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White reflects light and heat, right? Well, yes, but it is not that simple– not yet anyway. Can a white roof be attractive? They look pretty good down here in the Pinellas/Manatee county area of Florida’s subtropics– maybe not so suitable for Wisconsin, though. But it needn’t be white to be reflective… really!

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s off-beat idea of painting roofs white all across America is an initiative he has been promoting eagerly, the Voice of reported Sept. 21. Now he wants white roofs all over the world. That won’t be easy in countries with thatched roofs. Chu is President Obama’s Nobel prize-winning green guru. So, what’s with the white fetish?

A coat of white paint on a roof can lower both carbon emissions and cost, Chu has contended. The concept he espouses is this: as sunlight beams down on us, roughly half the energy shines as light. The light heats our rooftops. If the roof is white, the sunlight will reflect off the roof instead of heating the roof’s surface. By reducing the need for energy that cools our homes and offices, tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could be saved, slowing global warming.

… Chu doesn’t mention is the fact that a high-tech roofing product—now several years after being developed–has revolutionized the building industry, according to a report from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It consists of reflective pigments that make a dark roof reflect almost like a white roof. “To homeowners, dark roofs simply look better than…white roofs,” and the “aesthetically pleasing dark roof can be made to reflect like a white roof in the near infrared spectrum,” assured the 2004 report.

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