Reflective roof membranes have been shown to lower air conditioning costs by reducing the influx of thermal energy through a roof assembly and into the building. However, there have been studies suggesting that reflective roofs in cold climates give rise to increased winter heating costs, due to the lack of absorption of solar thermal energy. Such studies could be used to justify continued use of dark, absorptive roof membranes even in areas that are striving to reduce urban heat island effects and/or lower contributions to global warming. In a prior modeling study, by this author and others, based on gas heat, it was found that reflective roofing provides net annual energy savings so long as air conditioning was used. Studies by others have suggested that when electric heat is used, the winter heating cost savings associated with non-reflective roofing outweigh summer air conditioning cost savings with reflective roofing. However, these studies did not take into account electric demand charges. Therefore, this present study modeled the energy efficiency of commercial buildings in order to compare the effect of gas versus electric heat with varying levels of demand charge included, on the net energy efficiency. Four different levels of demand charges were compared, along with three levels of solar reflectance for thirteen cities located throughout the US. In every studied case, when gas heat was assumed, net annual energy savings were predicted for reflective membranes. For electric heat, net energy savings were achieved in most cases even when demand charges were zero. In three northernmost cities, this was the case provided that demand charges exceeded a relatively small minimum. This finding suggests that reflective roofing provides for net energy efficiency improvements in most US cities and all cities when demand charges exceed USD 6.25 Therefore, efforts by cities to encourage reflective roofing as part of urban heat island effect mitigation programs should not be reduced.
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