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Rescue Your Energy Bill: Check Your Roof

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For those who have been watching the ongoing climate debate about global warming, the increasingly hot summer months are a poignant reminder of that phenomenon whenever the monthly power bill arrives in the mailbox.

As the mercury edges towards the top of the thermostat, the cost of cooling your home could be "going through the roof"- what many may not realize, however, is that this may be partly caused by an inefficient roofing system. When you contemplate ways to lower your energy consumption, in addition to lowering the thermostat a degree of two, you should also check the condition of your roof.

While we generally contemplate a roof replacement only when water is pouring through a noticeable hole, savvy homeowners are now seeing a quality roof as a way of stemming massive energy losses through the holes that they can't see.

Rising Summer Power Bills

With rising summer temperatures come the ever-rising summer power bills. According to the 2014 Farmer's Almanac, in a trend that is expected to continue, the summers are only going to continue to get hotter in the years to come as the planet continues to warm.

With average summer power bills of nearly $400 last year, the United States Energy Information Administration reports that a large portion of American's monthly income is being eaten up by efforts to stay cool. Luckily, numerous options exist for scaling those power expenditures back to a more manageable level.

The Hidden Costs of an Inefficient Roofing System

As mentioned, we tend to give our roofs a hard look only when there is water, or daylight, pouring through an obvious hole in our ceiling. More insidious, however, are the non-obvious weaknesses of a roofing system that can be a drain to your home's energy. Periodic roof inspections are a good idea in general, but focusing those efforts on finding energy-saving solutions is a smart way to kill two birds with one stone.

Ways to Make Your Roof & Attic Energy Efficient

Heat rises, and getting the hot air out of your attic is a precondition for having your house operate energy efficiently. Your roof should be installed with proper ventilation in mind; a roof replacement, however, is not always necessary. For those homes with a lot of mileage still on their roof, perhaps an insulation job is all that is required to reign in high summer utility bills.

Roofing expert Jason Bonner from Bonner Built Roofing in Atlanta, Georgia says the roof and attic are systems that work together, and the key is to utilize proper ventilation and insulation to keep your attic as cool as possible.
"The best way for the attic and roof to work together is to have your roof installed with a lighter color," Bonner explains. "The extremely light colors aren't always the prettiest, but there are many colors that work greatly." For the best ventilation, he recommends soffit vents and ridge vents.

"I like the continuous soffit vents and the ridge vent to be installed on all ridges. If you don't have the long ridges then you can use turbines spaced on back slope up at the peak. The more airflow you have, the cooler the attic will be," he says.

Bonner says that the last variable in the equation is twenty inches of insulation. There are other ways to insulate, but this is the most common and cost effective.

"This will prevent any hot air from coming into the home and will also trap the cool or warm air in the home. Insulation is imperative."
Proactively seeing to the health of your roofing system is what professional roofing companies do on a daily basis. As such, they will do a complete inspection of your roofing system prior to presenting you with a range of options, which can lead to a dramatically lower power bill.

Richard Ware's picture

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Malcolm Rawlingson's picture
Malcolm Rawlingson on September 19, 2014
I had not noticed the summer here in Ontario, Canada as anything other than perfectly normal. Therefore I see no association with the notion that the worlds temperature is increasing. In fact the worlds temperature has been very stable for about 17 years and counting. According to the predictions of the UN panel on climate change coastal areas should all be flooded by now and vast number of people being evacuated to higher ground. I must have missed that in the news as it does not appear to me that is the case.

However back to your important question regarding roofing. As an energy saving measure an efficient attic and roofing system is clearly a desirable feature of a house. However it only saves energy if you have air conditioning. I do not and on the very rare occasions when my house does get intolerably warm and regular fans don't provide sufficient cooling then I just go down to an air conditioned library.and read until the Sun goes down. It costs me a little in gas but I do not need an air conditioner and the associated running costs so way ahead in the financial game there I think.

Perhaps the situation is a bit different in Texas or Arizona but here in Canada we are just fine and the Summer has been very pleasant. Very pleasant indeed. My air conditioning costs were zero and you cannot get more efficient than that.


Jim Hoerner's picture
Jim Hoerner on September 23, 2014
If you are like me, you may have long runs of duct work in your attic. In my area, building code only called for R4 insulation on these ducts, but my well-ventilated attic might vary from 20F to 120F (-7C to 49C), depending upon the time of year. Adding some insulation to the duct work significantly reduced my heating and cooling kWhs for less than $60 spent on 200 sq. ft (19 sq. m) R6 reflective duct insulation and $5 on metal duct tape. It will probably pro-long the life of my heat pump too; it no longer blows hot air in the Summer, or cold air in the Winter, for the first 30 seconds after it turns on.

Autumn is a great time of year to do this work, and there is need to worry about any adverse consequences from insulating attic ducts either. But if you insulate elsewhere, and it traps cigarette smoke, I can think of a better way to benefit to one's health than removing the insulation.

Best regards, Jim

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