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Can Your Roof Save the Planet?

Now I’ve never been on the Family Feud, but I can guarantee that if you ask one-hundred people what the best way to save money on household energy costs is, you’ll see close to the following breakdown:

  • About 50 of them will say windows and making sure they’re not leaking hot or cold.
  • Another 20-25 of them will tell you it’s all about finding safe but solid insulation products.
  • You will probably have 10 or so people mention appliances and cutting down electricity needs.
  • Other answers you might get: Light bulbs, phantom leads, programmable thermostats, etc.

Not to say that everybody will miss this, but you’re probably not going to hear what I’m about to share with you about one of the best ways to help live green, and also save some.

That’s right, I’m talking about the roof above your head – the lid to the your life which has become synonymous with a place to live.

There are some important factors to consider when selecting any roof. These are usually available from the roofer and have a specific quantity that will help determine which roof is going to be the most energy efficient. They are:

  • R-Value – This number denotes the roof’s insulation. It is actually the unit of thermal resistance and so the higher the R-Value, the higher the insulative capabilities of the material.
  • Solar Reflectivity (R) – This number denotes the material’s ability to reflect solar energy from its surface back toward the sun. It is given on a scale from 0 to 1.0 that increases as less light is absorbed by the material. In order to be considered Energy Star certified, a roof has to have an R value of at least 0.25 for a steep slope and .65 for a low slope.
  • Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) – While Solar Reflectivity only denotes how good a material is at absorbing or bouncing energy, the Solar Reflectance Index factors in how good a material is at releasing any absorbed energy (Emissivity). The higher the index, on a scale from 0-100, the better that material is at bouncing energy and then releasing the little bit it absorbs.

If you’re looking to go a little outside the box on your roofing selection, there are some extreme roofing options that let you take massive strides toward a zero carbon footprint. Some examples are:

1. Green Roofs –

While not a roofing material, using a flat roof as a garden is a great way to not only add life to urban environments, but also provide insulation. Rooftop vegetation will lower heating and cooling costs and even reduces the urban heat island effect (the term given to the heat rise in the air above black and dark-colored roofs).

Aside from working well for insulation and roofing purposes, vegetation consumes carbon dioxide and adds oxygen to the atmosphere, so not only is your humble abode taken care of, but you are giving your neighborhood more oxygen (and perhaps baskets of cucumbers or tomatoes) as well!

2. Cool roofs

In our industry, we like to think of every roof as a cool roof, but your typical black shingled roof can get pretty hot in the sunlight. Enter cool roofs.

Research shows that you can lower the temperature by up to 50º F by using a white colored shingle or a reflective material for your roofing. In addition to reducing the urban heat island effect, this can translate to big bucks saved on energy costs.

3. Steel roofs

Steel roofing is considered to be a great option for green roofing due to a number of factors. Primarily, it is a high Solar Reflectivity value. Steel roofs also give you the option to paint them, and choosing a metallic paint can further increase the Solar Reflectivity.

Steel roofing lasts longer than asphalt roofing as well which means instead of using more precious resources after ten or fifteen years to have your roof replaced, your steel roof will still be a quality guard against the elements.

Finally, when it comes time to draw the curtain on your steel roof, it is fully recyclable. From start to finish, a steel roof will protect your home, bounce energy and can be passed on when its time to renovate.

4. Solar Roofs –

When is a roof with a low Solar Reflectivity good? When that energy being absorbed is stored in batteries and used to power your house!

Solar roofing is one of the coolest (no pun intended) things to do with your roof and has come a long way in a short amount of time. It’s implementation requires a pretty major renovation of your home electrical grid but will give you a huge return on the investment in the form of free electricity.

Not to mention give you happy thoughts about using the giant unlimited free energy source above your roof.

From simple Energy Star-qualified roofing materials to solar panels, the roof of your home is a massive opportunity to help out our planet and your bank statement.

Survey one-hundred people on that, and my guess is they’ll all say that’s a good place to start.

Shannon Alberts is a co-owner of Security-Luebke Roofing in Kaukauna, Wisconsin. Security-Luebke Roofing has been in the business for over 50 years and provides residential and commercial roofing services to Northeast Wisconsin. Shannon can be reached at

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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