Cool roofs are a popular commercial roofing solution that deliver two major benefits in contrast to regular roofs. First, they contribute less heat load to building interiors, lowering the cost required to cool the building and second, they reduce overall wear and tear due to decreased expansion and contraction, improving the lifespan of the roof.

While cool roofs have gained popularity, the attention given to their up-keep hasn’t followed suit. A regular cleaning and inspection schedule for your cool roof are critical components in maintaining the energy-saving benefits it provides, as well as the long-term structural health of the roof investment.

As cool roof membranes age, they become less reflective, less cool, and less effective, mostly due to their exposure to the environment. Atmospheric pollution, acid rain, temperature cycling caused by sunlight and sudden thunderstorms, condensation, wind, and hail all contribute to the loss of reflectance of a roof’s exterior surface. Many cool roof systems can lose between 30%- 50% of their reflectance within the first three years of exposure; especially in hot climates like Texas.

Stay Lean and Clean

In order to maintain optimum performance and keep your energy costs lean, how often should you be cleaning your cool roof?

The answer is that different businesses have different cleaning needs. In addition to everyday weather, roofs are exposed to chemical contamination, including grease and oil. Businesses such as restaurants, food processing plants, refineries, airports, and machine and manufacturing facilities are examples where these additional contaminants have the greatest impact. These types of roofs will likely require a more frequent cleaning.

For example, if you are a restaurant owner, and you have grease regularly emitting from roof-top vents, your roof will likely require a monthly cleaning. However, if you’re an apartment complex owner or manager you may require cleaning once or twice a year. A good contractor will recommend adding grease containment devices to rooftop vents, or other relevant preventative features specific to your business, in addition to a regular cleaning and maintenance program.

Most manufacturers will provide a product chemical resistance guide in their product specifications designed to educate you about what amount of exposure the roof can handle. This is handy in helping to determine a suitable cleaning schedule for your cool roof. Underscoring the need for regularly scheduled cleaning is the fact that many manufacturer guarantees do not cover damage due to chemical contamination. As a property manager or business owner don’t risk losing your warranty to something that’s within your control.

As a building owner, maintaining the performance of your cool roof via regular cleaning can help make your space more attractive to prospective tenants through reduced energy expense. Additionally, a well-maintained facility helps create favorable underwriting conditions, potentially lowering your building insurance premiums.

Spot Trouble Before Trouble Spots Your Wallet

The benefits of cleaning your cool roof transcend energy savings. There’s an old saying, “spot trouble before trouble spots you.” Like any roof, a soiled, grimy cool roof can hide small problems that have the potential of becoming larger, more costly issues in the near future. Through regular cleaning, you’re better able to identify potential problem areas such as water ponding, failing seams, rips, and leaks around penetrations. Identifying and tackling small problems before they become larger issues is the best way to avoid unexpected expenditures and stop ‘trouble’ from spotting your wallet.

Vital to the health of cool roofing systems are regular inspections of the membrane. Manufacturers encourage the scheduling of roof inspections annually to clear debris and check seams, flashing joints, and vent boots for signs of damage. If protective coatings are used, building managers also should have inspectors check and repair those as needed.

Here are some helpful tips managers and business owners can employ to keep their cool roof in optimal shape:

  • Maintain a roof maintenance file, keeping a log of repairs or service performed on the roof, as well as other work not directly related to the roof, such chiller maintenance, that requires rooftop traffic. The log should include inspection dates, with notes of any findings.

  • Inspect roofs at least twice year.

  • Inspect roofs after severe weather.

  • Promptly remove debris from roof.

  • Minimize rooftop wear and tear via installation of walkway pads.

No matter how you slice it, proactive cleaning and maintenance of any roof investment is critical to realizing it’s performance benefits and dramatically reducing your risk of large, out-of-pocket expenditures you never saw coming.