Energy-Efficient Roofing: A Homeowners Guide [2022]

Energy-Efficient Roofing: A Homeowners Guide [2022]

Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide to energy-efficient roofing:

  • What makes a roof energy-efficient?
  • How much money can you save from an energy-efficient roof? 
  • What are the best roof materials for an energy-efficient roof? 
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Investing in solar panels. Collecting rainwater. Installing energy-efficient appliances. These are all things you may think about when you imagine a “green” home. But did you know that a roof’s energy efficiency can be one of the largest contributors to managing your home’s energy use? 

Making an informed decision on routine home renovation projects like a new roof can save you thousands in energy costs while reducing your environmental impact. 

If you’re already considering a new roof installation or performing some maintenance on your existing roofing system, keep reading to learn how you can make the most of your project with energy-efficient materials. 

Our Favorite Roofing Contractors 

We’ve done our research, spoken with roofing experts and weighed every pro and con we can think of. Here are the roofing companies that we’ve decided are our favorites: 

Badge icon

Power Home

Best Overall

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Positive industry reputation
  • Lifetime or lengthy warranty
  • 10+ years of experience
  • Positive customer reviews
  • Uses eco-friendly materials
  • Well-trained, certified installers
  • Variety of roofing styles available

Cons

  • Limited variety of roofing materials
  • Short or nonexistent warranty
  • No financing information available
  • Expensive
  • Little information available on company website
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Erie Metal Roofs

Best for New Roofs

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Lifetime or lengthy warranty
  • Widespread availability
  • 10+ years of experience
  • Positive customer reviews
  • Uses eco-friendly materials
  • Financing options available
  • Well-trained, certified installers
  • Uses durable materials meant to last
  • Variety of roofing styles available

Cons

  • Limited variety of roofing materials
  • Expensive
Badge icon

Aspen Contracting

Most Eco-Friendly

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Positive industry reputation
  • Lifetime or lengthy warranty
  • Widespread availability
  • 10+ years of experience
  • Positive customer reviews
  • Financing options available

Cons

  • Little information available on company website

What Makes a Roof Energy-Efficient?

Now that you know all the benefits of an energy-efficient roof, you’re probably wondering: what properties actually make a roof energy efficient? 

There are actually quite a few. The material, color, coating and thermal mass of your roofing material contribute significantly. The design of your roof and attic, specifically the insulation and ventilation systems, can make just as much of an impact. Here’s what you need to know: 

Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) 

The design and material of your roof will determine the solar reflectance index (SRI) of your home. SRI is expressed in the percentage of sunlight reflected (rather than absorbed) by your roof. The higher the SRI of your roof, the more energy-efficient your home will be. 

In fact, solar reflectance is the most important factor in determining how hot your roof gets. The EPA reported that a cool roof can stay cooler than traditional roofs by 50 degrees Fahrenheit or more. That’s a huge difference!7

Proper Attic Ventilation and Roofing Insulation 

You may notice that older homes feel much more drafty than newer ones. That’s because better building techniques and energy-efficient windows and doors have made homes more sealed off from the outside world. That’s a great thing for your home’s energy efficiency, but it can cause condensation to build up in your attic, leading to water damage. If moisture cannot escape from the home naturally, it will travel into your attic area as hot air rises. 

That’s why proper ventilation and insulation in your attic is so important. Sufficient airflow from your roof and tightly installed insulation can keep your home energy-efficient without incurring water damage. 

Energy-Efficient Roofs Are Good For the Environment and Your Wallet 

Of course, your roof is an integral part of your home that protects you and your family from the elements. But homeowners are starting to ask: what more can my roof do for me? And you’d be surprised by the answer. 

Energy-efficient roofs aren’t necessarily more expensive or difficult to install than a traditional roof. That means that your upfront costs won’t usually be any higher than a traditional roof, but you’ll be saving money in the long run from lower energy bills.1

It’s no wonder that energy-efficient roofs are quickly becoming the standard for homes around the U.S. Keep reading to learn how you can get one for yourself. 

How Do Energy-Efficient Roofs Help Decrease Energy Bills?

It may not be common knowledge that the type of roof you choose can drastically affect how much you’re paying your utility every month. But how, and by how much, does an energy-efficient roof help you save?  

