Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The benefits and controversy of white roofing

Much has been made in recent years about the benefits of installing white or “cool” roofs like those from Conklin. The idea is that light-colored materials reflect heat, while dark roofs (such as those made of asphalt and tar) absorb heat and drive up air-conditioning consumption in order to offset it. In other words, installing a roof that is white or “reflective” helps save energy and money.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu has pressed Americans to install cool roofs on their homes and business, even committing his own department to making all its new roofs white, but is the hype about cool roofs legitimate? Should you consider one for your home or commercial building?

The net energy savings generated by white roofs compared with dark roofs depends partly on where you’re located. White roofs seem like no-brainers in warm climates like Phoenix, Las Vegas and Miami, where they can keep air-conditioning bills in check year-round. States like California even now mandate white roofs on commercial buildings. But in cooler climates like Detroit or Toronto, the issue is less straightforward.

While white roofs may shave electric bills in hot summer months, some studies suggest they increase winter heating bills. The question is by just how much. Some scientists say white roofs can increase heating costs more than they save on A/C costs, although scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory dispute this - saying the electricity savings of air-conditioning has found to outweigh any negatives, even in cool cities like Minneapolis.

If you do decide to install a white roof on your business or home, make sure you do some research about costs and options in your area and get at least a few bids from different professional roofing contractors who specialize in cool roofing. There are several different types of reflective roofing materials, and there is a right way and a wrong way to install them.

Also look into incentives available to you. Some states offer rebates for installing white roofs, as do some electric utilities. You can look up incentives online at DSIRE.

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