Dull, dark-colored home exteriors absorb 70 to 90 percent of the radiant energy from the sun that strikes the home's surfaces. Some of this absorbed energy is then transferred into your home by way of conduction, resulting in heat gain. In contrast, light-colored surfaces effectively reflect most of the heat away from your home.
About a third of the unwanted heat that builds up in your home comes in through the roof. This is hard to control with traditional roofing materials. For example, unlike most light-colored surfaces, even white asphalt and fiberglass shingles absorb 70 percent of the solar radiation.
One good solution is to apply a reflective coating to your existing roof. Two standard roofing coatings are available at your local hardware store or lumber yard. They have both waterproof and reflective properties and are marketed primarily for mobile homes and recreational vehicles.
One coating is white latex that you can apply over many common roofing materials, such as asphalt and fiberglass shingles, tar paper, and metal. Most manufacturers offer a 5-year warranty.
A second coating is asphalt based and contains glass fibers and aluminum particles. You can apply it to most metal and asphalt roofs. Because it has a tacky surface, it attracts dust, which reduces its reflectivity somewhat.
Another way to reflect heat is to install a radiant barrier on the underside of your roof. A radiant barrier is simply a sheet of aluminum foil with a paper backing. When installed correctly, a radiant barrier can reduce heat gains through your ceiling by about 25 percent.
Radiant-barrier materials cost between $0.13 per square foot ($1.44 per square meter) for a single-layer product with a kraft-paper backing and $0.30 per square foot ($3.33 per square meter) for a vented multilayer product with a fiber-reinforced backing. The latter product doubles as insulation.
Wall color is not as important as roof color, but it does affect heat gain somewhat. White exterior walls absorb less heat than dark walls. And light, bright walls increase the longevity of siding — particularly on the east, west, and south sides of the house.
Roughly 40 percent of the unwanted heat that builds up in your home comes in through windows. Reflective window coatings are one way to reflect heat away from your home. These coatings are plastic sheets treated with dyes or thin layers of metal. Besides keeping your house cooler, these reflective coatings cut glare and reduce fading of furniture, draperies, and carpeting.
Two main types of coatings include sun-control films and combination films. Sun-control films are best for warmer climates because they can reflect as much as 80 percent of the incoming sunlight. Many of these films are tinted, however, and tend to reduce light transmission as much as they reduce heat, thereby darkening the room.
Combination films allow some light into a room but they also let some heat in and prevent interior heat from escaping. These films are best for climates that have both hot and cold seasons. Investigate the different film options carefully to select the film that best meets your needs.
Note: Do not place reflective coatings on south-facing windows if you want to take advantage of heat gain during the winter.
The coatings are applied to the interior surface of the window. Although you can apply the films yourself, it is a good idea to have a professional install the coatings, particularly if you have several large windows. This will ensure a more durable installation and a more aesthetically pleasing look.
Keeping your home cool during the summer can be costly. While these tips may have an upfront cost, they will pay off in the long run!