Homeowners are constantly exploring opportunities to reduce their energy consumption and lower utility bills. One of the best ways to accomplish both is by installing energy-efficient roofing.
An energy-efficient roof reflects the sun’s rays and releases its heat, rather than absorbing it into your home’s interior. This helps reduce energy use and cost and keep the inside of your home more comfortable. It can also increase the longevity of your roof, so you do not have to invest in another roof replacement during your home ownership.
Energy-efficient roofing is made possible by using select materials and incorporating coatings or granules that help it reflect light and release heat.
On this page, we will walk you through how energy-efficient roofs function, available options, cost savings, and other factors that can impact your roof’s efficiency in protecting your home from the outside elements.
Types of Energy Efficient Roofs
Homeowners have a wide variety of options when selecting the perfect energy-efficient roof to meet their needs and preferences. One of the biggest choices you will make with any roofing project is the material to use.
While this can be an extensive list, let’s focus on those considered the most energy-efficient types of roofs.
When considering energy-efficient roofing options, tile roofing is a top contender. Popular energy-efficient tile materials for roofs include concrete, clay, and slate. One of the prime advantages of tile roofing is its ability to allow air to easily circulate between the individual, overlapping tiles. This airspace acts as a layer of insulation between the tiles and the roof deck, promoting year-round energy conservation.
The overlapping structure allows air to circulate easily through this type of roof, helping with energy-efficiency
Increased natural ventilation
Absorbs less heat
Clay and concrete options, among others
Lasts 50 or more years
Tile roofs are also designed to reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than other materials, which significantly reduces energy usage and costs. This makes tile roofing an especially energy-efficient solution for hot climates. You’ll also find that investing in a tile roof can make you eligible for federal and state tax credits—helping to offset some of the costs from installation.
Another top energy-efficient roofing option is a metal roof. These roofs, as the name suggests, are made up of metals like, aluminum, copper, steel, tin, and zinc, and are on the rise for homes in the U.S.
One of the most eco-friendly roofing options since metal is reusable and keeps homes cooler
Uses cool roof reflective pigment technology
Materials can be recycled
Can significantly lower energy bills
Lasts 40 to 80 years or more
Traditional roofing products contribute an estimated 20 billion pounds of waste to U.S. landfills on an annual basis. Meanwhile, metal roofing systems are made from 30% to 60% recycled material, are 100% recyclable, and can be installed over an existing roof. This lessens the environmental impact and eliminates extra out-of-pocket cost.
Most metal roofing products use reflective pigment technology—we’ll get into that a little later—making your home more energy-efficient and decreasing your monthly utility bills by up to 40%. Additionally, these roofs feature interlocking panels that provide resistance to outside air and harsh conditions that can impact your utility usage.
Asphalt shingles are one of the most common roof types installed by homeowners thanks to their incredible affordability compared to other roof types.
There are two types of asphalt shingles available—those that are energy-efficient and those that are not. The energy-efficient varieties – sometimes referred to as “cool roof shingles” – are made with special granules that have a higher Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) number. They work to reduce heat absorption and promote sun reflection.
Certain varieties are energy-efficient “cool roofs” thanks to special granules with reflective technology
One of the most affordable roofing materials
Come in lighter colors for better sun reflection
Energy-efficient options available
Lasts 20 to 50 years or more
While not all asphalt shingles feature these granules, the material’s low-cost alone makes them an option worth exploring for affordable energy-efficiency. However, a long-term consideration is that asphalt naturally contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, some of which are carcinogenic— potentially putting workers and the environment at risk.
If you are leaning toward asphalt shingles for your roof replacement project, make sure to talk to your contractor about your energy-efficiency goals to ensure the most eco-friendly type of asphalt.
Another consideration for homeowners exploring energy-efficient roofing options are solar shingles. These are a relatively new technology designed to look like asphalt shingles and offer the same level of protection, while harnessing solar energy.
Solar Shingle Roofing
Roofing material that uses solar power to produce energy for a home
Alternative to solar panels
high return on investment
Lasts 20 to 30 years at max energy output
Solar shingles are about the same size as traditional shingles – about 12 inches wide by 86 inches long, and have a high conversion efficiency rate of 10% to 20%. This energy-efficient roofing material can lower a home’s energy and utility costs by as much as 40% to 70%.
Each solar shingle can produce between 13 and 63 watts of energy, depending on the brand. Solar shingles are lightweight and easy to install and just like ordinary shingles, they are designed to withstand rain, wind, and hail. They can also produce a return on investment of up to 70% or more and increase your home’s resale value. Note that solar panels can also be installed on top of most types of roofing.
What is Reflective Pigment Technology?
Reflective pigment technology is an energy-efficient roof coating that enables roofs to reflect heat in the summer, while providing superior insulation in the winter. This protection from UV rays can also help extend the lifespan of a roof—especially in areas that experience long, intense sun exposure.
Reflective technology is a key feature of most types of energy-efficient roofing. These pigments are primarily found in metal roofs, but can also be used in tiles and (to lesser extents) be implemented in asphalt shingles.
An alternative to reflective pigments are radiant heat barriers. These barriers are made by lining the inside of the attic with a highly reflective material, such as aluminum. This material will reflect heat absorbed from roof tiles, rather than allowing it to absorb into your home’s ceiling or walls. Your roofing contractor should be well-versed in cool roofing materials and technologies, so be sure to discuss your energy efficiency goals ahead of installation.
The Benefits of Cool Roofs
With traditional roofs, sunlight is absorbed by the roofing materials and converted into heat. A cool roof functions differently by reflecting sunlight (solar reflectance), and releases the heat (thermal emittance), rather than absorbing it. This is done by applying reflective, cool coating for the roof or special reflective granules—whether it is a new installation or an existing roof.
Cool roofing typically has a comparable cost to conventional roofing products. But choosing a cool coating for the roof during a replacement or new installation is often the most affordable route to go.
Practically any roof material can be made with cool roof options, though metal roofs can be a stand-out choice. Metal roofs by nature reflect sunlight, but do not have as strong thermal emittance properties. However, a layer of thermal coating can increase both reflectivity and thermal emittance in metal roofs.
Homeowners will find several benefits of installing a cool roof:
- Energy and utility cost savings
- Increased property value
- Assistance of older HVAC units
- Improving indoor comfort
- Decreasing roof temperatures (which can extend roof lifespan)
- Lowering local air temperatures
- Slowing the formation of smog
- Reducing local utility demand
Flat vs. Pitched Roofs
Flat roofs are often overlooked by homeowners for various reasons. But when it comes to thermal performance, they usually beat older pitched roofs. The reason is because many flat or low-sloped roofs rely on innovative insulation methods and use new materials that lower overall heating and cooling demand.
Generally, flat roofs have a membrane system, which is applied on top of sheets of rigid insulation—making it much more energy efficient. Pitched roofs, on the other hand, commonly employ a cavity insulation system, where fiberglass batts—or loose insulation stuffed into insulation blankets—is pressed between the ceiling joists.
Flat roofs aren’t for everyone. They require frequent maintenance to keep drainage systems working at peak performance and can have a shorter lifespan than their pitched counterparts. But if you are looking for a modern style with great energy performance, a home with a low-sloped roof might be worth considering.
The Importance of Ventilation and Insulation
When it comes to energy-efficient roofing, the roof itself isn’t the only part of your home that makes an impact. You’ll also want to inspect your ventilation and insulation.
The goal of ventilation is to properly manage airflow in your home. If a roof is poorly ventilated, it can make your attic or crawlspace feel extremely hot in the summer or cold in the winter. This can also lead to excessive moisture build up during cooler months. Not only can this impact your utility usage and energy costs, it can cause damage to the roof or shorten its lifespan.
Poor insulation can have similar impacts on your home and energy costs, as you’ll need to run HVAC systems longer to maintain comfort.
Homeowners will also want to consider above sheathing ventilation (ASV), primarily in tile roof installations, to help reduce energy costs. ASV is an air space located between the roof tiles and the roof sheathing. This space reduces heat transfer and allows excess heat to dissipate.
How Does Energy Efficient Roofing Help to Decrease Energy Bills?
Heating and cooling typically account for about half of a home’s total energy consumption costs. That said, installing an energy-efficient roof can make immediate impacts on your utility cost and produce a great return on investment. In fact, they can lower your utility bills by as much as 25%—that’s $300 to $500 annually for the average home.
Homeowners can also benefit from credits and rebates offered for installing energy-efficient roofing. These can be available at the federal, state, or municipal level.
Beyond the immediate utility cost savings, a new energy-efficient roof can pay for itself in as little as 5 to 10 years (depending on the material and home size. This can help you make the most of your investment. They can also increase your property and resale value.
Finding Energy Efficient Roofing Installers
If you’re ready to reduce your energy usage and lower your utility costs, let the experts at Modernize connect you with a trusted, local roofing contractor. These professionals can help you find the perfect energy-efficient roofing solution to meet your needs, budget, and preferences.