Date: August 6, 2009

Author: JT

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Comments Off on White Roof Obfuscation

White Roof Obfuscation

I tend to align the reasoning behind my posts with technology, leaning more often than not, toward IT, software, SaaS, and the like. Today’s post is still aligned with technology albeit of a different venue: alternative energy and the white roof.

Much t’do has been made in Washington in recent months about our (the U.S.) Energy Secretary Chu’s suggesting we adopt white roofs. Of course, for many, the initial response to this is, “…is he serious, c’mon, ‘white roofs’?” More than one major media outlet has been happy to jump on the bandwagon…seemingly on slow news days.

One article that caught my eye recently, was the New York Times’ article, “White Roofs Catch On as Energy Cost Cutters.” I encourage you to pop on over and take a look.

There seem to be a few holes and contradictions in the article. For instance, the article cites cool roofs (i.e. white) as being a good idea for Chicago, not for Detroit. Why? They’re both at the same latitude, same basic seasonal weather. Odd. (Ok, I checked a map. The ‘center’ of Detroit’s about 30 miles north of Chicago; it may make all the difference.)

Dark roofs, properly implemented, shouldn’t have a massive impact on home heating (discounting commercial buildings). Ideally, the attic space should be well-enough insulated that the snow doesn’t melt off–regardless of color. You can tell which homes have a poorly ventilated or insulated roof. They’re the ones that have icicles and bare roofs compared to their (typically newer) neighbors, which have no icicles and snow caps until ambient temps come up nearer freezing.

Aside from the curiosities, this topic seems to be getting treated as something ‘new.’ Yes, the article points backward to historical practices. But the use of white or light colored roofs is something that exists around the world already. Take a look at numerous island nations in the tropics.

One item I found somewhat bemusing, is no one is cited as having ‘lived’ in such an environment. I’ve spent time in Bermuda where almost every roof is painted white. Have to tell you, you don’t go anywhere when the sun’s shining without a strong pair of sunglasses. White roofs, covering large parts of the landscape, are extremely challenging–sort of like driving on new, white concrete.

Oh, one parting thought this and similar articles do not address… Most of earth is non-white, absorbing radiated heat. What happens if we start reflecting a significant portion of light back into the atmosphere? Just wondering..

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