your energy bill are only a part of the benefits that come with the installation of a cool roof. On top of more money in your bank account, a cool roof can also improve the non-climate-controlled parts of your home, such as the garage or enclosed porch.

Furthermore, the reduction in temperature can increase the longevity of your roof life, and that means even greater savings for you in the future. It’s also better for the environment, since it cuts down on the harmful CO2 missions that are created by powering your heating/cooling system.

What Kinds of Options Are Out There?

Another bonus of this roof system is that you have plenty of options to choose from to find which one best suits your home and your needs. Cool roof coatings can be used for almost any roof type and are made up of reflective or white pigments that are formulated to protect the surface of your roof from UV light and even the damage that’s sometimes caused by water.

To choose how to make your roof cooler, you first need to know what kind of roof you’ll be installing and the materials your existing roof is made of. Hybrid roofs can be made cool simply by applying the cool roof coating at the factory where they’re manufactured, while shingled roofs require the purchase of special cool asphalt shingles. Tile roofs can be coated, on the other hand, and are often used to achieve a desired aesthetic. Often times they are even naturally reflective — like terra cotta tiles — and can be improved by waterproofing.

Another option is the installation of a cool metal roof. This doesn’t mean that any metal will do. For best results, you’ll want metal produced specifically with this application in mind.

Finally, you may also like the option of installing a green roof. This can consist of basic coverage by grass or even a garden. Earth homes are good examples of structures with a green roof, and these types of roof systems also help insulate, thereby reducing the usage of heating. However, this option does tend to be costlier and may require more maintenance, so make sure you consider all of your options before you make a final decision.

Is a Cool Roof Right for You?

There isn’t necessarily a right or a wrong answer to this question; the decision to install a cool roof should be made after careful consideration and assessment of all the different types that are out there, as well as which option best suits your home in structure and cost. If you’re building a new home then your choices are completely open, and you can weigh the pros and cons that come with shingles, tile, or metal.

If you’re updating, it’s important to understand what the original materials are and just how much you may need to replace or change.

Whatever decision you make, you’ll reap the rewards of a cool roof by reducing your monthly household expenses, and you’ll also be doing something great for the environment. Every one of us can do our own part to reduce greenhouse gases and cut energy use. Installing a cool roof is one option that can have a significant impact.

Photo by Fotolia/Stieber

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