3 minute read

The Benefits of Light vs. Dark Roofing

by Expert Contributor Kevin O'Donnell of O'Donnell Roofing Co.

Homeowners frequently ask whether a specific shingle color is best when purchasing a new roof. Shingles come in a full range of colors, but are commonly categorized as light or dark. When recommending a shingle color, geography, climate and building type should be primary considerations.

The U.S. is home to several different climates. In states like Arizona, where the temperature rarely drops below freezing, white or reflective roofs are advised. For areas that tend to be mostly hot or warm, white or light-colored asphalt shingles that have higher Energy-Star ratings are recommended as an affordable roofing option.

These days, “cool” roofing materials are, of course, another choice for warmer climates. They come in both light and dark colors, both of which not only reflect the sun’s UV rays but also have a high thermal emittance quality, which quickly dissipates the absorbed heat. If you choose a “cool” roofing system, temperatures could be 50% cooler than with other roofing materials, and that could add up to a savings of 10–15% on cooling costs!

Here in Pennsylvania, climates are more evenly split between hot and cold. On large industrial and commercial buildings, or any building with a large roof covering, the reflective nature and energy efficiency of a white roof makes sense. For typical residential and even light commercial settings, there are good reasons why darker roofs will look and perform better.

One consideration in the cooler parts of our state or around the U.S. is that because dark-colored roofs warm up quickly, ice and snow melt faster. If you live in an area where snow and ice can sit on a roof for prolonged periods of time, shingles that don’t encourage faster ice and snow melt leave you susceptible to leaks or even more severe damage. This is especially true on the north-facing side of a home or areas with less sunlight, where the roof is even more susceptible to condensation and ice damming. Of course, ventilation plays the main role in roof performance; however, a darker roof improves your chances that snow and ice will be eliminated faster because the roof is typically warmer.

Keep in mind that all modern asphalt shingles — even those with algae-resistant qualities and mildewcides — are composed of more organic fillers than ever before, and they will eventually streak and stain. Again, darker shingles outperform lighter ones because they hide that discoloration better, and it takes several years longer for the staining to become noticeable.

In general, when you consider that asphalt shingle roofs are designed to last for 30 years or more in the northeast U.S. climate, the better choice to ensure that your roof (and home) will last and look good longer would be to choose darker color shingles for your roof.

Expert Contributor Kevin O'Donnell, O'Donnell Roofing Co.

Expert Contributor Kevin O'Donnell, O'Donnell Roofing Co.

O'DONNELL Roofing Co.


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