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How Green Are Asphalt Shingles?

When it comes to green roofing, asphalt shingles aren’t usually the first product that comes to mind. They are, however, a good option for the budget-minded homeowner. Is it possible to have the best of both worlds though? It can be, so let me explain.

Yes, asphalt shingles are a petroleum product and it takes quite a bit of energy to create them, giving them a low “green rating.” However, not everyone can afford to have the latest and greatest in green roofing (such as metal roofing), so here are a few things to remember if you want a green roof and green in your pocket.

Everyone loves sunlight, and it is also necessary for life here on earth. Shingles don’t appreciate the sun as much, however. Try to get a lighter colored shingle with a protective UV coating, as it will reflect more sunlight and save on air conditioning costs in the summer. The UV protection will help prevent cracking and color fade. Most asphalt shingles manufacturers also offer “cool roof” colored shingles, which qualify for Cool Roof Tax Credit of up-to $1500.

Longer lasting shingles equate to less waste over time and more bang for the buck for you as a consumer. Some shingles only last 15 years, sometimes not that long, which means the homeowner has to shell out for a new roof. Look for thicker shingles, which are rated at 40-50 years – these will actually last you about 30-35 years, if your roof is well ventilated and installed in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications. Keep in mind that getting a new roof means getting rid of the old one, and where does it go? Most likely a landfill, which brings up the next point.

One last thing to remember if you are having an old roof replaced, try to recycle the old shingles so they DON’T end up in a landfill. When you buy the new batch, try to find recycled content asphalt roofing that is made from recycled paper or use reclaimed slag substances.

So, are asphalt shingles green? The truth is that most people choosing asphalt shingles as a material for their roof, will not really care. The bottom line, even the “cool roof” shingles will most likely end up in the landfill. Also, because the “cool roof” shingles are considerably more expensive, very few people will opt to use them, as even the $1500 tax credit will not offset the extra cost. Therefore, most people will go for regular (not-cool) shingles, which by no means can be called green. Additionally, very few roofing contractors will go through the hassles of recycling the old shingles, and in most areas recycling is not even available.

After considering all of the above, asphalt shingles can be considered “green” only in the rare cases when the homeowner does actually buy a long-lasting 50 years shingle, makes sure the old ones are recycled, and also recycles the new cool shingles when it’s time to replace them. This is rather unrealistic in my opinion, and is also pretty expensive, so the metal roofing materials option becomes much more viable and price-competitive. Also a metal roof will by far outlast even the 50 year shingles, so I honestly cannot really call asphalt shingles a “green roofing choice”.

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