Learn More about Cool Roofs

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Take a look through these virtual row homes to learn more about the products that will be installed on the winning 1200 Block of Wolf Street!

RetroFIT Philly Frequently Asked Questions

Contest Questions
Cool Roof Questions
Insulation Questions
1200 Block of Wolf Street Residents Questions

Contest Questions

Please Note: This Contest is Now Closed.  Congratulations to the winning block of 1200 Wolf Street!

Q: What do I win?

A: Winners will receive:

  • Repair service to prepare the existing roof surface, as required.
  • A spray-applied white, elastomeric roof coating made with the Dow Building & Construction business group's acrylic technology.
  • An energy audit – from basement to rooftop – assessing where insulation and air sealing products could help improve the home's energy efficiency.
  • Installation of Dow's sealants and insulation in the participating contestants' residential homes.

Q: How do I enter?
A: It's easy! Download an entry form (entry forms will be available here on February 17, 2010, answer a few questions, get all your neighbors to sign, and mail it, or drop it off, to the Energy Coordinating Agency at 1924 Arch Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19103. 

Q: Do I have to own my house? Can renters still enter the contest?
A: You may still enter the contest if you rent your home, but you must have your landlord sign a landlord permission form.  

Q: What about homeowners and renters on the block who don't enter?
A: Any residents on the winning block who have not signed the entry form will not receive energy-efficiency improvements.

Q: What's the deadline?
A: All entry forms must be received by April 5th.

Q: How can I get my neighbors involved?
A: Get in touch with your block coordinator for this contest to see how you can help them spread the word.  If your block doesn't have a coordinator for this contest, become one.  Just download the Block Coordinator kit to learn more and then fill out the entry form, encourage your neighbors to sign, and mail it or drop it off to the Energy Coordinating Agency at 1924 Arch Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19103. 

Q: Will I have to be home when the roof and insulation are installed, if I win?
A: Not necessarily.  Because row home rooftops are contiguous, we only need to gain access from one neighbor's home. However, we will need to insulate and air seal from within the house, so we will need access to your home in order to make these energy-efficiency improvements.

Q: Who is sponsoring the contest?
A: The contest is jointly promoted by the City of Philadelphia, the Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA) of Philadelphia and the Dow Building & Construction business group.  Dow will provide the insulation and air sealing products. The ECA will provide the installation services and cool roof coating, which is based on technology from the Dow Building & Construction business group. The City of Philadelphia is supporting the effort with coordination and venue space.

Q: I have more questions, who can help me?
A: Please contact Taylor Goodman with the Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia for more information at 215-609-1048 or TaylorG@ecasavesenergy.org.

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Cool Roof Questions

Q: What are cool roofs?
A: Cool roofs reflect the sun's heat instead of transferring it to the home below. They are about 50-80 degrees cooler than typical asphalt roofs and come in a variety of colors.  White is the "coolest" because it most efficiently reflects the sun's rays.

Q: Why can't I just paint my roof white?
A: Painting your roof white will not provide the same protection that an elastomeric roof coating system will. Paint can wash off over time and will not protect against other weather and moisture intruders. With occasional washing and recoating approximately every 10 years, a cool roof system can last the lifetime of your home.

Q: Why are cool roofs good for row homes?
A: Row homes have no- or low-slope roofs, so they are more prone to leaks, sagging, and ponding than pitched roofs. This increases repair and replacement costs for the homeowner and it can affect resale value. With minimal maintenance, elastomeric roof coatings help prevent these common problems, while reducing cooling costs month after month.

Q: Why should I care about my neighbor's roof?
A: The black asphalt roof on a row home absorbs 95% of the sun's heat – increasing the indoor temperature of your home and theirs.  This can increase overall energy bills for the year.

Cool roofs,insulation and air sealing help create more comfortable indoor air temperatures year round, while reducing annual energy bills.. 

Cool roofs also help preserve the integrity of the block. When one home falls into disrepair due to roof failure, it can not only turn into an eyesore for the neighborhood but may eventually need to be removed.  Because walls – and roofs – are shared between row homes, neighbors on either side of a teardown no longer benefit from radiant heat – and their heating bills can double!

