Guide to Energy-Efficient Roofing

When scorching hot weather hits, using fans and air conditioning can lead to a pricey energy bill. While you might be familiar with energy-saving appliances and smart windows, did you know that having an energy-efficient roof can significantly reduce your energy costs? It’s true! An energy-efficient roof can save you hundreds of dollars per year while keeping your home cozy.

If you’re planning a new roof installation or some roof upkeep, keep reading to discover how you can use energy-efficient materials to get the most out of your project.

What is Energy Efficient Roofing?

solar photovoltaic panels on a house

Energy-efficient roofs are typically made from light-colored materials that reflect sunlight away from your home. This helps keep indoor temperatures cooler and avoid the harsh effects of UV rays. Unlike regular roofs that absorb heat due to their dark colors, energy-efficient roofs actively prevent excess heat from seeping inside.

Energy-efficient roofs aren’t just good for the environment – they’re good for your wallet too. These roofs can trim your energy bills by around 25%, translating to about $300 to $500 in yearly savings for an average home.

Some places even offer incentives for installing cool roofs, and you might qualify for a tax credit through programs like the Energy Star rating program.

But how exactly do these roofs lower your bills? Well, certain roofing materials, like metal roofs, are less able to hold onto heat than materials like asphalt shingles or clay tiles. This means they don’t let your home get too toasty, even when the sun is blazing.

If you’re currently shelling out $125 each month for utilities, a 25% to 35% drop in energy expenses can lead to savings of over $500 every year. That’s a pretty significant impact!

What Makes a Roof Energy Efficient?

Ever realized that your roof can get super hot, even hotter than the outdoor air? It’s because dark roofs absorb heat and can make your attic and home heat up too. Even though good insulation helps a bit, it can’t completely stop this heat transfer. And when your attic gets too hot, your air conditioning has to work extra hard.

You can reduce heat transfer from the roof to your house by choosing energy-efficient materials. But what makes a roof energy efficient? There are two main players here: solar reflectance and ventilation. The right roof material and color can reflect sunlight away, and proper ventilation helps keep the heat from building up in your attic.

Solar Reflectance Index (SRI)

The solar reflectance index (SRI) measures how capable a roof is of reflecting solar heat and releasing absorbed heat. The higher the SRI, the better your roof keeps your home energy-efficient.

This measure determines how hot your roof gets. According to the EPA, a cool roof with high SRI can be 50 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than a regular roof – that’s a big difference!

The SRI considers two things: how well your roof reflects solar heat and how well it releases any heat it does absorb. The higher the SRI, the better your roof is at both these tasks.

Here’s the cool part: Studies show that bumping your SRI rating from 25 to 40 can cut your cooling costs by 15-20%. Even this slight boost can bring down your roof’s surface temperature by more than 13 degrees. That’s like having built-in cooling!

Lighter roof colors are better at reflecting heat than darker ones. And there are special coatings that can boost reflectivity even more. But the real win with an energy-efficient roof is that it keeps the sun’s heat away from your house. Less heat means your attic stays cooler, which then means your home stays cooler too.

Remember, solar reflectance isn’t only for places with long summers. The savings can stack up over time, even if you’re in a cooler area.


Ever noticed that older homes can feel a bit drafty compared to newer ones? It’s because new building methods and energy-efficient windows and doors help keep homes tightly sealed. This is great for energy efficiency but can cause moisture to build up in your attic, leading to potential water damage. When moisture can’t escape naturally, it heads into the attic due to the rising warm air.

Here’s where proper attic ventilation and insulation come in. Good airflow from your roof and well-installed insulation can keep your home energy-efficient without inviting water damage.

Effective ventilation also prevents heat that reaches the attic from accumulating. If the outside temperature is in the 90s, your attic can reach a scorching 160 degrees!

Without proper ventilation, this heat transfers into your living spaces. Extreme temperatures might even harm your roof.

Different types of roof vents: static, wind-powered, and electric, can be used in residential roofing. Each has its ups and downs, and your roofing expert can help you choose the right type and the correct amount of ventilation.

Benefits of an Energy-Efficient Roof

modern house with solar panels on the roof

Here are the ways investing in an energy-efficient roof can pay you back:

Cost Savings

The primary advantage of energy-efficient roofing is evident in the financial aspect. By minimizing the heat that enters your home through the roof, you’ll cut down on cooling expenses during hot seasons. This could result in savings ranging from around 7% to an impressive 15%, offering substantial monthly bill reductions. In today’s economic landscape, every dollar counts, making these savings especially valuable.

Makes living space more comfortable

Energy-efficient roofing isn’t just beneficial for those who use air conditioning sparingly or not at all. Traditional roofs tend to trap heat inside, particularly on upper floors, making living and sleeping in those areas unbearable on extremely hot days and nights. By contrast, energy-efficient roofing reflects a significant portion of heat, preventing it from entering your home. This feature contributes to consistently comfortable living conditions throughout the year.

