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What can I do to my roof to save on energy costs?

Picking the Right Roof

When choosing a roof, look for products that carry the government's Energy Star label, because they can save you a lot on energy costs. The government created the Energy Star program to help promote the use of energy-efficient products. Only roofing products that are highly reflective are given the Energy Star label. These roofs can reflect enough of the sun's rays to lower the temperature on the surface of your roof by as much as 100 degrees Fahrenheit (56 degrees Celsius) [source: Energy Star].

Pick your roofing material and color based on your location. Light-colored roofs tend to reflect heat and are good in warmer climates, while dark-colored roofs absorb heat and are better in cooler climates. If you live in a warmer area or have trouble keeping your home cool, but you don't want to splurge for a whole new roof, you can cover your existing roof with a light-colored coating to lower your cooling costs. Roof coatings can reduce the surface temperature on a roof by 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (28 to 44 degrees Celsius) [source: Washington State University].

When choosing a roofing material, you have many options, including asphalt, metal, wood, concrete and tile. Clay tile and concrete roofs can cost more to install, but they can save you money in the long run because they tend to be more energy efficient than other materials -- in all climates. Avoid unpainted metal and aluminum roofs, which aren't particularly good at releasing energy. One type of roofing material actually makes its own energy. New photovoltaic (PV) cells both protect your home and produce electricity from sunlight.

Saving money on roofing doesn't end with picking the right materials -- you also need to find the right person to install them. Choose a contractor who has a lot of experience installing energy-efficient roofs. You'll also want to find an installer who is licensed and who offers a warranty that covers both the work and the roofing materials.