When asked for their home feature wish lists, buyers consistently put “energy efficiency” near the top. In meeting that demand, such things as high-performance appliances, windows and HVAC equipment are not only effective, but also easy for builders to showcase and for buyers to understand. But there’s another, less-visible tool builders can employ to help their buyers save energy.

Roof sheathing panels with a radiant barrier are a time-tested tool for reducing cooling costs. They’re also cost-effective and easy to install. This article offers tips to help builders explain the benefits of radiant barriers and ensure successful projects.

How Radiant Barriers Work
A radiant barrier is a substrate, such as an OSB roof sheathing panel, with aluminum or another highly reflective material applied to one or both sides.

Radiant barriers keep a home cooler during the summer by preventing the sun’s heat from traveling into the home’s interior. The sun warms the roof. Without a radiant barrier, that heat enters the attic, is absorbed by the insulation and flows into the living spaces below. A radiant barrier prevents this by reflecting heat away from the insulation, keeping it, and the rooms below, cooler.

Bobby Byrd, director of OSB sales and marketing for RoyOMartin, said a common misconception is that radiant barriers can replace conventional insulation. Instead, the materials work differently to reduce heat transfer – radiant barriers reflect heat while insulation traps air. They, therefore, complement one another.

Radiant barriers work best in hot and humid climates, particularly the area Byrd calls the “Smile Zone.” It stretches from northern Florida through Miami, along the Gulf Coast, through the Southwest and into Southern California.

Variety of Benefits
OSB radiant barrier roof sheathing, such as Eclipse OSB Radiant Barrier panels from RoyOMartin, reduce attic temperatures by as much as 30 degrees. That means air-conditioning units run less and operate more efficiently, enhancing occupant comfort, reducing energy consumption, lowering utility bills, lessening the home’s carbon footprint and potentially lengthening the life of the air-conditioning unit.

OSB radiant barrier panels also typically deliver a better fire rating than standard OSB panels – Class B vs. Class C.

Helpful Tips
Byrd offered tips to help builders ensure successful projects.

Keep it at the “50,000-foot elevation” when explaining the technology to home buyers. “It’s easy to get lost in the technical ‘weeds,’” he said. “Buyers may not understand emissivity and reflectivity values, but they know that everything either absorbs or reflects heat. A radiant barrier reflects heat, rather than absorbing it, so the house stays cooler.”

Tap industry information sources. The Reflective Insulation Manufacturers Association International (RIMA) maintains a list of reflective products with verified performance, giving builders confidence in their product selections. Both RIMA and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are good sources for installation procedures, explanations of how radiant barriers work, and details on their benefits.

Use extended length panels – 10 feet long vs. 8 feet long – to speed up installation and reduce waste.

While perhaps not as front-and-center as windows or kitchen appliances, radiant barrier roof sheathing panels are a powerful tool to help home buyers’ check the “energy efficient” box on their wish lists.