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Breathing Roof

You know the drill; chilly January, searing July. This is the U.S. climate in four words or less. If the climate could stay this way forever, homeowners won’t have a problem with knowing when to check their roofs for cracks. Sadly, the country’s weather system has been on the fritz lately, dumping at least six percent more rain in the mainland regardless of season. These days, you can never trust winter to start in late December or summer in late June. This is bad news for roofs all over the country. The offset in seasonal timelines can cost homes hundreds, if not thousands, in roofing damage. Whether or not it’s climate change at its worst, the inconvenient truth is out. Now, it’s a race against time to develop new designs to cope with a rapidly-changing planet. One promising candidate came from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, TN. In 2012, William Miller and his colleagues developed a revolutionary design that exploited the movement of heat around the house. Whereas traditional Salem roofing has the roof layers sandwiched, this system features a hollow cavity just underneath the deck. It gets even better. Miller pointed out that traditional roofing designs can be outfitted with this technology. For around $2,000, homeowners can benefit from $100 in annual savings. The key lies in the right materials, namely what Miller calls foil-faced expanded polystyrene. It’s like your typical expanded polystyrene insulation but wrapped in foil, which shields the home from outside solar energy. Meanwhile, the foil facing the attic acts as a barrier to stop internal heat from escaping; useful in cold climes. Just above the foiled insulation is a hollow cavity one inch wide. This acts as a passageway for air to rise more effectively out the ridge vent. Slots above the soffit provide the entryway to this hollow cavity. To put it simply, you’re providing unwanted air with more room to move out of the house. Tests show that the deck’s underside using this system was 20 degrees cooler than the control, which was the regular design. This almost coincided with the results of an earlier simulation. Residents can ask a Salem roofer like one from A&A Services to implement this design on new builds or retrofit in existing roofs. It’s a roofing design that breathes. (Article image and excerpt from “ORNL rood and attic design proves efficient in summer and winter,” R&D, September 10, 2012)