Eco Home Improvements 1: Roofs

Here is a break down of some reasonably priced changes you can make to your home, that will dramatically help the environment AND save you green, too. Don't believe me? Read on.

Green Roof 
Though "green roof" can be a term for any eco-friendly or sustainable roofing alternative, it also specifically refers to roofs converted into gardens or plant space. A green roof can be not only an aesthetic improvement, but can actually completely improve a house's functionality, economy, and improve the community. 
  • Green roofs are excellent noise reducers, so they can save money on insulation or other noise-reduction methods. 
  • Green roofs can accommodate edible plants in some cases (if the roof is accessible) which can also save money on food costs.
  • It is well known that green roofs improve air quality by capturing airborne pollutants.They naturally filter any water that runs off into the ground.
  • Because green roofs insulate a home, they can drastically reduce the costs of both heating and cooling.
If you have an accessible roof, consider landscaping it for an entertainment area.
They have a lower burning heat, which means they are less flammable than standard roofing materials.
If you can't - or don't want to - make your home's roof green then consider converting a shed, detached garage, dog house, or chicken coop to a green roof. 

Like any major home change research before you attempt anything! Keep in mind your geographical location. In southern areas a green roof can be sustained all year, but in northern regions it may not be practical. Also consider any home owners association or zoning laws in your area before beginning a project.

 Cool Roof
Cool roofs are an awesome alternative to traditional roofing systems, or even green roofs. The basic idea and logic behind a "cool roof" is that by altering your roof so that it is white or reflective (there are multiple methods including using hydrated lime with water, buying a special paint, or using aluminum shingles) it will greatly reduce the amount of heat that your house retains. It turns out that not only is this logic sound (white shirts are cooler than black shirts), but the results of converting to a white roof can be staggering. 
White roofs can extend the life of your existing roof (by adding a special paint layer) by almost triple. Some companies that offer cool roof coatings say you can achieve 50 years of life from your roof with this improvement. 
White roofs retain less heat, and the average temperature of an attic reduced by 30 degrees less against the common asphalt shingle roof. The house temperature varies by up to 10 degrees consistently. This can add up to hundreds of dollars in savings. Imagine the difference between 89 and 79 degrees in your home!
Not only do white roofs help you save money, but they also reflect back almost all energy back out into space, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. What does that mean? That means that green house gasses are greatly reduced because they are no longer trapped in our atmosphere.
White roofs also cool rain water. This may not seem like a problem, but in urban areas it is well known that black roofs can raise the temperature of rainwater by 30 degrees. When this runoff culminates into a stream or river, these tributaries can be warmed by up to 8 degrees, which is dangerous to wildlife.  

The best part about green roofs, and cool roofs is the cost. I suggest these over solar panels because of how little they actually cost. White roofs can be very cost effective if you DIY and shop around for a competitive price on the compound. 
One man made his own "cool roof" compound, and I am sure there are also more alternatives. Here is his blog on the improvement: White Roof Experiment
Also visit this non-profit website for more information on white roofs: WhiteRoofProject.org



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