A sunscreen for your roof?

Do you think your house might be more comfortable and energy-efficient if there was a sunscreen above our roof during the sunny, broiling-hot summer days and a blanket on your roof during cold winter nights?  An article in the Atlantic reported on the intriguing results of a new study in the journal Solar Energy that showed rooftop mounted solar panels could have that type of added benefit.

The study found that a building’s ceiling was 5 degrees cooler under a roof covered in solar panels, which reduced the amount of heat reaching the roof by 38%.  It’s similar to the effect of parking your car under a large tree or covered parking space – the car will stay cooler.  The researchers estimate the energy saved from the cooler roof could add up to as much as 5% of the cost of the solar panels over the life of the solar panels.  The researchers also concluded the solar panels could reduce heat loss during winter months. 

The researchers used thermal infrared imagery to measure the roof temperature.  The study was done on a commercial type building with little insulation.

Now before we get too excited about this news, it’s important to remember it is a small study done a single commercial building.   The researchers noted the study results were specific to that building.  A heavily insulated house may not enjoy the same amount of benefits from shading and insulation.

But the study makes me wonder if solar panels might also help extend the life of a roof.  Sunlight beating down on a roof day after day is one of the primary causes of roof deterioration.  I’d think it is reasonable to think that blocking the sunlight from hitting the roof could extend the life of a roof.  Perhaps that’s something else they should study.

At any rate, there may be benefits to solar panels besides clean energy, lower electric bills, greater energy independence and tax incentives.

About the Author

Mark H. Witte is a strong proponent for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and believes individuals should have more control over how the energy for their homes is produced.