The majority of American homes have asphalt shingles today, with more than 75 percent of homes using them. Asphalt shingles are extremely affordable, easy to install, and they tend to have a reasonably long lifespan. Unfortunately, they are also made from petroleum byproducts and create pollution during the application process, thanks to the volatile organic compounds released by the roofing adhesives. Rarely recyclable, asphalt increase the amount of waste in landfills when their life cycle is over, and due to their design they require a high degree of insulation.
Asphalt shingles may initially be easy on your pocketbook, but they will always cost more in the long run, both in terms of your wallet and the environment. When it comes to being eco-friendly, asphalt shingles tend to fall far short of the mark. However, many other new roofing materials today are being developed with Energy Star ratings or with recycled materials, giving home owners a number of attractive, affordable alternatives for roofing their homes.
One of the most cost-effective eco-friendly roofing materials available today is metal. Copper and painted aluminum or stainless steel shingles or roofs are often quite cosmetically appealing and may contain a high percentage of pre- or post-consumer recycled content. These metal roofs effectively insulate homes and reflect a large percentage of the sun’s heat. The only significant drawback to a metal roof is the amount of energy required to manufacture and transport metal shingles or a metal roof. Nonetheless, this drawback can be offset by the fact that the average home will only need one metal roof during the course of its life.
Although the initial investment for a metal roof may be greater than that of asphalt and other roofing materials, the lack of expense for reproofing or replacement can more than make up for the upfront costs. Another reduction to overall costs is the speed and ease of installation: Metal roofs are usually produced in multi-shingle form or individual sheets, making the installation process efficient and reducing the per-square-foot cost. Metal roofs are usually lightweight enough that they can be installed directly over multiple layers of other roofing materials, leading to less preparatory work.
Further helping with the cost is the fact that a metal roof can reduce homeowner’s insurance, in some cases by as much as 35 percent, since they have a Class A fire rating. They also tend to disperse the energy released in a lightning strike, and they are virtually impervious to damage from hail or wind storms and other extreme weather conditions. A solidly constructed metal roof can dramatically increase the resale value of your home.
Concrete Roof Tiles
Clay and slate tiles are also popular choices when it comes to eco-friendly roofing materials, but slate is not a renewable resource, and both clay and slate tend to be quite expensive. Concrete roof tiles are a more recent innovation that has been found to be quite environmentally friendly, durable, and far more affordable than other tile alternatives.
Concrete roof tiles are made from sand, cement, and water, and can be painted in “cool roof” colors to further enhance their ability to reflect solar heat. Concrete roof tiles can withstand the harshest of weather conditions, with a Class III or Class IV hail rating and a Class A fire rating, and they are capable of outlasting the building they cover, from 50 to 100 years or more. Thanks to their fire rating, they can reduce the cost of homeowner’s insurance dramatically.
Concrete roof tiles enhance the air circulation of a home, keeping it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Aesthetically appealing, they are available in a variety of colors and styles to complement any home design, including tiles that emulate wood shake, slate, or clay. The initial costs of concrete may be higher than the costs of a conventional asphalt roof, but one concrete roof will last through nearly four asphalt roofs, making it a wiser investment, both environmentally and financially.
Recycled Roofing Materials
A final option in eco-friendly affordable roofs is recycled roofing materials. Many different materials are being recycled into roofing materials today, from steel-belted radials and reclaimed wood to plastic. Not every material is available or suitable for every region of the country, but these options can be quite affordable and fairly green alternatives to traditional asphalt roofing.
Recycled tire roofing is extremely weather- and fire-resistant and lightweight, providing heavy-duty insulation that can help cut down on energy costs. Reclaimed wood will provide you with the beauty of real wood shingles without the accompanying heavy toll on the environment. Milk jugs, water bottles, and plastic grocery bags can be given new life in the form of a roof. Recycled plastic roofs are virtually impervious to damage from insects, moisture, chemicals, and even bacteria, and they help keep plastics out of landfills, where it will not degrade.
If you are ready to roof your home with an affordable, eco-friendly roofing material like metal, concrete, or recycled materials, there are a few more things you should consider to maximize your investment.
The roofing material is simply the top layer of protection on your home. The insulation beneath it is extremely influential when it comes to keeping your home warm or cool during the winter or summer. A well-insulated home will go a long way towards maximizing the benefits of your new roof.
You should also consider the color of your roof. Dark colored roofs absorb heat, while light colored roofs reflect it. In heavily populated urban areas, dark roofs can contribute to extreme outdoor temperatures, higher energy demand and costs, and excessive amounts of air pollution. Light colored roofs, on the other hand, can help reflect the sun’s energy, keeping excessive amounts of heat out of the home, and reduce outdoor temperatures.
Finally, consider the overall impact of the materials you are considering, not just the cost and the advertised environmental impact of the items. The raw material source, whether or not the source is readily renewable, the energy to produce and transport the materials, the durability of the materials, and the cost and ease of installation can all play a crucial role in how eco-friendly and affordable a particular roofing material and how appropriate it may be for your home.