Sustainability and energy efficiency are primary considerations in home design and renovation in 2020. With this in mind, there is no better place to start than with the roof when trying to ensure that a home is energy efficient.
As a home’s first line of defense against nature’s elements, the roof can go a long way toward dictating a home’s overall energy needs. Some ways that the roof may influence energy efficiency include:
- The amount of insulation it provides in times of extreme temperature
- How it interacts with the sun. Does it reflect, absorb, and/or radiate solar energy?
- How susceptible it is to damage that may lead to air and moisture leaks
- If it uses any PV cells to generate renewable electricity
- The overall energy resources required in installation, maintenance, and repair
There is no shortage of roofing shingle lines on the market, available from thousands of vendors nationwide. Not all of these products are created equal. It is important to compare the most popular roofing materials and see how they stack up in terms of energy efficiency.
1. Asphalt Shingles
A new roof, no matter the material, is the first place to start when seeking energy efficiency. Any roof is better than no roof at all.
If a home is in need of a new roof and you are on a budget, then new asphalt shingles can help you create a more energy-efficient home. New asphalt shingles are easy to install and do a decent job of protecting the home from air and moisture leaks in their early years.
Unfortunately, the drawbacks to asphalt shingles are many. Although they can come in a variety of colors, black is by far the most common. With little insulative value, these dark shingles absorb heat and readily pass it into the home, creating an interior furnace that only extended AC usage can alleviate. In addition, asphalt shingles have very short useful lives, with some budget options beginning to deteriorate in as little as 15 years.
2. Ceramic Tiles
For people living in warmer climates who do not want their AC running 24/7, ceramic and concrete tiles make for a viable roofing option. In addition to being lighter in color than most asphalt products, ceramics have a high thermal mass. This means that it takes a lot of solar energy to get ceramic tiles to change temperature. In addition, any heat that is absorbed is stored and slowly radiated into the building’s interior, meaning that the building stays comfortable all day with only minor AC needed during the day’s warmest hours.
On the flip side, ceramic tiles are heavy and difficult to install. While longer lasting than asphalt, they do require frequent maintenance and are porous to moisture without proper sealant. They have also been known to crack in the face of high winds and heavy precipitation. Any and all of these factors can lead to damage that causes increased energy consumption.
3. Composite Shingles
Composite shingles are materials that use technology and synthetics to create quality roofing solutions. Many contractors that like the appearance of wood shakes, stone tiles, or a rubber slate roof can get nearly identical aesthetics with increased energy efficiency by choosing composite products. The best composite shingles will have a useful life of at least 50 years; have the highest ratings in fire, wind, and impact resistance; and allow for simple installation and maintenance to help ensure that as few resources as possible are required to keep your home airtight.
The downsides to composite products are that there are a number of vendors, with some offering shingles of subpar quality, and an initial cost that is higher than other basic roofing materials.
4. Solar Shingles
The most progressive of all the roofing options in terms of energy efficiency, solar shingles are solar panels that mimic the appearance of more traditional roofing shingles. However, while providing similar protective and insulative properties as other materials, their core function is the use of photovoltaic cells to produce electricity.
The sustainability appeal of having an attractive roof that produces its own energy goes without saying. The main drawbacks of solar shingles include a high up-front cost (which can be recouped over the years of renewable energy generation) and a shorter lifespan than more durable roofing products, with solar shingles losing their basic roofing and energy-creating prowess after 15 to 20 years of use.
5. Ideas to Pair with a New Roof to Increase Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency is a comprehensive and holistic enterprise when it comes to home design. Therefore, while a quality roof is a great place to start, other steps to take in creating an energy-efficient building include:
- Using framing materials high in thermal mass, such as insulated concrete forms
- Adding window trim and sealing windows for winter to help ensure no unwanted air transfer through the building envelope
- Lining the ceiling and walls with high-quality polyiso insulation
As society becomes increasingly vigilant in its efforts to promote sustainability, energy efficiency is a highly desirable trait in homes. When looking to make a structure energy-efficient, the roof is a great place to start, as it provides an initial layer of insulation and helps regulate air and moisture transfer into your building. By carefully comparing the pros and cons of different roofing shingles, you can find the ideal product to make your home as energy-efficient as possible.
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Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.