Much of the country has been suffering recently from unusually early sweltering summer heat. The crazy weather has compounded our ever-present and growing needs for energy to cool as well as heat. There are many lo-tech suggestions for bringing down the cooling costs of summer, from old-fashioned awnings to a more complicated attic fan.
An idea that’s been out there for a while and is gaining traction is painting your roof white. At the U.S.Department of Energy, Secretary Steve Chu has committed to increasing the number of white roofs at the DOE and other government buildings. The DOE has already installed two million feet of white roofs and claims a energy savings of $500,000.
The white roof idea is not without its critics. One Stanford study pointed out the possibility that white roofs could actually increase global warming by contributing to decreased cloud cover. The idea has also been questioned for use in cities with a colder climate, where a reflective roof may raise heating costs in the winter. (Lloyd Alter over at Treehugger points out that most buildings in Minneapolis or Canada have white roofs most of the winter already — it’s called snow.)
Some people aren’t waiting around for the academics to decide. The White Roof Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to painting urban roofs white with a dedicated cadre of volunteers. Started in New York City as a community effort, it’s going national this year. Check out their website here and the video below: