Metal roofing

Metal roofing can cool your energy expenses and last longer than traditional roofing
By B. Denise Hawkins
Metal roofing

The metal roof on this log cabin features a standing seam design that reflects the sun’s rays, making the home easier to cool in the summer months and great for snow shedding in the winter. [Photo: Metal Roofing Alliance]

Asphalt shingles are still the norm in most regions, but the next roof over your head could be an energy-saving metal one made of stainless steel and painted to reflect hot sun rays. Thomas Jefferson chose metal roofing to shelter Monticello, his Virginia estate. Centuries later, historians say, Jefferson's tin roof is in fine shape.

That kind of durability, say metal roofing retailers and manufacturers, is a strong selling point for making converts of a growing band of homeowners who want a building material that is not only sustainable, energy efficient, and cost-effective, but more aesthetically pleasing than asphalt. Today, you can select metals from copper to zinc. You can also choose roofing styles ranging from traditional vertical seams to those that resemble wood shake, slate, shingles and clay tiles. A multi-year study conducted by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Building Technology Center suggests that replacing conventional asphalt roofs with metal ones can reduce air conditioning energy use by up to 25 percent.

Wondering whether your house should be clad with a metal roof? Energy Star offers this guidance: homes hampered with high air conditioning bills, have large roof surfaces, lower levels of insulation and are located in hot, sunny climates benefit the most from metal roofing. Painted metal roofs, also known as "cool metal roofs," are designed to reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than a standard roof. Special reflective color pigments in the paint make that possible. But whether using white or a darker paint color, heat will still reflect well and help reduce cooling loads in the summer and insulate homes during the winter.

With metal roofs, there are also other ways for homeowners to save money over time, but the initial purchase price can be a factor. The cost for using metal roofing systems in home renovations or in new residential construction is higher than most other roofing materials, say manufacturers. But compared to traditional dark gray asphalt shingles and other non-metal roofs that last on average 17 years, metal roofs last longer. The lifespan of metal roofs is about two to three times longer, says William "Bill" Hippard, chairman of the non-profit Metal Roofing Alliance, a coalition dedicated to educating consumers about the benefits of modern metal roofing, and the product is virtually maintenance-free.

About the Author

B. Denise Hawkins writes on energy efficiency issues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

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