IR Inspections of Cool Roofs
Tip written by: Infraspection Institute
Energy and environmental concerns have caused many facility owners to look to their roofing systems for ways to conserve energy. Modern roofing systems known as ‘cool roofs’ can provide savings; however, they can present challenges for thermographers who inspect them.
Over 90% of roofs in the United States are dark colored. On sunny days, temperatures of these roofs can reach 150º to 190º F causing decreased indoor comfort, increased cooling costs, and premature aging of roofing materials. Advances in roofing technology have led to the development of ‘cool roof’ systems that help to solve these challenges.
Cool roof materials have a high solar reflectance or albedo. Compared to conventional roof materials, cool roofs operate at lower temperatures since they absorb less energy from the Sun. Cool roofs also have a high thermal emittance enabling them to radiate well and shed heat quickly after sunset.
Cool roof membranes are usually made of single-ply rubber or plastic materials such as EPDM, PVC, and TPO. These materials are usually white in color and have a smooth surface. Cool roof coatings or paints are an alternative for existing low-slope roofs.
Although cool roof materials are rated to have a high emittance, thermographers should remember that this value is an average emittance value calculated in a laboratory under ideal conditions and at a perpendicular viewing angle. During an infrared inspection, smooth-surfaced roofs appear quite reflective to a thermal imager due to the low viewing angle that is usually associated with inspections performed on foot from the roof surface. This condition is most severe on cloudless nights when atmospheric humidity levels are low.
Due to the low emittance associated with smooth roof surfaces, thermographers can easily miss the small temperature differentials associated with latent moisture. In order to mitigate errors associated with low emittance, thermographers should choose a short wave (2 to 5.6 microns) thermal imager whenever inspecting a smooth-surfaced roof regardless of membrane color or material.
Infrared inspection of flat roofs and proper equipment selection are two of the many topics covered in the Infraspection Institute Level I Certified Infrared Thermographer® training course. For more information or to register for a course, visit Infraspection Institute or call us at 609-239-4788.
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