Only two things in life are certain; death and roof maintenance. When your turn inevitably rolls around, there are green roof choices you can make that last longer and save you money. Some roof options have lower carbon footprints than others, some last longer and others are even able to generate electricity for you. When searching out a more eco-friendly option for your roof, consider the recycled material content, longevity and future recycling potential.
Take this time to install more comprehensive insulation in your roof. This will save money by creating a better building envelope for your home. Almost a quarter of your heat is lost through improper insulation. There are an endless number of insulation options including matting, blown insulation, loose-fill, rigid insulation boards and spray foam. For those who live in warmer climes, consider a lighter roof color. This will reduce the ‘albedo’ heat island effect (a common problem in cities), but won’t make a significant difference to your utility bill if comprehensive insulation is already installed.
Green roof-building materials
Slate: A slate roof will cost more, but slate is one of the most enduring roofing materials. It’s completely natural and its embodied carbon footprint can be low if sourced locally. Slate is environmentally friendly because of its durability (it can last for over 100 years) and potential for recycling. Mining and transporting slate is a carbon-intensive process, so improve your carbon-footprint by sourcing recycled slate tiles.
Recycled shingles: These products are created from home or factory waste including plastic, rubber or wood fiber. Recycled shingles are surprisingly durable, and attractive. Waste is diverted from landfills and there is no need to process and extract new raw materials. High fire ratings (resulting in lower insurance premiums) and 50-year warranties make recycled-content shingles an impressive option.
Recycled metal roofs: A classic option that can now be tooled to resemble slate or wood shingles. Check the recycled content of your roofing as not all manufacturers use 100% recycled materials. Recycled metal roofs are made from aluminium which comes primarily from beverage cans. Metal roofing can last up to 50 years, has an excellent fire rating and can be recycled into other products. It’s durable and strong and allows for chemical-free rainwater collection.
Power generating options
The very best way to save money is to generate an income from your roof. If you have to replace your roof, consider installing a solar system. Many governments offer incentives that see home and business owners generating an income by supplying energy to their local power grid. These incentives have an excellent return on investment. The Ontario MicroFIT scheme, for example, is based on a German model where home and business owners who install a 10kW system can expect an annual income of around $10 000. This means that they get a return on their investment in about six years and then enjoy tidy profits for the remainder of their 20-year contract.
The world of solar technology is improving at a rapid rate with solar systems becoming increasingly efficient and cheaper. The latest innovations in photovoltaic technology bypass the need for a separate solar panel system by creating solar shingles.
Solar shingles resemble asphalt shingles and come in a plethora of models, shapes and colours. They are easy to install, weather-resistant and durable.
When you need to replace your roof, work smarter, not harder, and find environmentally friendly options that will reduce your carbon footprint (and utility bills) or generate your own green power. Check with your state or provincial authorities for green incentives that will help to reimburse some of your retrofit costs.