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My Eco-Friendly Roof: Greening Your Home from the Top Down

Katie Overmonds
February 22, 2024

Katie here with the latest chapter in our energy-efficient home renovation adventure. Today’s deep dive: the eco-friendly and energy-efficient roof!

First, a confession. I’ll admit, when we started our home renovation journey with an eye to energy efficiency, my mind went to the sexier upgrades like new ENERGY STAR appliances and landscaping that would not only save us energy but also look snazzy.

Which color of roof shingle would be best for heat reflection? Not something I was super excited about.

But I perked up a bit when I found out that the choices you make with your roof can save you potentially tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your home’s lifespan and in some cases, even put money back into your pocket. (Hello, solar!)

So let’s walk through some of the questions that Greg and I asked ourselves when we considered the different options for the roof and the things to keep in mind when you make your big decisions for yourself.

Note before we start: Keep in mind that what worked for our house may not be what works for your home, and that’s A-OK! Different strokes for different folks, and different domes for different homes. While our roofs may look different, what I hope you take from this is a breakdown of the questions to consider when thinking through what works best for you.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Roof:

You probably already know if you’re reading this blog that choosing the right roof for your home is a significant decision, and asking yourself the right questions is key. Here's a handy list to guide you through the decision-making process:

1. What is my budget?

Determine how much you're willing to invest in your roof, considering both initial costs and long-term savings.

2. What is the climate in my area?

Consider the local climate, including temperature extremes, rainfall, and potential weather hazards, to choose a roof that performs well in your specific conditions. The roof that we chose for our home in snowy Toronto may look very different from what someone may choose in sunny California.

3. How long do I plan to stay in this home?

If you're in it for the long haul, investing in a durable and long-lasting roof might be most cost-effective in the long run.

4. Do I want a traditional look or something unique?

Consider your aesthetic preferences. Are you looking for a classic appearance, or are you open to more innovative and unique roofing options?

5. What is the environmental impact of my roof choice?

Assess the environmental footprint of different roofing materials and methods. Consider factors such as recyclability, energy efficiency, and sustainability.

6. How important is energy efficiency to me?

Determine if you want a roof that can contribute to energy savings through features like reflective surfaces or the integration of solar panels.

7. Am I interested in harvesting rainwater?

Consider whether you want a roof that can be integrated with rainwater harvesting systems to make your home more water-efficient.

8. What is the local availability of roofing materials?

Explore locally sourced options to minimize the environmental impact of transportation and support local businesses.

9. How much maintenance am I willing to undertake?

Be realistic about your willingness and ability to maintain the roof. Some materials require more upkeep than others.

10. Do I have any specific eco-friendly goals for my home?

If you have specific environmental goals, such as reducing your carbon footprint or creating a more sustainable living space, factor these into your decision-making process.

11. Does my homeowners association or local government have restrictions or guidelines?

Check if there are any regulations or guidelines regarding roofing materials in your area, and ensure your choice complies with these requirements.

12. What is the expected lifespan of the roofing material?

Consider the longevity of different materials to understand the long-term investment and potential replacement costs.

13. Have I consulted with roofing professionals?

Seek advice from roofing experts who can provide insights based on your specific situation and guide you toward the most suitable options.

Designing Your Eco-Friendly Roof:

Choosing the right roof might not be as straightforward as picking your favorite color (though that plays a role as well), but fear not! There’s a whole lot of guidance and support out there to help you make the right decision for your unique plot of land. Here’s a peek at the considerations Greg and I kept in mind when deciding on a roof that not only protects our home but also the planet, in our own little way.

1. Materials Matter

First things first, let's talk materials. Traditional asphalt shingles might be the norm, but they're not exactly Mother Nature’s best friend when the old ones get chucked into the landfill. Consider alternatives like metal, wood, or even recycled materials. Metal roofs, for instance, are durable, energy-efficient, and often made from recycled materials. Wood shakes and shingles, when sourced sustainably, provide a natural and renewable option.

If you’re going for the ultimate eco-friendly roof, you might want to set your sights on a living roof or green roof. These beauties are covered with vegetation, providing insulation, absorbing rainwater, and even reducing the urban heat island effect. Plus, they look like a beautiful garden on top of your home – what's not to love?

2. Energy Efficiency for the Win

If you're keen on cutting down those energy bills and reducing your carbon footprint, opt for a roof that boosts energy efficiency. Light-colored or reflective roofs can help deflect the sun's rays, keeping your home cooler in the summer and saving on air conditioning costs. If you're feeling fancy, look into solar panels – a fantastic way to harness the power of the sun and turn your roof into a mini power plant.

3. Longevity and Durability

A roof that stands the test of time is a gift to both your wallet and the environment. Choose materials known for their durability, requiring fewer replacements and, consequently, less waste. Metal roofs, for instance, can last 50 years or more, while traditional asphalt shingles might need replacing every 20-30 years. Investing in a long-lasting roof not only reduces maintenance hassles but also minimizes the environmental impact.

4. Water-Wise Wisdom

Water is precious, and an eco-friendly roof should be water-wise. Consider systems that harvest rainwater, preventing it from running off and contributing to stormwater pollution. This not only helps the environment but also provides you with a free source of water for your garden. Double win!

5. Local Love

Support local businesses and reduce the carbon footprint of your roof by opting for locally sourced materials. Choosing materials produced nearby cuts down on transportation emissions and helps you build a roof that's both green and community-friendly.

6. Get the Pros Involved

Finally, don't go it alone. Consult with roofing professionals who share your commitment to sustainability. They can guide you through the options, provide insights based on your location and climate, and ensure your eco-friendly roof is installed with the utmost care.

7. Consider the Cost

While you may have the most earth-friendly intentions, there’s a good chance that your budget simply may not allow you to build the green rooftop of your dreams and that’s A-OK. My M.O. when it comes to living sustainably is to simply do your best with the means that you have. Which goes for pretty much every area of life! Can only afford to buy local, organic ingredients once per week? Better than nothing. If your roof has some of the above elements but not all? Totally cool.

What we decided on:

Light colored asphalt shingles: Not quite the organic, locally grown cedar shake shingles of my dreams but honestly, this came down to cost for us. With our budget already stretched from other elements of the renovation, we opted for more affordable, standard shingles but chose the lightest possible color to reflect heat and keep the house cool in the summer months.

Rainwater harvesting: We invested in a rain barrel that will catch water as it runs off the roof and down through the eaves. We plan to use this to water our plants when there are long periods of no rain. The kids are already excited to watch the barrel fill up!

Solar panels: We have a section of our roof that is flat and south facing, which is a good combination for harnessing the energy of the sun where we live. The cost will be offset by the energy savings after some years and we love the idea of being able to track the energy that our home is generating.

And that’s that! As you take the next step on the journey of greening your home from the top down, keep in mind the above considerations and you’ll be well on your way to an eco-friendly and energy efficient roof. Happy roofing!

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My Eco-Friendly Roof: Greening Your Home from the Top Down

Everything you need to consider to make the right choices for an eco-friendly roof.