Does Insulation on the Roof Help Cool Your Home?


There are very few hard and fast rules when it comes to home design and materials, but one universal truth is that the more insulation you put between yourself and the outdoors, the bigger the difference you can maintain between the outside air temperature and the inside. How insulation affects your home's temperature depends on the outside temperature and whether or not you are using your air conditioning system.

Thermal Convection

  • Thermal convection is the supporting theory behind the concept of eliminating attic insulation. Because warm air rises, common sense would dictate that the hot air in your house should migrate upward from the living area and into the attic. This is true to a certain extent, but only as long as the hot air has somewhere to go.

Roof Insulation

  • Roof insulation always helps to keep your house cooler because it keeps the sun's thermal energy out. Dark-colored or black shingles are fantastically efficient at converting infrared radiation from the sun into thermal energy. This thermal energy saturates the wood under the shingles, which then radiates heat into the air in your attic space. That hot air then transfers its energy to the ceiling, which then heats your home. A foil-like thermal-reflective coating or insulating coating stuck to the underside of your roof will help to reflect infrared radiation back outside where it belongs.

Ceiling Insulation

  • No matter what kind of home you have or where you live, ceiling insulation will help you to better control the home's temperature. The attic is almost always hotter in the summer and colder in the winter than other parts of the house that receive heating/air conditioning. As such, the ceiling only stands to contribute heat in the summer and suck heat away in the winter. If you want to take advantage of attic ventilation, you should consider installing ceiling-to-attic vents that you can close whenever the climate-control system is on.

Attic Ventilation

  • Take a good look at many older houses built in southern climates and you'll see enormous vents at either end of the house near the apex of the roof. A very large vent will allow the hot, pressurized air to escape from the attic, drawing hot air in from the living space and a cooling breeze in through open windows. Modern builders prefer to use electric ventilation fans, which allow them to use smaller vents and a smaller attic space. The electric ventilation fan not only compensates for the smaller vent size, the vacuum it creates can actually reduce pressure in the attic to draw cool air in through the windows. Savvy home-owners might consider installing solar-powered ventilation fans on either side of the house for a cool breeze without a penalty on the electric bill.

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