If you own a commercial building in a part of the country that gets a substantial amount of hot sunshine, you're probably tired of paying high utility bills for most of the spring, summer, and fall. And if your building is located in direct sun for most of the day, your air conditioning system may become overtaxed as it tries to keep your large building a consistently low temperature. By installing a "cool roof," you may be able to reduce your utility costs and extend the life of your air conditioning unit. In other cases, you may be able to generate enough solar energy from your business's roof to avoid paying utility bills entirely. Read on to learn more about when a cool or solar roof may help reduce your business's infrastructure costs.
What is a cool roof?
A cool roof can take many forms, but it is often as simple as an all-white roof made of a material that emits infrared energy (unfortunately, this doesn't include bare metal). By refracting the sun's rays and allowing interior heat to escape through the roof, this white conductive roof will essentially negate the sun's impact on the interior temperature of your business, allowing your cooling energy to focus on replenishing air that escapes as customers enter and leave or replacing hot air emitted from manufacturing processes.
Other cool roofs can include flat "green" roofs, which are composed of sod or various grasses laid over an irrigating base. These plants serve several purposes that can combine to reduce your business costs and help preserve the environment. By absorbing the majority of the sun's rays striking the building, plants can minimize the amount of heat transferred inside. By insulating the top of the building with a layer of wet soil, these plants further shield the building's interior from cool loss in the summer and heat loss in the winter. And by converting carbon dioxide to oxygen, plant roofs will help reduce smog in urban areas.
When is a cool roof the right financial decision for your business?
In some cases, replacing your business's roof may seem cost-prohibitive. But often your current roof may be costing you money through higher utility rates and other inefficiencies. If your cooling costs continue to increase each year, you may find it worthwhile to get an estimate on the price of installing a cool roof, as well as how much you can expect your new roof to lower your energy bills. If you can recoup this cost over a few years, it's often a sound investment. On the other hand, if your break-even point isn't for decades, you may need to simply soldier along with the roof you already have.
Is solar power a better option?
In some cases, even a cool roof isn't enough to keep your utility costs from skyrocketing in the summer. In these situations, you may want to make lemonade from lemons by installing some solar panels and harvesting the energy hitting your business's roof. By connecting these solar panels to batteries, you'll be able to store this energy so that it can power your building's lights, air conditioning system, or other electrical components completely off the grid.
As with a cool roof, your solar energy needs are best estimated by a roofing contractor, who can determine how much solar energy your roof space can generate and store, as well as whether the cost-savings of this solar energy is significant enough to justify the up-front cost of solar panels. If your roof has primarily southern exposure, you may even be able to collect enough solar energy to enter into a solar lease, in which you sell solar power back to the electric provider to receive a rebate on your monthly bill.
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