If you need a new roof, going eco-friendly is a great way to reduce long-term costs and lower your energy bills. Read on to learn about the benefits of eco-friendly roofing and the variety of options on the market today.
Benefits of Eco-Friendly Roofing
What makes a roof eco-friendly, and how would an eco-friendly roof benefit you? A few different factors can contribute to a roof’s environmental sustainability:
- Durability and a long lifespan reduce the need for roofing replacement, saving resources and limiting waste.
- Low heat transfer contributes to your home’s overall energy efficiency. Simply put, these types of roofing won’t allow as much heat to pass through the roof as other types will.
- Using materials with less embodied energy (the amount of energy needed to produce the roofing material) helps protect the planet. Factors considered when calculating embodied energy include the energy consumed in mining and processing of natural resources as well as transport and delivery of the product.
- Use of recycled and/or recyclable products contribute to a roof’s sustainability by reducing landfill waste.
- Production and application methods that avoid release of toxic chemicals help keep the environment clean and livable for current and future generations.
Types of Eco-Friendly Roofing
There are several types of eco-friendly roofing materials. The best type for your home will depend on your local climate, your priorities, and your budget.
A rubber roof uses panels made of recycled content, such as tire rubber and sawdust, that would otherwise end up in landfills, where they release chemicals into the dirt. The rubber panels are designed to look like slate or wood and are installed in similar ways. The entire roofing system—including the trim—is made from completely recyclable products, which can be used again for other applications. Due to its flexibility, rubber roofing can reduce water leaks by going where typical asphalt roofing cannot. While rubber roofs are extremely durable and can last for decades, they cost more upfront than traditional asphalt shingles. The low maintenance needs and energy efficiency benefits from this material, however, may outweigh that cost.
You’ve probably seen solar panels installed on homes or businesses near you, especially in the last few years. Solar roofing can come in panel or tile form: while panels need a roof to sit on top of, the tiles have solar cells embedded into traditional roofing materials like shingles. With a solar roof, the panels or tiles convert sunlight into electricity. This can dramatically reduce your energy costs while reducing air pollution. Solar roofing requires a substantial investment up front, however, and it can take years (or even decades) for energy savings to cover that initial cost.
For a classic look, choose an eco-friendly roof made of wood. Wood shingles are available in a variety of colors and types, and they are very easy to stain to customize to your style. They are eco-friendly because they can be recycled into reclaimed wood products. Wood shingles need to be replaced every 15 or 20 years, however, so they aren’t quite as long-lasting as other eco-friendly options.
Slate or Clay Tiles
Clay and slate roofing reflect the sun and provide insulation from heat and cold. This can greatly reduce a home’s energy use and costs. Clay and slate are also naturally fire resistant and can stand up to severe wind, giving them the potential for long lifespans.
Clay and slate have limitations, however. If a tile is cracked, it must be replaced immediately to maintain the roof’s integrity. The weight of slate and clay tiles require extra support in the structure of the roof so it doesn’t collapse or bend. Additionally, slate and clay extraction have negative effects on the environment.
Recycled or new metal roofing is incredibly durable and can last more than 40 years. This could mean you only need one roof the entire time you’re in your home! Metal roofs reflect the sun to direct the heat away from your home, reducing cooling costs and power plant emissions.
There are a couple things, however, that limit a metal roof’s eco-friendliness. Metal production releases a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change. Some metal roofs also contain zinc or copper coatings, which can wash off the roof and contaminate water sources.
Green roofs, also called living roofs, use living plants to moderate heat, contribute to the cleanliness and quality of the air, and reduce runoff. For a green roof to work, it needs to be completely flat or have a low slope. It’s then covered by grass or other plants—preferably those local to the area. These green roofs need soil and some sort of watering system as well as a heavy-duty rubber membrane to prevent water infiltration. Your home must be structurally sound enough to handle this added weight.
Cool roofs, also referred to as white roofs, consist of white gravel and white glut. The sun’s rays reflect on the mixture, which then reduces the amount of heat that comes into the house. In turn, this can reduce the demand for electricity by reducing the need for air conditioning. Cool roofs may not work well in areas with significant sun and heat, however, as high temperature and humidity levels encourage mold growth, which could damage the roof’s integrity.
There are many benefits to installing an eco-friendly roof. Wisely chosen, your new roof could save you money while helping you be a good steward to the environment. It could even help your home achieve LEED certification, which can qualify it for lower insurance rates! For more information on keeping your home eco-friendly, subscribe to our blog.