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The Eco-Friendly Qualities of Metal Roofs

Mar 22, 2019

Many people choose metal roofing because of the long-lasting durability, the many attractive styles available, or the affordability. However, did you know that metal roofs are also considered eco-friendly as well? Why are metal roofs eco-friendly?

Think back to grade school, and the classic phrase teachers used to teach the “Three R’s” of ecologically friendly practices – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. All of those actions can apply to metal roofing systems, making the benefits of metal roofs to the environment undeniable. Read on for a list of the features that make metal roofing so eco-friendly.

Reduce – the Energy Savings of Metal Roofing

The first aspect of the Three R’s that applies to metal roofing systems is “Reduce,” which applies to the reduction in energy usage and expenses that comes with installing a metal roof. Metal roofing is more energy efficient than many people think.

In addition to the Three R’s, most of us learned in school that metal is an excellent conductor and facilitates the transfer of heat. Many people assume that for this reason, metal roofs will transfer the ambient temperature inside your home. Contrary to popular belief, however, though metal is a good thermal conductor, metal roofs do not promote heat transfer.

In fact, metal roofs actually reduce cooling bills in the summer. Why? Metal roofing systems reflect solar heat away from your home, reducing the temperature of the ambient air inside your home by up to 34%. If the air temperature in your home is kept lower, your air conditioning system has much less work to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, cutting energy usage by as much as 40% in the summer. This means more money in your pocket, and less stress on the environment.

The amount of solar reflection depends on the color of your roof. Lighter colors can reflect up to 83% of solar rays back toward the sun, and can reduce the reflected temperature on your roof itself to only 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the surrounding air. Darker colors are less efficient, but still reflect far more radiant heat than traditional asphalt shingles, which tend to absorb heat. Applying a special coating can increase the reflective capabilities of your roof, as well.

How about winter heat loss? During a January 2007 study sponsored by the Department of Energy, researchers measured the surface temperature of both asphalt and metal roofs, as well as the temperatures in the attics below them. They found that the surface of a metal roof was within about five degrees of that of an asphalt shingle roof; even better, the airspace below the metal roof remained as much as 20 degrees warmer. Making the right insulation choices during install can ensure your home saves energy in the winter as well as in the summer and reduce your energy consumption by as much as 20%.

Reuse – the Longevity of Metal Roofs

The second aspect of the Three R’s that applies to metal roofing is “Reuse,” and it speaks to the longevity of metal roofing systems. How? Although projects exist where people have reused pieces of old metal roofing for smaller sheds, garages, pet homes, and even roofs and walls for playhouses and treehouses, there just aren’t as many old roofs being torn off and disposed of as you might think. The primary reason for this is recycling, which we’ll address next, but the other reason is that it just isn’t necessary to replace metal roofs all that often.

Depending on the materials used, the metal roof you’ve decided to install may very well be the last roofing project you’ll ever need to undertake. Higher end metal roofs such as standing seam, and some metal shingles or tiles are considered lifetime roofing systems. This means that you may not have to replace your roof for the life of your building. Considering the fact that copper and zinc roofs are expected to last 100 years or more, this could very well be the case for your project.

Even lower-cost metal roofing materials like aluminum or steel shingles are expected to last 50 years, if not longer, under the right conditions. Most manufacturers provide a 30-50 year warranty. Compare that to an asphalt shingle roof that needs to be replaced every 20 years or so, and the longevity of metal roofs is apparent.

In addition to the fact that longer lasting materials mean fewer elements must be removed from the environment, consider the lower environmental impact of less installation as well — less frequent installation results in a reduced need to ship materials around the country. However, since metal is lighter than traditional asphalt shingles, you already experience savings in shipment.

Recycle – the Recyclability of Metal Roofing

The last of the Three R’s as they apply to metal roofing is “Recycle,” arguably metal roofing’s claim to fame when it comes to environmental friendliness. What makes metal roofing so recyclable?

Traditional asphalt shingles need replacing every 20 years or so, as previously mentioned, while metal roofs last much longer – as long as 50-plus years. Even if both had to be disposed of after removal, metal roofing would still produce less waste due to less frequent removal. However, the makeup of asphalt shingles and metal roofing provides further differences when it comes to recycling.

When asphalt shingles are removed, they often disintegrate, making them difficult to recycle. Though recycling programs exist, you’re faced with trucking a large amount of shingle particles in for recycling. Or, you have to trust the shingling company to do so for you. Unfortunately, asphalt shingles often end up in the landfill.

Not so with metal roofing. Most roofs made from aluminum are composed of recycled material already, drastically cutting down on their negative environmental impact. In fact, some metal roofing systems feature products made from up to 95% recycled materials. This means that in addition to aluminum roofs that have been removed, recycled aluminum from cans and other sources has been directed away from the landfills and into a roof that can be recycled again 50 years down the road when it needs to be replaced.

Metal roofs provide many environmentally friendly benefits and are considered the most eco-friendly roofing choice available. Metal roofing systems apply every word of the Three R’s of conservation, and as improvements to recycling procedures and insulation systems continue, expect more eco-friendly benefits to come.

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