Eco-Friendly Ways To Improve Your Roof
Many of us see a roof as nothing more than a barrier from the elements. However, a growing number of homeowners are starting to explore other purposes for their roof. In fact, by making improvements to your roof, you may be able to save money and help the planet too. Here are just a few examples of green ways to use your roof.
Insulating your roof can help to reduce heat loss. 25% of a home’s heat is thought to be lost via an uninsulated roof. By reducing heat loss, you could keep your home warmer longer, reducing the need to use the heating as much in cold weather and hence saving you money on your energy bills. By using less energy, you’ll also reduce your carbon footprint.
Most people insulate their roof from the inside (AKA loft insulation), but you can also insulate a roof from the outside. There are lots of different insulation methods worth looking into from insulation boards to thermal wool to spray-on foam. This pdf from the Carbon Trust, outlines some of the options.
Cool roofs provide the opposite effect of insulation, helping to keep your home cool by reflecting away sunlight. They are better suited to homes in warmer climates where they can reduce the need for air conditioning. Just as insulation can reduce energy costs from heating, cool roofing can reduce energy costs from air conditioning.
Traditionally, many homeowners would paint their roof white as a solution, however nowadays there are many specific cool roofing products that can even be dark coloured and still reflect the light. Painting a roof with heat reflective paint is generally the cheaper option, but using products such as engineered cool roof shingles can be more effective.
You could also consider installing solar panels on your roof. Solar panels can help to convert sunlight into electricity. Whilst they can cost a fair amount to install, they eventually pay for themselves and turn into an investment – with enough solar panels, you may never have to use mains electricity again, saving you huge amounts of money in the long run as you’ll no longer have to pay electricity bills. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a clear sky to generate power from solar panels as many are able to still soak up sunlight even on the cloudiest of days.
When installing solar panels, it’s worth shopping around for the best solar company. Good quality panels that have been installed correctly will require little maintenance. To help generate the most power, you should install these panels on a section of the roof that receives the most sun throughout the day.
Solar panels aren’t the only form of sustainable power that can be produced by improving your roof – rooftop wind turbines can also be installed to help generate electricity if you live in a particularly windy area. These mini turbines won’t generate as much electricity as solar panels and cannot be relied on alone, but they could still be a useful supplement for providing energy to your home.
It’s also possible to use your roof to collect rainwater, which can then be filtered and converted into water for everyday household use. Rainwater recycling can save you a huge amount of money on your water bill. It also has a positive environmental impact, reducing the demand on rivers and using less energy to pump than mains water.
Rainwater runoff can be collected into a rain barrel where it can just be used for gardening purposes or used for toilet flushing. Alternatively, you can invest extra money into a filtering system that will convert it into a drinkable water. There are many rainwater recycling companies out there that you can look into to install such a system. A good quality recycling system will usually last for many years without needing much maintenance.
It may also be possible to turn your roof into a garden. This could be used for growing plants and could have various environmental and personal benefits. Firstly, it could help to produce oxygen. Secondly, it could offer a habitat to wildlife. On top of this, it can keep your home cooler, possibly reducing the amount of energy spent on cooling your home and reducing associated costs. A roof garden could even be a place to grow home produce if you don’t have a suitable back garden, allowing you to produce your own food.
Roof gardens may not be possible to set up on all kinds of roofs. You’ll likely need planning permission and, of course, the roof will need to be flat. Plants could be grown without soil using hydroponics or you may be able to lay down a layer of soil. Intensive roof gardens, which have a thick layer of soil and are suitable for all types of plants, will likely only be suitable for buildings with reinforced roofs. There are companies that can help you design and plant a roof garden. Be wary that these gardens require a lot of maintenance and should be treated like a regular garden.
Solar panels are definitely something I’m planning to look into, once we’ve bought our forever home, as they are a large investment. For now I am planning to install a water butt to increase the make use of all that rainwater for my flowers!