VOICES Voices Icon Ideas and Insight From Explorers


Whitewashing… Roofs, That Is

There has been a lot of talk lately about whitewashing. (See Monday’s post on the benefits of white roofs.) Federal energy leaders are advocating for reflective rooftop coatings, and several of the Green Effect entries we received during the contest suggest there is already a ground swell for the idea at the local level:

• From Houston, Texas: Paint the Town White. ” Some people believe that nuclear power is the answer to climate change, others have proposed green technologies such as wind or solar power, but I believe in something far more simple–painting your roof white!”

• From Amarillo, Texas: Up On The Rooftop. “By painting rooftops silver/white in an entire town it may be possible to ‘replace’ some ice loss, reflecting solar energy back into the atmosphere. … I’d recruit city and business leaders to get on board and launch a campaign letting folks know how they could take this simple step themselves to save money on energy and help the environment — and be the first metro area to try it!”

• From Ohio: Dark Mass into White Mass; Lighten Up and Cool Down!

• And more ideas: Project White Roof, The Whiteboard, Rooftop Reflections.

Check out the Department of Energy’s list of Energy Star rated reflective roof material and start a whitewashing movement in your neighborhood!

–Tasha Eichenseher


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  5. leo12
    July 8, 2010, 2:55 pm

    During the summer the Sun is overhead and a white/reflective roof saves cooling costs. Winter Sun is angled lower and therefore a black roof gains much much less heat then. You won’t save much in heating cost–not as much as a white roof saves cooling cost. Black shingles are cheap, though and ignorant people see only the installation cost–and use the “warmer in winter” to justify their decision. It’s a short sighted view and not surprising since most businesses, or households, seemingly don’t plan more than a quarter in advance. Steam Showers

  6. botha
    July 3, 2010, 3:53 am
  7. leo12
    June 30, 2010, 5:12 pm

    Actually, white roofs only reduce energy costs for buildings located in warm climates, most often located below I-40. In fact, calculations conducted on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Cool Roof Calculator prove that dark colored roofs can reduce energy costs, consumption and lower carbon emissions for buildings located as far south as Albuquerque, NM. Cities located in cooler climates (like Chicago) are actually increasing their carbon footprint, not reducing it, by mandating white roofs. Unfortunately, they think they’re doing the right thing because organizations and associations like the USGBC (LEED) and the Cool Roof Rating Council continue to tout the benefits of reflectivity, and subsequently, seem to get all the media placements. However, their stories fail to mention that reflectivity only contributes to reduced air conditioning usage, which in many locations only takes place in the summer. What about heating usage during the fall, winter and spring? According to the DOE’s 2008 Building Energy Data Book, heating accounts for an average of 29% of commercial buildings’ end use energy intensity. Cooling only adds up to 6%. So, reducing heating consumption (via dark-colored roofs) would actually be more energy efficient and eco-friendly than trying to reduce air conditioning consumption (via reflective roofs) in many parts of the world. If only we could get some ink on that! business card printing

  8. leo12
    June 30, 2010, 3:31 pm

    Aluminum or white reflective coatings dramatically affect the inside temperatures of buildings in the summer with significant under-roof cooling. The result is lower A/C costs which directly means lower energy costs which translates to a lesser carbon footprint. Further reflecting the heat up and out to space is also measurable, but will leave those calculations up to Steve Chu. In my mind, the KISS principle is clearly at work here. Keeping it simple will yield significant, measurable and quick results. autism health insurance coverage

  9. leo12
    June 30, 2010, 3:30 pm

    The city of Chicago already requires that all roofs be painted silver or white – it’s part of the building codes here. I believe the rule went into effect about 5 years ago. It cuts down on energy costs and reduces the summer temp highs in the city – it makes sense locally as well as globally. mount hood downhill skiing

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