A Comparison of Roofing Materials

Not all roofs are created equal.  Here is a comparison of the different types of roofing materials, so you can find which roof is best for your home.

Asphalt Shingle is the most common roofing material, because it’s the least expensive and requires minimal skill to install. It’s made of a fiberglass medium that’s been impregnated with asphalt and given a surface of sand-like granules. Two basic configurations are sold: the standard single-thickness variety and thicker, laminated products. The standard type costs roughly half as much, but laminated shingles have an appealing textured appearance and last roughly half as long (typically 25 years or more, versus 15 years plus). Prices range from $50-200 per square foot.  (Depending on the type of asphalt shingle with installation, an asphalt shingle roof can cost many times that.)

Shingle roof pattern for textured background

Wood was the main choice for centuries, and it’s still a good option, though in some areas, fire codes forbid its use. Wood roofs are usually made of cedar, redwood, or southern pine; shingles are sawn or split. They have a life expectancy in the 25-year range like asphalt shingles, though are more pricey at $350-450 per square foot.

Natural wood shake roof

Metal.  Aluminum, steel, copper, copper-and-asphalt, and lead are all durable and more costly roofing surfaces. Lead and copper/asphalt varieties are typically installed as shingles, but others are manufactured for seamed roofs consisting of vertical lengths of metal that are joined with solder. These roofs start around $250 per square, though can cost up to $750 per square.

Modern design vertical roof window with black light metal covering

Modern design vertical roof window with black light metal covering

Tile and Cement – The half cylinders of clay tile roofing are common on Spanish Colonial and Mission styles; cement and some metal roofs imitate tile’s wavy effect. All are expensive, very durable, and tend to be heavy.  Clay tile roofs are likely to last 50 plus years, and will generally cost between $800-1000 per square foot.  Concrete tile is expected to last just as long, though is cheaper at $300-500 per square foot.

Peak of a clay tile roof with half round shingles against a blue sky in southern florida

Slate is among the most durable and long lasting of all roofing materials. Not all slate is the same—some comes from quarries in Vermont, some from Pennsylvania and other states—but the best slate shingles will outlast the fasteners that hold them in place. In fact, slate roofs up to 100 years old are often recycled for reinstallation with the expectation the material will last another century. Slate is among the most expensive of all roofing materials – prices typically start at about $800 a square going up to $2000 per square—and are very heavy.

A Slate roof shingles background

Solar shingles are photovoltaic cells, capturing sunlight and transforming it into electricity. Most solar shingles are 12 by 86 inches and can be stapled directly to the roofing cloth. Different models of shingles have different mounting requirements. Some can be applied directly onto roofing felt intermixed with regular asphalt shingles while others may need special installation. Solar-shingled roofs have a deep, dark, purplish-blue color, and often look similar to other roofs. Homeowners may be drawn to solar shingles because of their aesthetic value, allowing the homeowner to utilize solar power without large panels on their roofs.


Note:  Not every roofing material can be used on every roof. A flat roof or one with a low slope may demand a surface different from one with a steeper pitch. Materials like slate and tile are very heavy, so the structure of many homes is inadequate to carry the load. Consider the following options, then talk with your designer and get estimates for the job.

5 Culprits That Waste Energy in Your Home


An old microwave isolated on white

Heating and Cooling

Given how much money Americans spend to heat and cool their homes—in 2013, approximately $2,177 per family—it makes sense to invest in high-efficiency HVAC equipment that features a variable-speed air handler. A variable-speed air handler is essentially a “smart” fan. It runs nearly continuously at lower speeds to allow heated/cooled air to circulate evenly throughout the house. In the summer, the air handler removes humidity more efficiently because the fan runs almost nonstop at lower speeds.

According to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP), furnace fans/air handlers consume 12 percent of the average household’s total electricity. An HVAC system with a variable-speed air handler allows your furnace and a/c to run at more than just one speed (high). Instead, it can run at a variety of speeds, using just enough electricity to power the fan to meet shifting heating/cooling needs.

Set-Top Boxes

Many electronics that appear to be off are, in fact, always on—a deceptive aspect of smart devices. Invest in Energy Star-qualified electronics when you upgrade your cable box, or buy a smart TV to cap the amount of electricity the devices consume in standby mode.


Charging systems for cameras and phones draw phantom energy, too—they’re constantly drawing small amounts of juice unless you unplug them. You can reduce your home’s collective electricity draw by purchasing environmentally friendly charging platforms and power cords that automatically shut down when the device is fully powered. Or just be obsessive about unplugging them.

Gaming Devices

You wouldn’t want to sacrifice your PlayStation or Xbox to secure energy savings. And you don’t have to—just be smarter about turning them off. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that a person could spend up to $100 more per year on electricity by forgetting to turn off consoles (compared with leaving them on 24/7). Set your system to power-saving mode. Newer models now automatically shift into power-saving mode after a certain period of time.

Old Appliances

Standard home appliances continue to use power even when you’re not using them. One example is the microwave, or any appliance that features a digital display. Even if you’re not heating food, the power display uses energy 24/7. Avoid the nuisance of repeatedly unplugging appliances and having to reset the digital clocks by investing in energy-saving appliances that bear the Energy Star seal.

5 Products to Save Money on Your Energy Bill

Energy saving lamp with green seedling on white

1)  To uncover insulation-poor spots in your home that leak heat in the chilly winter months, a spot infrared thermometer will be your new best friend.  Aim this $30 gadget at a bit of wall or ceiling to locate cold patches that could use extra insulation or caulking.  Before these were around, you would have to call a professional to perform an energy audit on your home (which could cost hundreds of dollars), but now you can take matters into your own hands.

