While energy-efficient appliances and daily energy-conserving practices are effective when it comes to saving money, there’s another way to get at the problem. Choosing efficient building materials for your new construction or retrofit can reduce the load on your heating and cooling system.
Unless your home is located in a shaded area, your roof is exposed to direct sunlight for hours each day, which raises the indoor temperature on summer days. This results in your HVAC system working harder just to keep up. If you have high summer cooling bills and a traditional asphalt roof, you have options for energy efficient roof updates that can reduce the load on your HVAC system.
Install Metal Roofing
In addition to working well in tandem with both rustic and modern architecture, metal roofing is also energy efficient and eco-friendly. Most metal roofing contains a coating with reflective properties, which keeps your house cooler in the summer and insulates it more efficiently in the winter. While metal roofing comes with a higher price tag than asphalt, it saves you money on energy use and also last for decades longer. It’s generally composed of 30 to 60 percent recycled materials and can be recycled when removed later on down the road—unlike asphalt roofing, which ends up in the landfill.
The most common types of metal roofing include aluminum, steel, and copper. These can be designed as shingles or panels, and can even be stone-coated to mimic slate or clay tiles. If your heart is set on the more historic look, slate or clay tiles are energy efficient in the sense that they insulate your home effectively. Still, they don’t have the same reflective properties as metal roofing. They’re also heavier and tend to be more expensive.
Apply a Reflective Coating
Coating plays an incredibly important role in the energy efficiency of a metal roof. The coatings are similar to a thick paint, and they not only enhance the reflectiveness and energy efficiency of a roof, but its durability and weather-resistance as well. Many metal roofing materials, especially steel, come pre-coated with zinc, aluminum, or a combination of the two. However, you also have the option to hand-select your color and coating, so make sure you research the emissivity of different coatings and choose an Energy Star-certified product.
Plant a Roof Garden
Maybe you can’t afford a roofing overall. There are still options for making your roof more energy efficient. When it comes to a green roof, the green is more literal than what you might think: it’s a roof covered in plants. To create a green or “living” roof, first, you need to make sure your roof is strong and capable of supporting a little extra weight, and make sure there are no leaks. Insulation may be required by local building regulations, so check to see what preliminary steps you need to follow. Do your research when it comes to using the right materials and building plants and grasses that will flourish in your region. If done right, a green roof will do more than lower your heating and cooling bills; it will purify the air, provide stormwater management, and add unique natural beauty to your home.
Add Attic Insulation and Seal Leaks
Efficient roofing materials can only do so much. If your home is not already configured to reduce energy use, you’re not getting as much out of your roofing investment as you could. Add layers of insulation to the attic, seal holes and leaks in your ductwork, and make sure to close up leaks around doors and windows, too. You can do these projects yourself or hire a contractor if you’re not comfortable tackling DIY home improvements.
Install Solar Shingles
If you are ready for a bigger investment and want the most energy efficient roofing materials out there, solar shingles are a great option. They’re a type of building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV)—solar photovoltaic panels that resemble, and can replace, traditional building materials. These are a great option for people who love the idea of solar but just can’t get past what some consider a clunky aesthetic. They are somewhat less efficient than regular solar modules, but if a smooth aesthetic is of great value to you, they may be the way to go.
Other Factors to Consider
- While energy efficient roofing materials are more expensive than asphalt, they add value to your home and cut down your energy bills, bringing in an impressive ROI.
- If you plan to take on any of these larger projects, make sure you hire a contractor who has specific experience in installing that type of roofing or feature, even if it requires extra research. You don’t want to waste your money.
- If you’re not sure where to start, get a home energy audit. No matter what roofing material you choose, making your home more energy efficient will yield more positive results.