Energy Efficient Roofing is a Black and White Matter


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Of all of the things that people consider when it comes to their roofing needs, perhaps one of the most common concerns is how adept a certain roof is at creating a warm home in the winter, and a cool home in the summer. In other words they ask, how energy efficicent is my roofing? Back in 2009 a student at MIT was considering this question and had a very basic realization; in the winter, a dark colored roof is beneficial to homeowners because it traps the heat produced by the sun, effectively warming the house naturally, and thus keeping energy bills low. In the summer months the dark colored roofing does the same exact thing, but to the dismay of homeowners, as their goal now is to maximize the affect of their AC power, and all the while the dark roof is trapping heat, working against the AC system. What he thought of next was the basis for his thermeleon roof tile; a tile that has the ability to change its color based on the outside temperature.

Thermeleon roofing

While the name of this (potential) breakthrough in roofing technology is impressive in its own right, the technology itself is even cooler. A team of recent MIT grads have developed a prototype of  a roof tile that actually changes color to adapt to the outside temperature. They call the technology thermeleon (after the chameleon…get it?) as the tiles become white when it is hot out, effectively reflecting the heat off of the roofs surface, and black when it is cold, absorbing the suns heat and warming the house.

Does it work?

Now, obviously this is a nice thought, but it still needs to succeed in actually lowering cooling costs in the summer and heating costs in the winter in order to gain any steam in the roofing industry. According to the results of the thermeleon developer’s test trials, when the tiles were in their white state they were successful at reflecting about 80 percent of the sunlight hitting them, and in their black state they succeeded at absorbing about 70 percent of the sunlight hitting them.  This equates to a 20 percent saving in present cooling costs when the tiles are in their white state, with the cost savings of the black state having yet to be determined.

While the costs and durability of this technology are still in doubt, it is none-the-less a fascinating development in energy efficient roofing. Keep an eye out for similar energy and money saving roofing technology in the months and years to come!