Guide to Green-Roof Options for Your Home

Reader Contribution by James White
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Green building isn’t a trend; it’s here to stay. Now, more than ever, homeowners are looking for ways to make their homes – and how they live inside them – greener. What started as simple recycling has grown into energy efficient appliances, new building techniques and materials that once would have seemed like props for science fiction movies.

When considering how to make your home greener, while also saving money and the environment, you may have missed out on one potential area of improvement: your roof.

Keep reading to learn more about why roofs are an excellent option for going green, questions to ask contractors and options for lessening the environmental impact of your home.

Why Start with the Roof?

Think about it. Roofs are the largest unused space of your home. While they serve an important function – protecting your home and its contents – they’re typically not areas that many people focus on for aesthetics or functionality. They’re largely just “there.” This makes them a blank canvas, a great starting point for improving your home’s green factor.

Green roofs, like those mentioned below, can help insulate your home, protecting against heat and cold in a way that standard shingles can’t. Additionally, over the lifetime of the roof, it can save the average homeowner about $200,000. Some options even give back to the environment and species living within it.

Questions to Ask Potential Contractors

Because going from a standard roof to a greener option is a large undertaking, you’ll likely work with a contractor to accomplish it. Here are a few questions to ask to get started:

• How experienced are you in installing green roofs?
• Do you have photos of completed projects, and may I contact those homeowners?
• How long will this project take from start to completion?
• How should I prepare for how it will impact my daily routine?
• Do I need to pull any permits?
• What – if any – industrial machinery will be used, and how long will it stay on my property?
• How firm is the estimate – or quote – for my project?

Being prepared is the best way to ensure you’re satisfied with your final product.

Green Roof Variations

A “green roof” can mean different things to different people. Sometimes green roofs are actually green; otherwise, they just have a lower environmental impact than traditional roofing options.

Green Roofing Materials

If you prefer the look and feel of standard shingles, or, are limited by local zoning or HOA community guidelines, you may be limited as far as making your roof green. This doesn’t mean you don’t have options. Ways to decrease your home’s environmental footprint include:

Recycled rubber roofing shingles. These are made of recycled materials, offer similar lifetimes as asphalt shingles and are more cost effective.
Thermal shingles. These reduce the sun’s heating impact on homes to save on cooling costs during the summer.
Steel shingles. Steel is one of the most recycled products in the world, and it holds up well under the elements, making it a reasonable alternative material.

Solar Paneled Roofing

Solar paneling has grown in popularity over the past few years. Chances are, you’ve seen a few solar roofs during your daily travels. Designs have changed to make solar paneling sleeker in appearance.

The benefits of solar paneled – or photovoltaic – roofing include:

Financial savings. Energy costs change on a daily basis. Because solar paneling derives energy from the sun, its cost doesn’t change.
Saving the Earth. The sun is a renewable resource – oil and other forms of heat are not. This means that by using the sun’s energy to heat your home and to run other processes, you’re saving non-renewable resources. Because solar roofing can utilize battery units, there’s a back up in place should the power go out.

Living Green Roofs

Some people prefer – and are able – to go all the way, creating green roofs that are actually green – filled with plants, foliage and gardens of all types.

While flat roofs are best for this type of endeavor, and the look is less than traditional, the environmental impact could be massive if the trend catches on. By turning roofs into actual gardens, living species can find new homes and food sources, essential elements – like oxygen – are released back into the atmosphere and homes can be just as insulated as they are with standard shingles.

The cost of installing green roofs along with maintenance may be more than standard roofing, but the benefits to the environment, along with the fun of having a green roof, may be worth it in the long run.

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