Q: I need a new roof, and I’ve heard that light-colored roofs are more energy-efficient because they reflect sunlight. But I live in the northeast — shouldn’t I be more concerned about heating than cooling?
A: It’s true that in northern homes, insulating your roof against the cold can be a bigger priority than making sure it reflects heat during the summer. You might consider installing a green or vegetated roof composed of native plants, says architect Lance Hosey, a director at the green design firm William McDonough and Partners. Green roofs limit heat gain in the summer and prevent heat loss in winter, and they’re becoming a more practical option for homeowners now that several companies offer kits for making them. They’re best for houses with long, low roofs and relatively short walls, though, so they wouldn’t be appropriate for homes with steep or pitched roofs. Another option, says Hosey, is to use salvaged slate shingles for a new roof. They’re cheaper and more eco-friendly than traditional slate, and they insulate your home just as well on those chilly winter nights.
Story by Alison Sherbach. This article originally appeared in Plenty in June 2007. This story was added to MNN.com in June 2009.