Metal roofs, one of the more efficient types of roofs, have a lower thermal mass than asphalt shingles or clay tile. This means that they do not store heat from the sun for as long, meaning less unwanted heat will make its way into your home.2

We spoke with seasoned roofing expert Todd Miller, who helped us understand just how big of a difference an energy-efficient roof can make on your electric bill. He said that “homeowners frequently report energy savings of 25% to 35% with metal roofs.”3

Solar Quick Tip Roofing

If you pay $125 per month in utility bills, 25% to 35% of energy costs can add up to savings of over $500 per year. That’s no small impact. 

How Do Energy-Efficient Roofs Help the Environment?

An energy-efficient roof, also called a “cool roof,” will benefit not only the building’s inhabitants but the surrounding community as well.4

We know that an energy-efficient roof can help decrease your demand for air conditioning by reflecting sunlight away from your home. This leads to lower energy consumption and CO2 emissions, which is good for the environment. 

But there’s more to the story — and more benefits for the earth! For starters, consistently lower roof temperatures may actually lengthen the lifespan of your roof, decreasing landfill waste resulting from removing and replacing your old roof. 

Additionally, a cool roof actually prevents the air outside your home from heating up, minimizing the urban heat island effect and preventing the development of smog from outdoor air pollution.5

A cool roof even reflects more light off the surface of the earth, counteracting the greenhouse effect that contributes to global warming. Who knew?6

You can watch the video below to learn more about roof energy efficiency:

3 Easy Options to Transforming Your Roof to be Energy Efficient 

If your current roof isn’t that old, it probably won’t make sense to replace it solely in the name of energy efficiency. Thankfully, there are ways that you can make your existing roof more energy efficient. 

1. Installing Solar Panels Can Cool Your Roof to Improve Energy Efficiency

If you want to decrease your energy consumption (and save on your energy bills), but don’t want to commit to a roof replacement, installing solar panels is a great alternative. 

Solar panels have become increasingly popular over the past several years, and it’s no surprise. Not only will you be generating clean energy from your home, you could be saving tens of thousands of dollars in energy bills over the lifespan of the solar system.11 

That being said, solar panels typically last more than 25 years. You don’t want to install solar panels on your old roof just to turn around and remove them again when you inevitably need a new roof later down the road. 

That’s why we recommend long-lasting roofing products like aluminum or steel over asphalt. Metal, clay and concrete roofs all have a longer lifespan than most solar panels.

If you’re already planning on getting a new roof, it may be the perfect time to install solar panels as well. We can help you decide what type of solar panel is best for your home and roof. 

2. Painting Your Roof Can Reduce Energy Costs

If you want to make your existing roof more energy efficient, you can paint your roof with a reflective roof coating. These special coatings are formulated with pigments that reflect sunlight. Unfortunately, most energy-efficient roof coatings can’t be applied to asphalt. 

Many metal roofs actually already come with a cool roof coating applied to them. Even dark-colored metal roofs can now come coated in reflective mineral granules that can make your roof energy-efficient despite not being a light color.12

If you’re interested in innovative roofing materials that can dramatically reduce your home’s energy consumption, you’ve come to the right place. Select one of our top-recommended providers below to get started with a free, no-obligation quote from a certified roofing professional. 

3. Replacing Your Roof Material Will Make Your Roof More Sustainable

Replacing your roof material type is a great option for making your roof more sustainable. There are multiple roof material types that are more conducive to being energy efficient overall. Below you will see which ones are the best and why we think so.

What Roof Materials Are the Most Energy Efficient?

Here are the top four energy-efficient roofing materials, ranked: 

  1. Solar roofing shingles 
  2. Metal roofing 
  3. Tile roofing 
  4. Asphalt roofing 

1. Solar Roofing Shingles 

If you’re considering a non-traditional roofing option, we recommended solar roofing shingles. Although solar shingles are more expensive than most new roofs, you get the benefits of a new roof and a solar energy system wrapped into one. 

Solar roofing shingles aren’t just energy-efficient — they generate energy themselves. They operate just like a typical solar panel array, but offer the sleek appearance of a regular roof. 

2. Metal Roofing 

Metal roofing is very energy-efficient. Look for a metal roofing material that has a reflective coating and a high Energy Star rating to maximize your energy savings. 

Metal roofing has very low thermal mass, meaning it does not store heat the same way other roofing materials do. That’s great in the summer when you want to save on cooling bills. 

The air space between your roof deck and the actual metal roofing is also important for energy efficiency, so keep this in mind during your installation. This space between the decking and roofing blocks conduction, so it prevents heat from transferring to your attic. 