Q: How long will it take to install a cool roof?
A: Typically, in less than a week, a whole block's head-to-toe cool roof upgrade can be completed.  The cool roof will be installed across the contiguous row homes in one application.  Actual installation time will depend on weather conditions.

Q: Can I redeem tax credits if I win?
A: If you spend your own money to go beyond the services that will be provided for free, for example, if you decide to replace your furnace with a high efficiency 95%+ condensing furnace, you may qualify for the IRS tax credit.  Consult your tax advisor or the IRS websitefor more information.  Contest winnings are not be eligible because the services through the contest will be provided free of charge.

Q: I have more questions, who can help me?
A: Please contact Taylor Goodman with the Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia for more information at 215-609-1048 or TaylorG@ecasavesenergy.org

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Insulation and Air Sealing Questions

Q: What's an insulating air sealant?
A: An insulating foam sealant helps keep heat outside during the summer and inside during the winter. It expands on contact to help bridge the gaps and cracks that often occur between walls and floors, and around windows and doors.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy,air infiltration can account for as much as 40% of heat loss in homes. You can reduce your home's heating and cooling costs by as much as 30% through proper insulation and air sealing.

Q: If I win, do I just get the insulation products, or will they be installed too?
A: The Dow Building & Construction business group will provide insulation and air sealing products to all winning participants as appropriate for each home. Installation services are provided by the Energy Coordinating Agency, and will be provided according to industry requirements.

Q: By how much will the insulation and air sealants reduce my energy bills?
A: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, proper insulation and air sealing can reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 30%.  Actual savings may vary.

Q: How long will the insulating and air sealing take to install?
A: In the average home, installation of insulation and air sealing should take no more than 3 to 5 hours.

Q: Is this coating system a new roof?
A: No, it a reflective coating system designed to provide UV and additional protection to the existing roof. It will stabilize the condition of existing roof, but it is not a new roofing system. A new roof system would incorporate reinforcement to create a composite membrane. This is typically done with reinforcing polyester fabric.

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1200 Block of Wolf Street Residents

Q: How long will the coating on my roof last?
A: Acrymax has proven to retain its physical properties including flexibility for over 25 years in actual exposures. Nonetheless, Acrymax coating systems age via a slow erosion process that eventually wears away the coating system. Periodic recoats can extend the life of the system. We suggest that an Acrymax elastomeric coating system be recoated with coats of Acrymax coating after 5-10 years.

Q: What exactly is an elastomeric coating?
A: An elastomeric coating is a coating with rubber like properties that will return to its original dimensions after being stretched or deformed. As the substrate to which it is applied expands and contracts, Acrymax elastomeric roof coatings will do the same. Premium state-of-the-art acrylic resins, top grade pigments, and special proprietary additives are compounded to produce Acrymax high performance elastomeric acrylic coatings. Acrymax coatings are engineered using the very latest in coatings technology to provide maximum performance. They provide a durable, weatherproof, high performance membrane that is UV stable and highly resistant to ozone, acid rain, and other air borne contaminants.

Q: What is Acrymax?
A: Acrymax is the tradename for a series of coatings and systems that are based on state of the art acrylic technology. Acrymax coatings are multi-purpose waterborne coatings that are safe for the applicator and represent an environmentally responsible alternative to solvent based coatings.

Q: What’s the best way to maintain the coating on my roof?
A: The best way to maintain an Acrymax elastomeric coating system is with periodic recoats to extend the life and integrity of the coating system.

Q: Can the coating withstand hail and other adverse weather conditions?
A: The roof coatings applied in the RetroFIT Philly project are elastomeric in nature. An elastomeric coating is a coating with rubber like properties that will return to its original dimensions after being stretched or deformed. As the roofing substrate to which it is applied expands and contracts the Acrymax coating will do the same. Acrymax provides a durable coating system that is UV stable and highly resistant to ozone, acid rain, and other air borne contaminants. It also has the flexibility to deal with other adverse weather conditions such as extreme temperatures and thermal shock.

