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updated: 3/3/2011 5:39 PM

Metal roofing systems made to mimic look of cedar shingles

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Q. My old asphalt shingle roof is leaking and it has ugly dark streaks. I am thinking about installing a metal roof this time. Will a metal roof be hotter and are there tax credits for it?

A. Installing most, but not all, metal roofing will actually keep your house much cooler, not hotter. By keeping your house cooler, less electricity is needed for air-conditioning and your summertime utility bills should be lower. This is why a new metal roof qualifies for a 30 percent (of just the material cost, not labor) Federal energy tax credit for 2010.

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To qualify for this energy credit on your income tax, the metal roof must meet Energy Star standards. This means the TSR (total solar reflectivity) must be greater than 25 percent when new and 15 percent after three years aging. Painted aluminum roofing is particularly energy efficient because of the heat-blocking low-emissivity natural aluminum underside surface.

This spring, I installed a tan Classic Metal Roofing Systems aluminum roof on my house. It is made from 98 percent recycled aluminum and the one-by-two-foot panels are formed to simulate a cedar-shake roof. The temperature in my second-floor bedrooms is at least 10 degrees cooler than before.

Each aluminum panel interlocks with the adjacent ones on all four sides. The top of each panel is held down by two stainless steel nails, one through a hole in the upper corner and one in an aluminum clip attached midway across the top. It is designed to withstand up to a 120-mph wind.

Although it is more expensive to install than an asphalt shingle roof, my new metal roof will never have to be replaced again. From a lifetime cost comparison, it is cheaper than installing an asphalt roof every 20 to 30 years. I also get a three-percent reduction on my homeowner's insurance because of reduced fire hazard.

Most metal roofs reflect more of the sun's heat than do asphalt shingles, particularly black shingles. My tan Classic metal roof has a TRS of 43 percent whereas my old dark asphalt shingle roof had a TRS of only 5 percent. This keeps the roofing materials cooler so less heat radiates down through the bedroom ceilings.

Since the aluminum material is thin with the cedar shake contour formed into it, an air gap is created beneath the panels. This gap allows cooling outdoor air to naturally circulate between the panels and the underlayment. I sealed off my gable vents so outdoor air is now drawn in the soffit vents and exhausted out a new ridge vent.

One minor drawback to the aluminum shake panels is they can dent if you indiscriminately walk on the high points of the contour. If you step on the lower nailed area of the panels, it is fine. Contoured insulating foam pieces were placed under areas of panels to provide walkways on the roof to clean my skylight and service the ridge vents.

The following companies offer metal roofs: Classic Metal Roofing, (800) 543-8938, www.classicmetalroofingsystems.com; Conklin Metal, (800) 282-7386, www.metalshingle.com; Englert, (800) 364-5378, www.englertinc.com; Follansbee Steel, (800) 624-6906, www.follansbeeroofing.com; and Met-Tile, (909) 947-0311, www.met-tile.com.

Q. We tend to have a lot of lightning storms during the summer. I am considering installing a lightning rod on my house for safety. Will this increase the chances that lightning strikes the rod?

A. A lightning rod should not increase the chances lightning will hit it and be safely grounded instead of harming your house. Actually, the rod leaks off the charge from the ground and your house so there is less chance it will be struck by lightning.

The lightning rod should be pointed on top because this dissipates the charge more effectively. The worst thing to do is to put a pretty ball on it as you often see people do.

• Write to James Dulley at 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit dulley.com.

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