Cool roofs or reflective roofs fall into the category of green roofing and can be achieved either by applying reflective roof coatings to present roofing systems, or by installing metal reflective roofs, which in the US, usually qualify as an Energy Star product, and may therefore, have rebates or incentives attached to them. As of this writing, the 2011 tax credit is 10% of the cost (not including installation/labor costs), up to $500.
Reflecting the Sun's Rays have Many Advantages
Cool roofs reflect the sun's rays and can help reduce roof surface temperatures by up to 100F. This reduces the amount of air conditioning needed in buildings, and can reduce peak cooling demand by 10-15 percent.
Reflecting the rays also reduces the wear-and-tear from overheating, and tempers the surrounding environment's temperatures - dark roofs (and blacktop)contribute to localized warming of climates, especially in urban areas; this is called the heat island effect.
Incidentally, about one sixth of all electricity generated in the US or $40 billion dollars is used for air-conditioning (Source: Energystar.gov).
Metal roofs are long-lasting (25-50 years), light-weight and can be recycled. They can also be installed over the existing asphalt shingle roof, but if your roofing needs replacing anyway, you might want to consider removing the shingles, and fortifying the insulation on the roof.
You can choose to put the metal roof over the shingles, eliminating the mess, and recycling on-site. New metal roofs are coated with special reflective coatings that reflect up to seventy percent of the solar radiation, which can result in over 20% cooling savings (up to 40% in some areas)in the summer months. If you install the standing seam metal roofs, you would have a great "substrate" on which to install solar roofing down the line (or in tandem). You would not only improve your roof's energy efficiency but also its power generating ability.
A note about the longevity of these roofs: when over time the roofing fades, and the reflective properties decrease, you can repaint the roof with another coat of reflective paint (even a different color) - there, you just recycled and revamped your roof for another 25 years.
Reflective Roof Coatings
This can be as simple as spraying a reflective coating on your roofing. There are many companies that manufacture reflective coatings that have insulative properties as well.
Coatings are applied to mainly flat or low-pitched roofs,either rubber membranes, or metal, not with asphalt shingles. These coating are formulated using ceramics which reflect the majority of the sun's electromagnetic spectrum, not just the visible portion. Supertherm is one particular company that manufactures these coatings with great results.
Incidentally, if you have an older metal roof that is in good or repairable condition, or you are going to replace your roofing with a low-cost aluminum roof, you can paint the roofing yourself with special reflective paints that contain ceramics.
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