Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Does a white roof really work?

Dear Dr. Green: I've read about white roofs and heard a lot about Philly's Coolest Block Contest, but that was before the recent heat wave. Ninety degree temperature seems like too much for a measly coat of paint to handle. Does that stuff really work?

Does a white roof really work?


Dear Dr. Green: I’ve read about white roofs and heard a lot about Philly’s Coolest Block Contest, but that was before the recent heat wave. Ninety degree temperature seems like too much for a measly coat of paint to handle. Does that stuff really work?

Skepticism is natural, but this isn’t snake oil we’re selling. A white roof really will save you money, make your home more comfortable, and help slow the rate of climate change.

Let’s first look at the science. During a heat wave, black asphalt roofs can reach 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Much of that accumulated heat radiates into the building, rendering it uncomfortable and, in some cases, dangerous. Air conditioning systems consume great amounts of energy as they fight to counteract the effects of the sweltering roofs.

Experts recommend acrylic, elastomeric white roof coating as an effective way of cooling homes.  Roofing materials with an EPA ENERGY STAR rated solar reflectance of more than 65 percent re-radiate much of the solar radiation back into the sky, reflecting heat much better than a traditional roof.

A healthy suspicion never hurt anyone, but ignoring the truth about white roofs can cost you. White roofs reduce air-conditioning bills by an average of 22 percent. White and reflective roof materials also extend the life of a roof by approximately 10 years, greatly reducing lifetime maintenance costs.

Still don’t believe it? Try this on for size: because so much less heat is absorbed, the benefits extend beyond your energy bill. White roofs essentially restore a piece of the polar ice caps: research shows that by increasing the earth’s reflectance (or albedo) and returning the sun’s heat to outer space, they help both you and the climate stay cool during a heat wave.

Without a doubt, houses with white roofs feel cooler and are more comfortable to live in. But don’t take our word for it—just ask people from the 1200 block of Wolf Street.

As winners of the Coolest Block Contest (CBC), all participating homes on the 1200 block of Wolf Street are receiving a free energy audit, air sealing, insulation, and white roof coating. The homes have yet to be fully retrofitted, but residents are already reporting that their homes are cooler on account of white roofs.

CBC winner Terry Jack perceived a change in her home almost instantly. “I have to say that there actually is a noticeable temperature difference on the second floor on the really hot days,” says Jack.

Cory Suter, founder and chief operator of BioNeighbors, the contractor responsible for installing the white roofs for the 1200 block of Wolf Street, has received very positive feedback. “There is a tremendous difference to the interior comfort of the house,” explains Suter. “People have been really impressed with how much cooler their upstairs is and how much less their air conditioner is running after installation.”

You must be kicking yourself that you don’t have a white roof. Luckily, the opportunity to get one hasn’t passed you by. It’s not too late to install a white roof! It can take as little as one day to install and you can start feeling the benefits almost instantly. So get comfortable and give yourself, your air conditioner, and your wallet a break.

Believe it or not, white roofs are super cool.

Our energy Q & A column from Philly's Energy Coordinating Agency has a special expert, Dr. Green, to answer your questions at energy@phillynews.com.

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About this blog
Earth to Philly is a weblog focusing on earth-conscious technology, trends and ideas, from a Daily News perspective. We look at the "green" aspects of your home, business, food, transportation, style, policy, gadgets and artwork. If you have a Philly-related story, Click here to let us know about it!

The experts at Philadelphia's Energy Coordinating Agency answer your energy questions in our regular feature Stay Warm, Stay Green. Send in your question or questions to energy@phillynews.com.

Look for Jenice Armstrong to supply tips on green living as well as occasional columns on the subject of Green. She also blogs at Hey Jen.

Becky Batcha stays tuned for the here-and-now practical side of conservation, alternative energy, organic foods, etc. - stuff you can do at home now. Plus odds and ends.

Laurie Conrad recycles from her ever-growing e-mailbag to pass along the latest travel deals, fashion statements, household strategies, gadgets, cool local events and other nuggets of interest to those who appreciate a clean, green world.

Vance Lehmkuhl looks at topics like eco-conscious eating, public transportation and fuel-efficient driving from his perspective as a vegetarian, a daily SEPTA bus rider and a hybrid driver, as well as noting the occasional wacky trend or product. Contact Vance with your 'green' news.

Ronnie Polaneczky sees the green movement through the eyes of her 12-year-old daughter, who calls her on every scrap of paper or glass bottle that Ronnie neglects to toss into the house recycling bins. Ronnie will blog about new or unexpected ways to go green. She also blogs at So, What Happened Was...

Sandra Shea and the DN editorial board opine on any green-related legislation or policy. And we'll pass along some of the opeds on the subject that people send us.

Jonathan Takiff will be blogging mainly about consumer electronics - those things that we love to use and that suck too much energy. He'll spotlight green-conscious gizmos made in a responsible fashion, both in terms of materials used and the energy it takes to run them.

Signe Wilkinson draws the comic strip Family Tree, which follows the Tree family as they try to live green in the face of nattering neighbors, plastic-wrapped consumer products, and the primal teenage urge to spend vast quantities of money on hair care products of dubious organic quality.

In addition to these updates from our newsroom bloggers, watch for an occasional feature, Dumpster Diver Dispatches, from Philadelphia's original "green" community of artists, the Dumpster Divers. You'll learn about creative ways to reuse and recycle while you reduce, and about the artists who are making little masterpieces from what others throw out.

  • Dispatch #1: Margaret Giancola's rugs from plastic bags
  • Dispatch #2: Dumpster Divers in City Hall (Art in City Hall series)
  • Dispatch #3: Wild wood, New Jersey
  • Dispatch #4: Dumpster Divers award winners announced
  • Dispatch #5: From sweaters to colorful cuddling
  • Dispatch #6: Green artists retake South Street Sunday
  • Dispatch #7: Isaiah Zagar: He's a Magic (Gardens) Man

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