Photo: Zigres/Shutterstock

Beat the Heat With White Roof Project

by Sarah Park Jul 22, 2011
Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza presents an easy and inexpensive fix to help reduce cooling costs this summer.

With highs today at 101°F, New York City is burning up. Chicago, St. Louis, Boston, Richmond, and cities all across the nation are also experiencing the heat wave that’s been linked to over a dozen deaths already.

In a Reuters op-ed, Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza suggests a simple and easy solution to help relieve the heat: paint black tar roofs white.

Painting black tar roofs with a white, solar-reflective coating is a low cost, quick and tangible way to reduce the risk of power grid ‘brown-outs’, save millions of dollars in energy costs, and curb climate change. The statistics are as simple as they are staggering: A roof covered with solar-reflective white paint reflects up to 90% of sunlight as opposed to the 20% reflected by a traditional black roof. On a 90°F day, a black roof can be up to 180°F. That heat has a major impact on interior building temperature, potentially heating your room to between 115 – 125°F. A white roof stays a cool 100°F. Plus the inside of the building stays cooler than the air outdoors, around 80°F in this example, reducing cooling costs.

In New York City alone, 12% of all surfaces are rooftops. It’s estimated that implementing a white roof program in 11 metropolitan cities could save the United States 7 gigawatts in energy usage. That’s the equivalent of turning off 14 power plants, and a cost savings of $750 million per year.

White Roof Project aims to curb the “urban heat island” effect by gathering volunteers and resources to paint over heat-trapping surfaces in New York City. According to their FAQ page, a city with a million or more people can be up to 22°F warmer than surrounding suburbs due to higher quantities of dark pavement and black tar roofing.

If you’re in the NYC area and want to get involved, White Roof Project is looking for volunteers to help Paint the Block on August 20-21. They’ll be painting an entire city block of roofs in the East Village — a total of 30,000 square feet.

Read the full article from Reuters and weigh in with your thoughts here.

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