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Cooling Down Heat Islands in Your Neighborhood Cuts Energy Costs

2010 April 21

This coming weekend, my fellow students and I will be on the National Mall in Washington, DC to exhibit our award-winning P3 (People, Prosperity, and the Planet) project—developing white, reflective roof coatings.

Our research aims to develop new materials for building surfaces that have low solar gain—surfaces that do not absorb much of the sun’s energy. The ultimate goal is to understand how to develop common building materials that exhibit low solar gain characteristics.

The roof coatings we’ve been developing are designed to reflect visible and infrared radiation, cutting down on heat gain, which in turn would cut energy costs and mitigate the “heat island effect” that makes urban areas significantly hotter than nearby rural areas.

Heat islands pose an increasing risk to the environment and contribute to higher energy costs in urban centers, especially during peak demand times.

It is especially important that city planners and municipalities understand how the balance between built surfaces and vegetation can achieve a lower heat “footprint.” Then, they can use zoning laws, which have the power to affect building practices across the country, to prevent the heat island effect. I’d like to see zoning laws updated to account for energy and environmental factors—such as heat islands—rather than for form and appearance. My team’s research could help inform such innovative zoning laws.

Our work with roof coatings and the Drexel Smart House aims to provide information and potential strategies for mitigating heat islands through alternative roofing systems such as cool roofs and green roofs,  (which have the added benefit of reducing storm water runoff, too).

About the author: Eric Eisele is a graduate student studying Materials Science and Engineering at Drexel University, and is a member of a P3 Phase II research team developing cool roof coatings. Eric and his team will be at the National Sustainable Design Expo and P3 Award Competition in Washington, DC on April 24-25.

Editors Note: Come see this and other innovative designs for a sustainable future at the 6th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall, April 24 -25.
For more information and directions

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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7 Responses leave one →
  1. allsolsutionsatonce permalink
    April 21, 2010

    That’s great for summer. Got a solution for winter – when one would want the house to soak up heat?

  2. Showmethemoney permalink
    April 21, 2010

    I’d like to see test results and an explanation of the science behind the absorbance/reflectance of visible & ultraviolet light for the various materials with varied colored surfaces for both summer and winter .

    I’d also like to see the impact of adding paste-on solar photovoltaic panels to the cool roof. Does the added heat gain to the building from the photovoltaic panels offset the electricity produced?

  3. armansyahardanis permalink
    April 21, 2010

    I am not be patient like the Drexel Smart House (DSH) to build here, where sunlight are overflow in our urban areas. For the future, DSH can contribute to develop “outer space home”.

  4. ED Gilson permalink
    April 21, 2010

    I have purchased for resale as well act as a manufacturers representative for 15 years. Our factory is located in Phoenix AZ, Company makes reflective coatings for all types of roof and wall surfaces. Florida Solar Energy Center has conducted tests on white reflective coatings some years ago with great result. On building with no insulation test results displayed 38% savings and on building with other insulation values with an average saving so 27%. Our white reflective coating has a tested reflectance of 86% and an emissivity of 91%

  5. grosir baju wanita permalink
    April 22, 2010

    helloo.. I’d like to see test results and an explanation of the science behind the absorbance/reflectance of visible & ultraviolet light for the various materials with varied colored surfaces for both summer and winter . thank you..

  6. Ambrosia Brown permalink
    April 22, 2010

    I know this would be more beneficial in warmer climates…. so would this still save energy if you live in the Northern USA?

  7. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    April 25, 2010

    Anything that can be done to reduce heat buildup in urban areas in summer and lower heating bills in winter would be great things, especially now. In some cities around the country a huge number of homeowners are upside down on their mortgages while jobs in the construction industry relating to buildingnew homes have disappeared at the same time. And power and gas utility shutoffs are at record levels. Programs like your’s will certainly help reduce these problems and be a lot more environmentally friendly, too. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

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