2)  Your electricity bill probably jumps in the summer months due to air conditioning. What you may not have considered is how effective ceiling fans are as an alternative to the AC. Unlike regular fans, their raised and central position allows them to circulate air and cool an entire room, and a typical ceiling fan uses about the same amount of power as a 100-watt incandescent light bulb. Even if you already have an AC for unbearably hot days, you can also purchase an Energy Star-rated ceiling fan, for energy savings all year round.

3)   Low-e (low-emissivity) windows are windows where the glass has been treated with a special metallic coating that allows them to be more insulating, therefore, much more energy-efficient, reducing the amount of mechanical heating and cooling that you need. In order to improve the thermal efficiency of the window, a thin layer of coating is applied to the glass’ surface, resulting in glass that cuts back the amount of UV and infrared radiation that is able to shine into your home in the hot summer months, and also allowing less radiant heat to escape through your windows during the winter months. Many low-e windows are Energy Star qualified and can lower your monthly electricity bill up to 15%. Almost every window size and shape today comes in a low-e version and these products can also make your home more comfortable in the winter by keep drafts at bay and keep your furniture from fading due to sunlight since they reflect the long-wave light rays that carry UV.

4)  Large windows are considered a plus for their ability to help light your home, but they do have a downside – they allow heat to escape in the winter, while excess heat builds up in the summer from solar radiation. Excess solar radiation in the summer drastically increases your need for AC, and by default, cranks up the numbers on your monthly electricity bill. Installing Low-e windows is one viable option to prevent excess solar heat gain, but if you’re looking for a less resource-intensive fix, cellular shades are relatively inexpensive and you can install them yourself. Also called honeycomb blinds, cellular shades are made up of two layers of fabric that are joined together at the seams so that when the shade is pulled down, excess solar radiation is shut out, and pockets of air are created to insulate your room. The soft, double-layered fabric keeps too much heat from coming in while still allowing daylight. They also help keep your space warm by preventing heat from escaping through your windows on chilly winter nights.

5)   Energy-saving products don’t have to be high-tech or costly. Case in point: draft guards are as elementary as they are effective. Draft protectors slip right under your doors and (as their name implies) prevent air from passing under them, ensuring that you’re only paying to heat or cool the rooms that you intend to.

6 Tips For Making an Older Home More Energy-Efficient


Many of us who live in central Denver live in a little slice of history – our Victorians, Denver squares, Tudors, Craftsman bungalows, the occasional 1920’s Spanish-style – (sigh…) I adore these homes, mine was built in 1899, but they tend to not be so energy-efficient.

Here are 6 tips to make your older home more energy efficient:

1.    Owner of older home should make sure attic spaces are properly insulated. This can have a tremendous impact on a home’s energy-efficiency, and significantly reduce heating and cooling costs. There are many blow-in spray foam options:  insulating an attic can be a fairly easy project, and many home improvement stores rent the necessary equipment, including insulation blowers.  It is also easy to simply use roll-out insulation.

2.    Replace old windows and doors and choose new, energy efficient options.  Since this is expensive, adding storm shutters and clear plastic coating to windows can help an old home be more efficient.  For homeowners who can’t afford to replace doors and windows, adding window stripping and caulk is a good idea.

3.    Insulate the hot water heater and associated pipes, and keep the thermostat set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If possible, consider a tankless water-heating unit. This is an upfront investment, which saves money in the long-term, because they only heat water when it’s needed.

4.    Enact home heating zones. This means strategizing to heat a home based on usage. For example, heat the downstairs of an old home during the day, and the upstairs at night.

5.    If an old home has old appliances, it may be worthwhile to invest in newer energy saving models. While there are some things owners of older homes can’t control without big remodeling investments, this is a less expensive alternative.

6.    Just because a home is old doesn’t mean it can’t take advantage of new technology, like home automation systems. A home automation system can allow owners of older homes to control the systems located within, even remotely, including the thermostat.

If you are interested in purchasing or selling a historic Denver home, Conscious Real Estate adores working with all types of old houses. Call Allison Parks at 303-908-9873 or email allison@theconsciousgroup.com.

Should I Get a Home Energy Audit?

illustration of green house on half earth with colorful butterflies

If you would like to implement energy-efficient upgrades on your home, but don’t know where to start, a home energy audit is a great place to begin.  Many of these upgrades not only make your home more efficient, but will make your home more comfortable and healthy.  If you find your home is too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, or if you know your bills are too high for the size of your home, you should definitely consider an energy audit.  Also, homes with green features are quickly rising in popularity and sell faster and closer to asking price.

Certified Energy Auditors use various tests and tools to produce a detailed diagnosis and specific solutions to make your home more efficient and healthy.  Auditors will do a visual inspection of your home to find leaks in doors and windows and to check your insulation levels.  Blower door and infrared camera diagnostic tools can measure the air leaks from inside your home.

Energy auditors seek to find improvements that are specific to your home, as every home and region are different.  For instance, a home in a more humid region should take caution before sealing leaks, as this could cause a potential humidity build up.

Colorado residents are eligible for rebates from Xcel energy for energy-effiicient upgrades.  Also, customers using Xcel energy are provided with a list of Certified Energy Auditors.  Please note:  auditors on this list are registered with Xcel, but are not necessarily recommended, so consumers are encouraged to conduct their own research before choosing an auditor.

Groundwork Denver, a nonprofit whose mission is to bring about the sustained improvement of the physical environment and promote health and well-being also have BPI-certified energy specialists to investigate your appliances, furnace and insulation to identify and prioritize energy-saving improvements. They then provide education and resources on how to implement those improvements, connections to other resources (weatherization funding, home rehabilitation programs, rebates and local contractors), and a summary report of findings and recommendations.

Just by identifying simple changes, audits can save you $5 to $300 a year on energy bills.  This energy audit will cost $150, and for another $50, they can implement minor upgrades during the audit.