Can installing a green roof save you money?

The Chicago City Hall green roof helps cool the building and minimize water run-off.
The Chicago City Hall green roof helps cool the building and minimize water run-off. See more green living pictures.
Photo courtesy of courtesy of DOE/NREL I Photographer: Katrin Scholz-Barth

­The short answer to this question is, "Yes." The long answer can be a bit complicated. The initial costs of installing a green roof are much more expensive than the costs of other roofing methods [source: Greenroofs]. There's a lot that must go into building a roof that can sustain living vegetation while simultaneously protecting your house from the elements. However, over time, the benefits of a green roof could help save you money and help to protect the environment. And so, many people look at it as an investment.

A green roof could save you money on your electric bill. No, the plants on top of your house won't produce energy -- or at least, not the kind you'll need to run your microwave -- but what they will do is help reduce your cooling costs during hot summer months [source: Chattanoogan]. Plants and greenery help to absorb the sun's rays adding an extra layer of protection between harsh UV rays and your roof's membrane. This will help keep your house cooler so the air conditioner won't have to work as hard.


The next money-saving aspect might come as a bit of a surprise. Normal roofs deteriorate and end up needing to be replaced. Green roofs also deteriorate, but much more slowly. The same principle that protects the roof's covering from UV rays protects it from other elements as well.

­A green roof can also save you money in handling storm water run-off. People go to great lengths to install drainage systems along their roofs. Rainwater pouring off your roof has the ability to do quite a bit of damage. It can cause erosion surrounding the base of your house and easily demolish costly landscaping. A green roof can absorb a huge amount of that rain. Some are even capable of containing 100 percent of it [source: MSU].

When considering a green roof, it's best to think about the long-term benefits. By spending more money up front, you may save money later. As green roofs become more popular, it's likely that government incentives and tax breaks will be offered as well.

Read on to learn even more benefits of green roofs.



Benefits of Green Roofs

Aside from the money-saving benefits mentioned previously, green roofs provide a number of other advantages. The most obvious of these is their positive impact on the environment. When we build houses, some of the land and vegetation is displaced, destroyed or removed all together. Obviously, we can't grow trees on top of our homes to offset this loss, but a green roof may not be out of the question.

If you live in a city, you may be familiar with the urban heat island effect. Cities are full of large buildings, metal, concrete and asphalt. All of these things absorb large amounts of heat. As a result, the temperature in a city can be much higher than that of the surrounding countryside. Green roofs can actually lower the temperature and create a more comfortable environment within a city's limits [source: Green Grid Roofs].


Another serendipitous byproduct of green roofs is noise reduction [source: Hydrotech USA]. That's right. Green roofs can actually help dampen sound from outside your house and keep sound that's inside from getting out. You'll be able to play your music louder without bothering your neighbors. This might seem unnecessary in a more rural setting, but in a city, it can be incredibly advantageous, blocking out the sound of traffic and sirens.

Green roofs can also help to improve air quality. Plants literally purify the surrounding air through their natural processes. Think of it like a water filtration system. In fact, speaking of water, green roofs filter that, too. The vegetation on a green roof helps absorb pollutants from rainwater before it evaporates back into the atmosphere.

The benefits of green roofs are numerous, both financially and beneficially. While much of Europe is enchanted with lush rooftops, other parts of the world are just starting to latch on to the idea.

For more information about green roofs and related information, check out the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Chattanoogan, The. "Plow Building to Get Green Roof." (Accessed 03/02/2009)
  • Green Grid. "Green Roof Benefits." (Accessed 03/01/2009)
  • Greenroofs. "Economic" (Accessed 03/01/2009)
  • Hydrotech. "Green Roof Benefits." (Accessed 03/01/2009)
  • Merriam-Webster. "Green" (Accessed 03/01/2009)
  • Michigan State University. "The Green Roof Research Program at MSU." (Accessed 03/01/2009)