Q: When will I need to replace it?
A: We suggest that an Acrymax elastomeric coating system be recoated with another coat of Acrymax coating after 5-10 years based on the particular needs of the project. Annual inspections of the coating system are recommended prior to and following the winter seasons to determine the specific time frame for recoat applications.

Q: Can I inspect the roof or should I have a professional inspect it? What should we be looking for?
A: If you are comfortable with your ability to spot potential problems, then you can inspect your own roof. However, professional applicators should be employed when steep slopes, heights, or other particulars of the job require it. Things you should be looking for that would indicate recoat/repair is necessary:

Typical Weathering (simple recoat)

  • Wear patterns or thin coating
    • Coatings are typically applied in different color for different coats. If you were to see a gray or off-white coating showing through the bright white coating, then it would be time to recoat.
  • Dirt pickup
    • Acrylic coatings tend to pick up dirt over time and lose their bright white appearance. This is beyond just surface dirt on the roof that can be cleaned off.

  • More serious problems (repair prior to recoat)
    • Cracks, bubbles, or peeling of the coating
    • Leaks

Q: How much will a replacement cost?
A: Cost will depend on the present condition of the roof to be coated and how often you intend on recoating it. On roofs that are still in relatively good condition one to two coats applied at 100-150 square feet per gallon per coat will provide 5-10 or more years of protection. On cost basis, this will be in the range of $0.50-0.75 per sq ft in materials cost.

Q: Do I need to clean the coating regularly?
A: Cleaning of the surface is necessary prior to application of additional coating, which the ECA has done prior to installation of the coatings on the 1200 Block of Wolf Street. Periodic cleaning between maintenance coatings is not specifically necessary, but it will keep the surface whiter and more reflective.

Q: How should I clean the coating?
A: Cleaning the coating involves a simple power washing procedure. If it is severely dirty a cleaning agent available at your local hardware store such as Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) can be used.

Q: Who should I call when I need to replace the coating?
A: Acrymax Technologies, Inc. is the manufacturer of the elastomeric coatings for the RetroFIT Philly project that was orchestrated by the Philadelphia Energy Coordinating Agency, The Dow Chemical Company, and the City of Philadelphia. Either Acrymax Technologies, Inc. or the ECA are the two organizations that are appropriate contact points for maintenance coatings.

ECA contact: Kate Ryan; KathrynR@ecasavesenergy.org or Ph: (215) 609-1052

Acrymax contact: Eric Bennung; eric@acrymax.com or Ph: 610.566.7470

Q: Can I replace the coating myself?
A: Acrymax coatings are very easy to apply. They are waterborne materials that are easily cleaned up with water. They can easily be applied by brush, roller, or spray. However, one must remember to exercise extreme caution when performing roofing work. All proper safety procedures including fall protection must be observed. Do-it-yourselfers have applied Acrymax coatings with great success; however, professional applicators should be employed when steep slopes, heights, or other particulars of the job require it. Building owners should verify before contracting with anyone that all appropriate and required insurance including workmen’s compensation is in force and that any necessary permits have been obtained.

Q: How many layers of the coating need to be applied at a time?
A: To perform effectively a high performance coating system should be applied in a manner that will provide a continuous film of relatively equal thickness. The most effective way to do this is with multiple coats. In fact 3 or 4 coats are often used for maximum protection.

Q: How long does it take to dry?
A: Acrymax coatings will dry in 1-8 hours depending on a number of factors including temperature, humidity, direct sunlight, thickness of coating, and air movement.

Q: Are there any health hazards associated with the coating? Any environmental hazards? A: Acrymax elastomeric coatings are very environmentally friendly. The coatings are waterborne coatings that are formulated for low VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions. The waterborne nature of these coatings allows for easy application and clean-up and also spares the applicators and building owners of hazardous material and fumes.

Q: Aren't oil or solvent-based coatings better than waterborne coatings?
A: This is not the case anymore. The drive to clean up our air and the push to provide safer paints and coatings has resulted in a massive Research & Development effort in the past decade. Resins and additives have been developed that make possible the production of superior quality waterborne coatings that can surpass the performance of oil based materials.

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