7/22/21 1:30 PM 11 min read

How “Cool” Is Your Commercial Roof? Implementing a Cool Roof Solution Provides Many Benefits for Commercial Buildings


If you’ve ever stepped on hot concrete with bare feet, you know how much hard surfaces can soak up the heat of the sun. If your sidewalk can get hot enough to burn your feet, you can make an educated guess about the temperature of your commercial roof. Certain substances have a high capacity for absorbing and storing the sun’s heat, and the hotter a surface gets, the more sun damage that can occur.

How the Sun Can Affect a Commercial Roofing System

The effects of a Cleveland winter on a commercial or industrial roof can be painfully obvious. Damage can continue to occur, however, long after the season’s final snowy blast. The heat of a summer sun can raise a roof’s temperature to upwards of 150°F and cause a number of issues.

The sun’s UV rays can damage your commercial or industrial roofing system in the same way that they can damage your skin. As a roof bakes in the sun, it gets dried out and brittle, causing cracks and blisters. Furthermore, the continual heating of the roof by day and cooling by night can result in thermal shock, which occurs when temperatures fluctuate rapidly and can cause a great deal of stress on your roofing system.

The rapid expansion and contraction can create larger crevices, warping and deterioration of commercial roofing materials. Introduce humidity to the mix and the result is moisture seeping into the cracks and weak areas, adding further burden on the system.

In addition to visible damage, the sun’s heat also puts a strain on your commercial or industrial building’s energy efficiency. A hot roof absorbs the heat and transfers it inside. The hotter the roof, the harder your HVAC system will have to work to cool the interior of your building. The solution is undoubtedly to keep your commercial roof as cool as possible. Fortunately, there are several cool roofing options at your disposal.

Cool Roof Solutions for Commercial Roofs

A cool roof can help mitigate the damage caused by the sun. The coolness of a commercial or industrial roof is determined by how much of the sun’s energy is reflected by the roof (solar reflectance) and the ability of the roof’s surface to radiate the heat it absorbs (thermal emittance) rather than transfer it to the building beneath.

White or light-colored roofs are more reflective, absorb less sunlight and transfer less heat into a building than traditional dark-colored roofing materials like asphalt.

The options for making a commercial roof cool fall into two categories:

  • Reflective roof coatings. Reflective cool roof coatings are white in color or contain special pigments that reflect sunlight. Coatings are very thick substances applied directly onto the commercial roof surface in order to protect the roof from UV rays and radiate heat away from the surface. Coatings also provide waterproofing capability.
  • Reflective membrane roofing systems. Certain single-ply membrane systems are white in color and highly reflective. Both PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) membrane systems come in white sheets that are laid on a cover board over insulation and the seams are heat-welded for leak protection.

See Related Article: 
Why a Single-Ply Roofing System May Be Best for Your Business

Either option will result in a roof surface with superior solar reflectance and thermal emittance. A number of factors will influence which option is best for your commercial roof, including whether your needs can be met by a roof restoration or whether your plans require a complete roof replacement.

The Benefits of a Cool Roof

Whether you’re ready to replace your old roof or restore your current one, there are both immediate and long-term benefits to implementing a cool roof on your commercial building, including:

  • Energy cost savings. A cool roof has high solar reflectance and high thermal emittance. Because more of the sun’s UV rays are reflected off the roof, and less heat is absorbed and transferred into a building, both the building’s interior and the rooftop atmosphere are cooler. Rooftop HVAC units don’t have to work as hard to cool the building, effectively lowering energy costs. Additionally, the reduced energy demand can result in downsized HVAC systems for even more cost savings.
  • Longer life span. A cool roof can extend the life of your commercial or industrial roofing system by reducing the stress of thermal shock on your roof and preventing the deterioration and degradation of the roof surface, the underlying insulation and other roofing materials. Furthermore, the waterproofing benefits of a cool roof can minimize the number of commercial roof repairs needed over time, delaying the need for roof replacement and reducing capital costs.
  • Potential tax credits and other incentives. Federal tax credits are available for certain cool roofing materials and many states and local governments offer utility rebates and other incentives for making energy-efficient improvements, such as ENERGY STAR® qualification and LEED point contribution.
  • Greater comfort. A cool roof means a cooler interior. When less heat is transferred from the roof into a building, not only does it lower energy costs but it also makes the building’s interior more comfortable for its occupants, which is of particular benefit in spaces without air conditioning.
  • Environmental benefits. More cool roofs within a community can result in reduced local air temperatures, mitigating your community’s Urban Heat Island Effect. When an urban area has less natural land cover and more buildings, pavement and other surfaces that absorb and hold heat, the effect is higher temperatures, higher levels of air pollution and increased energy costs. Cool roofs can help improve air quality as well as reduce the burden of peak demand on energy providers, potentially avoiding power outages.

As roofing technologies continue to evolve into greater energy and cost-saving opportunities, Roberts Roofing will remain at the forefront of the industry providing the most up-to-date and innovative solutions to meet your commercial or industrial roofing needs.

Let Roberts Roofing help you save money and energy by implementing a cool roof solution. Contact us at 440.946.2233 or fill out the form on this page and a member of our team will be in touch.

Roberts Roofing has been a leading provider of innovative roofing solutions in Cleveland, Ohio since 1981. We provide commercial and industrial roof repair, replacement and maintenance to serve companies of all sizes and offer a combination of technical expertise, custom solutions and quality workmanship for every project.