Environmentally friendly

Energy-efficient roofing shingles offer environmental advantages in several ways. Firstly, they tend to have longer lifespans, reducing the need for frequent replacements and the associated material waste that often ends up in landfills. Additionally, these roofs promote decreased reliance on air conditioning, resulting in fewer harmful greenhouse gas emissions and reduced air pollution. Opting for an energy-efficient roof means you’re actively reducing your overall carbon footprint and playing a role in fostering a healthier planet.

Prolongs roof lifespan

An energy-efficient roof offers another compelling advantage – it can significantly extend the life of your roof. By reflecting harmful UV rays and excessive heat, the roof material is less prone to deterioration caused by sun exposure. This effect is particularly noticeable with asphalt roofs, which tend to degrade rapidly under intense sunlight. Opting for an energy-efficient roof means you’re investing in a longer-lasting solution. You won’t need to worry about frequent roof replacements or re-shingling, saving you a substantial amount of money on maintenance costs over time.

Increases property value

When the time comes to sell your home, having an energy-efficient roof can significantly enhance its value. Prospective buyers are increasingly concerned about energy efficiency and environmental impact. By having an energy-efficient roof, you can potentially add thousands of dollars to your home’s resale value.

Top Energy-Efficient Roofing Choices

When it comes to selecting energy-efficient roofing, the material matters. Here are the most effective roofing options to aid you in choosing the perfect roof for your house.

Metal Roofing

Metal Roofing

When it comes to energy-efficient materials, metal roofs stand out as a top choice. They’re a fantastic option for exceptional energy efficiency, longevity (often lasting more than 50 years), and minimal maintenance needs.

Metal roofs have remarkable reflectivity, which is why they feel hot to the touch – a lot of the sun’s energy bounces right off them. This is because of their high Solar Reflectance Index (SRI). They can also be coated with other materials to enhance their energy efficiency further.

When choosing metal roofing, look for materials with reflective coatings and high Energy Star ratings for maximum energy savings. The low thermal mass of metal roofs prevents heat storage, making them ideal for keeping cooling costs down during hot months.

Remember, the space between your roof deck and the metal roofing itself is also key for energy efficiency. This gap blocks heat transfer, keeping your attic cooler. So, consider this during installation for optimal results.

Tile Roofing

Tile Roofing

Tile roofs, crafted from materials like slate, clay, or concrete, present a solid choice for energy efficiency. These tiles can even be treated beforehand to maximize their heat reflectivity. And if they’re already in place, you can apply reflective coatings later on.

What’s more, the design of tile roofs promotes airflow underneath the tiles, aiding in the release of absorbed heat.

Tile roofing has higher thermal mass, meaning it absorbs and holds onto more heat from the sun. But there’s a solution: glazed concrete and clay tiles can reflect sunlight. You can also enhance existing tile roofs’ energy efficiency by applying light-colored polymer coatings.

The most common tile roofing material includes concrete and clay. Concrete tiles not only offer stunning aesthetics but also natural airflow patterns that whisk away heat from your home. They’re individually laid, which facilitates air movement. With proper maintenance, concrete tiles can endure up to a century. However, keep in mind their weight, susceptibility to mold and water damage, and potential for fading and deterioration.

Meanwhile, clay tiles are visually appealing and boast high thermal emittance, meaning they resist heat absorption and redirect it away from your house. Like concrete, clay tiles are heavy and may require extra installation support. They’re pricier than asphalt, metal, and concrete, particularly if substructures are required for support.

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles offer an affordable and increasingly energy-efficient roofing option. Opt for shingles with light-coated granules to maximize their energy efficiency, ensuring sunlight reflection. Look for Energy Star-certified asphalt shingles for an assured cooling effect. However, they do have some downsides, including a shorter lifespan (15 to 30 years), lower solar reflectance, and greater susceptibility to damage.

Traditionally, asphalt shingles were heat-absorbing and non-reflective. But things have evolved. Today, manufacturers are producing asphalt shingles with solar-reflecting granules that elevate the Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) and extend roof life by maintaining lower surface temperatures.

Remember, many asphalt shingles lack these energy-efficient attributes. Without solar-reflecting granules, an asphalt shingle roof can become up to 100 degrees hotter, transferring heat to your attic and subsequently into your home.

If you’re considering asphalt, ensure you request shingles coated with energy-efficient, cool-colored granules. However, applying a reflective coating to existing asphalt shingles afterward might void the warranty due to potential moisture retention issues.

Solar Shingles

Solar shingles, or solar roofs or tiles, bring a futuristic look to your roof. These permanent, tile-shaped solar panels not only enhance your home’s appearance but also significantly boost energy efficiency. They help reduce heat absorption, generate solar energy, and convert it into electricity for your household needs. However, these cutting-edge roofing solutions come with a higher price tag compared to other energy-efficient options.

