White Roof Does the Trick

At Microsoft we are committed to developing technologies that help consumers and businesses reduce their environmental footprint. It’s a corporate priority for us and this effort extends to our campuses, our products, our data centers and the work being done at Microsoft research. You can read much more about these efforts at our environmental page here.

This work extends to our partners as well whether it is making power plants run more efficiently, enabling the integration and management of renewables into the power delivery system or making the smart grid smarter. A good example is the environmental sustainability award that OSIsoft received in July. If you missed it you can check it out here.

But long ago I learned that it takes a holistic approach to solve these longer term societal problems (e.g., collision of energy and the environment) if you really want to shape the future. Plus, you have to be smart and use solutions that make sense for your home, your business, your lifestyle, your city and the geography you live in.white roof 2

This brings me to the idea of white roofs. Last year I helped my son with a science experiment where he painted 2-liter plastic soda bottles black, white, silver and red. We filled the bottles with water and placed them in direct sunlight and measured the temperature rise over several 30 minute periods. As expected, the black bottle’s temperature soared in the hot Florida sun while the white bottle absorbed much less energy.

This got me thinking about white roofs. It’s no news that white roofs can lower the temperature of your home or business. A Bing search on “White Roofs” yields 22,700,000 results which includes everything from the New York Times to Consumer Reports to the Wall Street Journal and even US Energy secretary Steven Chu’s Facebook page! But, the father of “White Roofs” is probably Art Rosenfeld. You can view a video of Art discussing white roofs here.

So what did I do? I painted my roof white. Now, a word of caution here because it is not easy painting asphalt shingles white, you need to use a special coating not just white paint and it is VERY labor intensive. I used a silicone roof coating that was originally designed to coat the booster rockets for NASA's Space Shuttle to protect booster rockets during recovery at sea for re-use. My personal advice is to contact a professional if you want to do this.

The results: Well not only did I stop a leak in my roof that had persisted for years that multiple roofers could not figure out but it made a tremendous difference in the house temperature during the hot Florida summer. How much so? Well I shaved about $70/month or 424 KWH off the electric bill when compared to last summer. Payback for me will be about 1 year given the long Florida summers. My view is the results are pretty amazing!

Again, I want to issue a disclaimer that this is my personal experience and this is not an endorsement by Microsoft in any way. If you are considering doing this you need to consult a professional to determine if a white roof project makes sense for you.

There’s no silver bullet to solving these tough societal problems but being smart and taking an approach that actively looks at all the options can make a difference. For me, my white roof project made a lot of sense and is paying dividends. Something to consider.  – Jon C. Arnold