3. Tile Roofing 

One pitfall of the energy efficiency of tile roofing is that it has more thermal mass than other roofing types. That means that tile can absorb a lot of heat from the sunlight and hold onto this heat for a long time. 

But don’t discount tile roofing as an option just yet. Concrete and clay roofing tiles can come with a glaze that will help your roof reflect sunlight. You can also apply a light-colored polymer coating onto an existing tile roof to enhance energy efficiency.8 

4. Asphalt Roofing

Traditional asphalt shingle roofs are not very energy efficient. However, advances in “cool” technology have welcomed many energy-efficient asphalt roofing products to the market, so they still make the list. If you and your roofing contractor have decided that an asphalt roof is best for you, don’t just assume that your shingles are of the energy-efficient variety. Explicitly ask for asphalt shingles that are coated with energy-efficient, cool-colored granules. 

Unfortunately, you can’t coat your existing asphalt shingles with a reflective coating after the fact. This will probably void your roof’s warranty because it can cause moisture retention problems down the line. 

If you’d like to get connected with a roofing professional, select one of our top-recommended providers below to get a free, personalized quote for your roofing project. 

Does Roof Design impact Energy Efficiency?

Whether or not your roof is a cool roof depends on how much sunlight reflects off your roof. Design choices like the color and slope of your roof will affect the techniques you should use to achieve a cool roof. 

Roof Color Choice: Lighter Color Vs Darker Colors 

White is the most energy-efficient roofing option because it reflects between 60% and 90% of the sunlight that hits it.9 Other light-colored roofs work well too.

However, if you prefer the look of a darker-colored roof, you still have energy-efficient options. There are now special pigments that roofs can be coated with that will reflect the invisible radiation of the sun, allowing your dark roof to still be more energy-efficient than traditional roofing materials. 

Talk with your roofing contractor about what color choice is best for your roof and how to achieve a cool roof. 

Roof Shape: Flat Roof Vs. Pitched Roof 

Whether your roof is flat or pitched will determine what roofing materials and insulation products you can use to achieve an energy-efficient roof. 

Flat roofs, which are common on commercial buildings, typically have a membrane system that a roofer will install over insulation. They may also have a spray polyurethane foam roof, which is naturally reflective (and thus more energy-efficient). 

The membrane system on a flat roof can be made energy-efficient if you choose a variety with a reflective coating or mineral surface. 

On the other hand, pitched roofs, which are common on single-family homes, can have any variety of roofing materials installed. They are typically insulated with fiberglass or insulation blankets installed along the interior of the roof.10You must consider what products are appropriate for your roof when looking for cool roofing options. Almost every roofing material, whether it be for a flat or sloped roof, comes in a “cool” or energy-efficient variety. 

Finding an Energy-Efficient Roofing Contractor Near You 

Roof contractors are increasingly aware that homeowners are exploring more roofing options and prioritizing energy efficiency when choosing what roofing material they’d like.

If you’re one of these homeowners, we can help connect you with high-rated professionals near you that can guide you through the process of installing an energy-efficient roof.

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FAQ: Roof Energy Efficiency

What is the most energy-efficient roof type? 

Metal roofs are the most energy-efficient roof type. Look for metal roofing that is energy star certified and has a reflective coating for maximized efficiency. 

Are asphalt shingles energy efficient? 

Traditional asphalt shingles are not energy efficient. However, there are energy-efficient asphalt shingles on the market. Look for shingles that are coated with energy-efficient, cool-colored granules. 

Are energy-efficient roofs expensive? 

Cool roofing products (roofing materials that are energy efficient) are not usually more expensive than traditional roofing products. In fact, having an energy-efficient roof can save you money through lower energy costs.

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Faith Wakefield, Home Improvement Expert
Article author
Faith is a writer based in North Carolina. She holds English and economics degrees from UNC Chapel Hill, and her background includes event management and technical publishing. Faith is passionate about the arts and loves exploring environmental issues through economic and artistic lenses. She also enjoys spending time in nature, collecting books and practicing her Spanish.
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Karsten Neumeister, Home Energy Expert
Expert reviewer
Karsten is a researcher, editor, writer and energy specialist focused on environmental, social and cultural development. His work has been shared by sources including NPR, the World Economic Forum, Marketwatch and the SEIA, and he is certified in ESG with the CFA Institute. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the solar energy sector, studying energy policy, climate tech and environmental education. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.