A Greener Roof—Literally

Is your roof in need of replacement? If so, you might consider one of the following high-tech roofing options, which reduce your home’s energy demand while avoiding the use of fossil fuel-derived asphalt shingles.

Green Roofs
A “green” (or “living”) roof is, in most cases, exactly what the name implies: plants growing on a building’s roof. Depending on the slope, strength, and size of your roof, you can have a roof covered with grass, flowers, or even shrubs.

Besides looking pretty, green roofing offers numerous advantages:

  • Lower energy costs. Soil and plants add an extra layer of insulation to your home, keeping it cooler in summer and warmer in winter. This is particularly helpful in cities, where pavement and buildings reflect heat and raise air temperatures about 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Environmental benefits. Rooftop vegetation provides food and shelter for insects, birds, and other wildlife, and plants’ natural mechanisms for filtering impurities help improve air and water quality. Green roofs can also play a small role in flood prevention by reducing storm runoff.
  • A longer-lasting roof. By providing a buffer against temperature extremes, wind, and heavy rain, soil and plants can help protect the underlying roof and extend its useful lifetime.

Solar Shingles
Why not put the sunlight your roof soaks up during the day to good use? Photovoltaic (PV) shingles provide the same look, protection, and durability as asphalt shingles but have the added benefit of converting sunlight into electricity that can power your home (or specific appliances), reducing the need for electricity generated from fossil fuels and lowering your electricity costs.

PV shingles work best on south-facing roofs that are not shaded by trees for a significant portion of the day. To determine the best solar energy option for your home or find a professional installer, visit FindSolar (see the related links), a joint project of the U.S. Department of Energy and several professional organizations.

Cost
These environmentally friendly roofing options do cost a lot more up front: approximately $10 to $25 per square foot (including installation) for green roofs and $20 per square foot (materials only) for PV shingles, compared with $1 to $2 per square foot for asphalt shingles. Unlike asphalt shingles, however, green roofs and PV shingles can save energy (and money) over their lifetime. Local, state, or utility incentives (see the related links) might be available to lower the up-front costs.

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