Insulated tiles transform roofs into energy savers

| by Steve Arel
Insulated tiles transform roofs into energy savers

(Above) Photo courtesy of 3 IN 1 ROOF. (Below) Tiles produced at 3 IN 1 ROOF, Dayton, Ohio, plant. Photo by Bob Fincher

The roof usually isn't considered part of the thermal envelope of a home. Sure, it protects the structure from the elements. But it hasn't broadly been a part of managing the energy performance.

A new insulated roofing solution — with built-in solar modules — is beginning to change that perception.

Typically, an exterior thermal envelope spans the home's insulation system from foundation to wall to attic. New 3 IN 1 ROOF tiles make the roof a part of the exterior thermal envelope by combining 200 mph-plus wind protection, foam insulation (that alone reduces energy use) and patented renewable solar modules for technology agnostic upgrades in case one’s home requires future power increases.

In fact, Florida Solar Energy Center research found that their use can cut a home’s energy needs by 38 percent. 

Under development for nearly a decade, the product, its inventor claims, does what no single system on the roofing market can:

  • Provide protection and resilience from extreme weather.
  • Eliminates solar gains into the attic area.
  • Harness the sun’s energy at industry high solar-cell efficiencies.

“By combining solar modules, a dense foam embodiment and an advanced exterior that deflects potentially damaging ultraviolet rays, 3 IN 1 ROOF tiles will forever change the role a roof plays in home design efficiency,” said Carmen R. Bellavia, president and CEO of 3 IN 1 ROOF. 

Here’s how:

Protection and resilience

The 3 IN 1 tiles are molded from durable foam. Their weather-facing exteriors are coated with a UV-resistant geopolymer shell.

On the backside of the foam tiles are pocket indentions shaped similarly to domed asterisks. Three 8-gram daubs of an off-the-shelf foam adhesive are put onto those areas, creating a weld-like molecular seal between the two components. The tiles are then flipped into place on the roof for rapid installation, and the adhesive bond cures in about three hours.

Attached to the roof, the tiles, which carry a 50-year warranty, have been independently tested to attain a Class-A fire rating, and a 200 mph-plus wind rating (The highest rating ever recorded, Bellavia said.). Furthermore, in-house testing has yielded a 300-mph wind rating when adhered with a Miami-Dade adhesive foam found exclusively in south and central Florida.

In the event that a tile needs to be replaced, it simply can be removed and replaced without a set or section having to be pulled from the sheeting.

Insulation

The 2-inch-thick R-14 foam creates a top-side insulating barrier that’s standard construction practice throughout the remainder of the structure’s envelope. This keeps the attic cool all day long so air conditioning units run more efficiently during the summer. That, in turn, lessens the burden on HVAC systems trying to combat the exterior temperature fluctuations.

Eliminating solar gains into the attic area allows new home builders to more cost-effectively seal and condition the attic area during all seasons, creating a high-performance attic. This kind of attic is now being mandated in five states, with another 15 states to follow by 2021.

Eliminating solar gains also prevents under-tile condensation and eventual mildew and dry rot, extending the substrate’s lifespan.

Solar

The solar panels are renewable energy modules encapsulated within a glass panel and set and sealed into the tile platform. Because the platform is comprised of a foam insulator, the module can be set directly within the tile, fastened and sealed after the roof is installed. 

Bellavia designed the tiles with fellow roofers and contractors in mind. Understanding how to install solar becomes easier and safer, as 3 IN 1 ROOF uses color-coded plugs.

The fact that the 3 IN 1 ROOF system reduces the structure’s energy needs just from installing the insulating tiles alone, the structure will require less solar cells than any other solar solution on the market. The modules are designed to removed and replaced as newer technology becomes available.

The 3 IN 1 ROOF systems have an entirely flush surface, allowing solar modules to be installed right up to the roof’s edges, peaks and valleys.  This is not permitted with solar panels because firefighters and emergency persons, by code, must be given a 3-foot ease way so they can navigate around the roof top.

Aesthetic

The 3 IN 1 ROOF tiles, which come in a variety of colors and textures, can be used for both residential and commercial applications, as long as the structure’s roof has a 12/12 pitch or less. They also are considered viable options for new construction and retrofits, regardless if the structure was built to only withstand a tile load.

A version of the tile minus the solar panel — known as the TWO IN 1 ROOF — has been installed recently on a handful of homes. But Bellavia expects the 3 IN 1 product to have a greater presence in the marketplace as the demand for solar energy grows.

Favorable reception

The product, for which there already are several dozen pre-orders, will be laid on a couple dozen homes in Florida this fall and on up to 1,000 by the end of 2020.

The company has set up a calculator on its website to enable contractors, installers and homeowners to estimate what a 3 IN 1 ROOF might cost for a particular structure. Prices will vary based on contractors' overhead, roof size and labor rates.

Bellavia sees the 3 IN 1 ROOF as not only a technological solution to compete with other building integrated photovoltaic systems, but perhaps the biggest step forward for the roofing industry since the invention of the three-tab shingle. 

Other Expert Opinions

New homes constructed by Hibbs Homes, a St. Louis builder focused on high-performance residences, are outfitted with applicable hookups inside attics so that if homeowners opt to anchor energy-efficient panels on their roofs, connection capabilities are in place.

Installing 3 IN 1 ROOF tiles would eliminate extensive labor costs for Hibbs, said Matt Belcher, vice president and manager of sales for Hibbs. 

“I always tell our customers that in the past 10 years, (solar) hasn’t been as cost-effective as you know it’s going to be,” he said. “We always tell them that at a minimum, let us set you up because once you get in that house, the energy savings you create now is going to help you build equity quicker. What better place to invest equity than in technology like this?”

With advances in cell technology, solar modules can easily be switched out on the 3 IN 1 product. 

“That’s where this shines,” Belcher said of the 3 IN 1 tile. “They’re allowing for easy upgrades.”

And these days, homeowners would rather lease panels than own them because they want to be able to upgrade to the most efficient solutions available without the upfront investment of purchasing panels.

“The huge downside with solar is the cost of getting it on,” Belcher said. “This takes the sting out of that. It’s a better mousetrap because it prevents obsolescence.”  


Topics: Cost of Ownership, Heating & Cooling, Insulation, Photovoltaic / Solar Panels, Roofing, Solar Power, Thermal Envelope

Companies: 3 IN 1 ROOF


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