Unlock the full potential of your metal roof

MRA Cool Metal Roof
April 8, 2024 at 3:00 p.m.

By Dani Sheehan. 

Understanding the distinctions between cool roof finishes and thermal barriers is crucial to optimizing the energy efficiency and sustainability of your metal roof investment. 

You’ve decided on a metal roof for your home and you’re excited to reap the sustainability benefits that come with the investment. But there are still so many choices to make before installation. Have you determined your color choice? Do you live in a hot climate, and have you thought about how well your home is insulated?  

According to the Metal Roofing Alliance (MRA), a metal vertical seam or stamped panel system can provide up to 30% energy savings compared to other common roofing materials. While an unpainted, basic metal roof will reflect more solar radiation than an asphalt roof, you can optimize your energy savings by adding a cool roof finish or ensuring a thermal barrier insulation is installed under your new roof. Both cool roof finishes and thermal barriers play important roles in enhancing energy efficiency, but they also address different aspects of heat management.  

Here are some of the key differences to help you spark a conversation with your contractor and take full advantage of the benefits of choosing a metal roof. 

Cool roof finishes 

  • Purpose: The primary goal of a cool roof finish is to reflect sunlight and absorb less heat, thereby keeping the roof surface cooler. 
  • Materials: Cool roof finishes are often made of reflective materials or coatings that have high solar reflectance and infrared emittance. This can include reflective paints, coatings or specialized reflective roofing materials. 
  • Benefits: By reflecting more sunlight, cool roof finishes reduce the amount of solar energy absorbed by the roof, preventing it from transferring into your home. Since the roof stays cooler, your home’s cooling needs may be reduced, leading to energy savings over time. Additionally, these surfaces will experience less thermal stress, lengthening the lifespan of the roofing material. 

Thermal barrier insulation 

  • Purpose: Thermal barriers, sometimes known as radiant barriers, are designed to impede the transfer of heat from the exterior of the home to the interior or vice versa. 
  • Materials: Thermal barriers can be composed of insulating materials like foam boards, reflective foils or other materials with low thermal conductivity. These are often installed beneath the roof surface or as part of the roofing assembly. 
  • Benefits: Because these barriers prevent the direct transfer of heat through the roof, your home will maintain a more consistent and comfortable temperature inside all year round. This will improve the energy efficiency of your home and reduce your energy costs. Thermal barriers are also a way to provide moisture control, helping to prevent condensation within the roof assembly. 

The bottom line 

While cool roof finishes focus on reflecting solar radiation, and thermal barriers target heat transfer, combining these strategies can yield synergistic benefits to optimize the energy efficiency of your new metal roof. When considering sustainability and efficiency, you want a roof that can manage heat absorption, reflectivity and heat transfer.  

Learn more about the benefits of metal roofing and see why it’s one of the best investments you can make to boost your home’s value and performance.

Have a question? AskARoofer.

Find your local roofing contractor in the RoofersCoffeeShop® Contractor Directory. 

About Dani

Dani is a writer for The Coffee Shops and AskARoofer™. When she's not writing or researching, she's teaching yoga classes or exploring new hiking trails.

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