Credit: Marshall Peterson

Don Bruce, owner of American Home Design, in Nashville, Tenn., began selling a radiant heat barrier product called eShield two years ago. But it was in 2010 that the product took off. Two things made the difference, Bruce says: American Home Design started talking about both energy savings and home comfort in its presentations to consumers, and it began marketing eShield with insulation as part of an energy-efficiency package costing, typically, between $5,000 and $6,000.

HEAT WAVE Radiant barrier is a foil or spray-on product that attaches to rafters, decking, or floor joists. It halts the movement of thermal waves, keeping homes warmer in winter and cooler in summer. As a job often priced below $5,000 and one that will make a 15% to 20% difference in heating and cooling bills, it has become increasingly attractive for home improvement contractors. “I bring up [radiant barriers] in every appointment,” says Brian Buresh, owner of Buresh Home Solutions, in Des Moines, Iowa. Like Bruce, Buresh has found that combining the product he carries — Radiaflect — with insulation, is an appealing solution to controlling home energy costs and ensuring comfort levels. EShield owner Terry Ferrero agrees: “It's a much easier sell when you say: ‘Hey, we're going to bring the insulation up to code.' You're giving consumers more value.”

While many home improvement companies have only recently begun selling radiant barrier, those that have worked with the product for a long time say it can make a dramatic difference in home temperatures. But “it's not a cure-all,” says Brett Hall, president of Joe Hall Roofing, in Aberdeen, Texas. Hall says that combined with the right ventilation and insulation, a barrier product can help to reduce the summer temperature in a Texas attic from 150º F to something closer to 100º F, thus preventing the oven-like conditions that force air conditioning units to work much harder.

CONSUMER DEMAND GROWS One-time window and siding contractor Rich Ramos, owner of Green Energy, of San Antonio, compares radiant barrier lead and job costs to those of gutter protection. His company has installed more than 200 radiant barrier jobs in the last year, many in combination with insulation or ventilation. The company typically throws in the installation of a ridge vent as an inducement to buy. Consumer demand and quick turnaround have forced Ramos to reconsider his whole business model. Now he sells strictly gutter protection and radiant barrier and is out of the window and siding business altogether.