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Spotlight on Cool Roofs

The Cool Roof Rating Council tells us that a cool roof reflects and emits the sun’s heat back to the sky instead of transferring it to the building below. “Coolness” is measured by two properties: solar reflectance and thermal emittance. Both properties are measured from 0 to 1 and the higher the value, the “cooler” the roof.

Benefits of cool roofs include:

  • Energy savings
  • Global warming mitigation
  • Reduction in urban heat island effect and smog
  • Improved occupant comfort
  • Compliance with codes and green building programs

The topic of cool roofs was featured recently in an article by Todd Woody, who says, “Green Wombat often highlights high tech when it comes to tackling global warming and energy independence. But a new study from the University of California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that simply installing white roofs on homes and commercial buildings - to reflect the sun’s rays rather than absorb them - can reduce air-conditioning costs by 20% and could save $1 billion a year in energy outlays in the United States.”

In the study, the scientists calculated that a global white roofs and roads effort would offset 44 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, or more than a year’s worth of carbon, and help stabilize future C02 emission increases. Another intriguing highlight of the article is the note that “Installing cool roofs and cool pavements in cities worldwide does not need delicate negotiations between nations in terms of curbing each country’s CO2 emission rates.”

The California Energy Commission’s Consumer Energy Center discusses the common sense approach of shifting to cool roofs. Their experts say that cool roofs reduce the roof surface temperature by up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. That significant reduction thereby reduces the heat transferred into the building below. This helps to reduce energy costs by keeping attics and ducts cooler, cutting maintenance costs, and increasing the life cycle of the roof.

Americans spend about $40 billion annually to air condition buildings — one-sixth of all electricity generated in this country. This surprising statistic is the introduction to Energy Star’s feature on qualified cool roofing products. Their recommendation is to strongly consider using cool roofing materials for either new buildings and additions, or when you need to replace an existing roof.

It makes sense to consider cool, environmentally friendly options when facing a major expense such as roofing. With the growing number of qualified and dedicated green contractors, why not include an interview with one of them as you explore your possibilities?

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