8 Key Things to Know About Cool Roofing
As we talk more and more about the problems of global warming, air quality and high energy costs, cool roofing technology has become part of the conversation about solutions. It’s important to understand what this technology can do for your homeowners and communities, and how to decide if it’s right for your projects.
What Is A Cool Roof?
Just as light-colored, breathable clothing can keep us cooler on hot, sunny days and light-colored cars become less oven-like under the same conditions, cool roofs can keep interior temperatures down by using materials designed to reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat.
Cool roofing products have been shown to remain approximately 50 to 60 degrees cooler than traditional materials during peak summer months. While traditional roofs — which absorb 85 to 95 percent of the solar energy reaching them — may hit peak temperatures of 150 to 185 degrees F, the coolest roof materials absorb less than 35 percent of solar energy and reach peak temperatures of only 110 to 115 degrees F.
As with light-colored clothes and cars, one way to make roofs cool is by using lighter colors. However, not everyone wants a white roof, so manufacturers have developed “cool” sheet coverings, solar-reflective paint and energy-saving shingles in a variety of light and dark colors. Roofs can also be made cool by using materials that naturally reflect solar radiation, such as ceramic tile or metal. Some applications combine less absorptive materials, like tile, with reflective surface treatments for even better performance.
5 Benefits of Cool Roofs
A cool roof can benefit homeowners, their community and the global environment, by:
Lowering Homeowner Energy Costs — A cool roof transfers less heat into the home, thereby decreasing air conditioning needs for lower power bills.
Improving Resident Comfort and Health — A cool roof can make areas without air conditioning, such as garages and covered porches or patios, more comfortable to use. It can also reduce discomfort and health risks if electricity/air conditioning goes out temporarily.
Mitigating the “Heat Island” Effect — Heat islands result from the heat produced by many buildings close together, including the combined heat of numerous hot roofs in a community. Using cool roofs throughout a community can help lower the ambient local temperature.
Lowering Peak Electricity Demand — Saving energy during hot, summer weekday afternoons when offices and homes are using a lot of electricity for appliances, lights, and air conditioning can help prevent power outages.
Reducing Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gas Emissions — Lower energy demand leads to a reduction in fossil fuel use and emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides and mercury.
3 Cons of Cool Roofs
There are also some potential disadvantages to consider before choosing cool roof technology for a project.
Limited Selection of Colors & Materials — This is true but not as much of a problem as it was 20 years ago when the first cool roof products came on the market. Shingle roofs, tile roofs and metal roofs can all be cool, and there are now hundreds of color choices. However, lighter colors are still more effective than dark ones in reflecting heat.
High Cost for Certain Methods & Materials — A cool roof can be expensive to install or not, depending on your selection of materials. Metal roofing, for example, is very effective and quite expensive. The cost of installing energy-saving shingles, however, may be on par with the cost of a traditional roof. One additional thing to remember is that some cool roofs may require more maintenance, including cleaning and/or recoating to keep surfaces reflective.
Wintertime Heating Cost Penalty — Solar heat can help warm a house in the winter, so reflecting more of it can create a higher heating demand when it’s cold. However, in most U.S. climates, the extra wintertime heating expense is not large enough to outweigh the summertime cooling savings. There is simply far less useful solar energy in the winter — due to shorter days, a lower sun angle, and more cloudy and snowy days in cold northern states — than there is unwanted solar energy in the summer.
Deciding Whether To Install A Cool Roof For Your Homeowners
How can you tell if a cool roof is a good solution for your homeowners?
Consider The Cost
Clearly, your homeowners will want to know what this will cost them in the short-run and save them in the long-run. Will the energy savings justify the initial outlay? Will the potentially longer lifespan due to decreased roof temperature offset any extra cleaning/maintenance costs?
Consider The Climate & Environment
Cool roofs are most effective in reducing energy costs in hot climates. Consider if the home is being built in a climate with hot and sunny weather that requires air conditioning at least three months of the year. Florida, the Southeast, southern California and Texas, and the desert Southwest are natural locations for cool roof installations. However, cool roofs can also be beneficial in other parts of the country, depending on energy costs, specific climate zones, snow cover and other variables.
Consider The Overall Home Design
The amount homeowners may save with a cool roof also depends on other factors, including the efficiency of the home’s heating and cooling system, amount and efficiency of the home’s insulation, the slope of the roof and the area of the roof relative to the home’s size.
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