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Kelly Roofing, in Naples, Fla., promotes metal roofs with reflective coating as a green alternative. Coatings, plus proper attic ventilation, reduce roof temperature and extend the life of the roof.
Kelly Roofing, in Naples, Fla., promotes metal roofs with reflective coating as a green alternative. Coatings, plus proper attic ventilation, reduce roof temperature and extend the life of the roof.

Think of a “green roof” and you probably think of a flat rooftop covered with grass or moss. It's not a steep-slope roof — typical of residential roofs.

But in residential roofing, green has a different definition. It involves reducing the amount of energy the building consumes — as well as its green footprint — and extending the life of the product and what happens to the roofing material that it replaced. Green roofing implies recycling waste products, using roofing products that reflect or deflect heat from the roof (see www.coolroofs.org for a directory of “cool roof”-rated products), creating a well-ventilated attic to prevent the temperature extremes that cause roofs to prematurely wear out, and, in some cases, preparing the roof for solar.

HOW TO TALK ABOUT GREEN ROOFING But homeowners, says Chris Lowe, vice president of Kidd Roofing, in Austin, Texas, are mostly interested in a solidly constructed roof that doesn't let in water. Few know about green roofing. If they ask, Kidd Roofing offers a range of green options.

But a weak economy has raised consumers' price sensitivities and has made green roofing of secondary importance for the moment. “People are afraid to spend the money,” says Ralph Plotke, vice president of Roof Services, on Long Island, N.Y. When they do, he says, they'll “pay for fundamental upgrades, but not bells and whistles.” (Read an interview with Plotke about green roofing at replacementcontractoronline.com.)

“Green sounds good,” says Matt Weiner, general manager of Moonworks, in Rhode Island. “But when it comes to the cost differential,” he says, Moonworks has found that the percentage of homeowners who actually make a decision based on green is relatively small.

SELL THE ENERGY PAYBACK For Ken Kelly, owner of Kelly Roofing, in Naples, Fla., the concept of green means a roof system designed and installed to “stop the premature replacement of product.” That means “the right roof components,” and, when homeowners need a roof replaced, convincing them to go with a metal roof with reflective coatings.

Kelly Roofing's website (www.kellyroofing.com) promotes energy savings, building comfort, and sustainability, and highlights the idea that lower electrical bills from reduced air conditioning use will help the roof pay for itself.

He points out that when homeowners replace a roof with exactly the same materials as are already on it, there's no payback. If they replace the roof with “the right roof components,” combined with properly functioning ventilation, the resulting savings will mean homeowners eventually see a return on their investment.