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Energy-saving white roofs have an aesthetic dark side

SUNDAY, JUNE 14, 2009

WASHINGTON – To get all the benefits of a white roof, plain old white paint will not do. Instead, the roofs should be covered in a reflective coating, or a specially made membrane.

The result: White roofs are not always more expensive than dark ones. But they can be a lot harder on the eyes.

“It’s like being in Antarctica or the North Pole or something. I mean, you need to wear sunglasses,” said Albert Nunez, vice president of Capital Sun Group, an installer based in Cabin John, Md. When he pitches it to customers who have a slope-roofed house in the suburbs, he said, “The wife looks at it and says, ‘No, I couldn’t do that to Sally next door,’ ” Nunez said.

In Takoma Park, Md., artist Jon Lickerman did it anyway.

He paid about $1,100 in 2004 to have Nunez’s company paint most of his sloped roof white. Now, Lickerman said, his electric bills are lower, and his neighbors have never complained.

At least not to him.

“I’m looking at it right now. You know, it’s jarring. But I wouldn’t say it’s glaring,” said Jackie Braitman, a neighbor who works as a designer and contractor for remodeling. Her second-floor office faces the white expanse, which she said is not blinding – but is unattractive enough that she would not want a neighborhood full of them.

“As a designer, I’m annoyed by it,” she said. “As a neighbor, I’m not.”


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