Solar roofing shingles are worth considering if you’re open to unconventional roofing choices. While they’re pricier than most standard roofs, they offer a dual advantage: a new roof and an integrated solar energy system in one package. These shingles function like traditional solar panels, harnessing solar energy while maintaining the appearance of a regular roof.

Slate Roofing

Slate tile roofing is another choice that brings both elegance and energy efficiency. Though similar in color to asphalt shingles, slate tiles can receive special reflective coatings to enhance their energy efficiency. Slate is known for its exceptional durability and impact resistance. However, like other tile options, slate roofing is heavy and necessitates additional structural support to prevent structural issues.

Slate roofing may be a pricier investment, but you’re unlikely to need a replacement anytime soon due to its remarkable longevity. Notably, slate roofs are visually stunning and resilient against damage, fire, mold, and harsh weather conditions. They’re particularly advantageous for homes prone to hail and wind damage.

However, just like concrete and clay tiles, the weight of slate shingles is a consideration. Installing them might require modifications to your existing roof to accommodate their heft. While slate roofing demands careful planning due to its weight, it offers enduring beauty and potential energy savings through reflective coatings.

Synthetic Roofing

Synthetic polyurethane tiles offer a compelling choice for energy-efficient residential roofing. These tiles are lightweight, incredibly durable, and environmentally friendly. Their presence not only enhances energy efficiency but also contributes to maintaining comfortable indoor temperatures – keeping homes warm in colder months and cooler during hot summer months.

TPO Roofs

Thermoplastic polyolefin roofing (TPO) is a synthetic white, single-ply roofing system. It has gained popularity for low-pitched roofs and is more energy-efficient than modified bitumen roofing. This roofing type involves applying TPO membrane rolls onto the roof. Skilled professionals use various methods like adhesives, fasteners, or ballast to secure the material.

Cool Roof Coating

If you’ve recently installed a dark, traditional roof but still desire the benefits of energy-efficient roofing, you can opt for a cool roof coating. These coatings come in different materials, with white roof coatings being the most effective. They can deflect up to 80% of sunlight, significantly reducing heat absorption. Applied with a roller or brush, the coating forms a protective barrier on your roof’s surface.

Innovative solutions like synthetic roofing, TPO roofs, and cool roof coatings exemplify the quest for energy-efficient roofing and enhanced environmental sustainability.

Does Roof Design Affect Energy Efficiency?

Absolutely, your roof design plays a role in how energy-efficient your home is. The “coolness” of your roof depends on how much sunlight it reflects. Design choices, such as the color and slope of your roof, influence the strategies you can use to achieve an energy-efficient roof.

Roof Shapes

The shape of your roof matters too. Whether it’s flat or pitched affects the types of materials and insulation you can use for energy efficiency.

For flat roofs, often seen on commercial buildings, a membrane system or spray polyurethane foam is used, both of which are reflective and efficient. Reflective coatings or mineral surfaces can enhance the energy efficiency of membrane systems.

Pitched roofs, common on homes, can have various materials. They’re typically insulated with fiberglass or insulation blankets on the interior. Almost every roofing material comes in an energy-efficient version suited to your roof type.


You probably know that dark colors absorb heat while light ones reflect it. Your roof’s color matters too, and it’s a significant factor in maintaining energy efficiency. The right color can save on energy bills and extend your roof’s life.

Your region plays a role here. For instance, desert regions benefit from light-colored roofs that reflect sunlight and keep homes cooler. In colder areas, darker roofs absorb sunlight to keep homes warmer.

Consult with your roofing expert about color choices and strategies for achieving a cool and energy-efficient roof that suits your home’s location and style.

Ways to Boost Your Roof’s Energy Efficiency

If your roof isn’t old, you might not need to replace it just for energy efficiency. There are smart ways to upgrade your existing roof for better efficiency.

Install solar panels

If lowering energy usage and cutting bills are your goals, but you’re not ready for a roof replacement, solar panels are a fantastic choice. They’ve gained popularity for a reason – they generate clean energy and can save you thousands on bills over decades. Just remember, solar panels usually last more than 25 years. To avoid removing them when you replace your old roof, consider durable materials like aluminum or steel instead of asphalt. Metal, clay, and concrete roofs outlive most solar panels. If a new roof is on your horizon, think about adding solar panels at the same time.

Paint your roof with a reflective roof coating

Reflective roof coatings reflect sunlight and reduce energy costs. While most coatings don’t work on asphalt, many metal roofs have built-in cool coatings. Even dark-colored metal roofs can sport reflective mineral granules for energy efficiency. If you’re intrigued by innovative roofing materials that cut energy usage, explore our top recommended providers for free quotes from certified roofing pros.