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Energy-saving paints keep cool in summer, warm in winter

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Dear Jim: I have heard about house and wall paint that can keep my house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Do these paints really work, can I apply the paint myself and are they very expensive? — Ronald T.

Dear Ronald: The answer to your first two questions is yes. The paint will reduce radiant heat transfer into and out of your house and you can apply it like any other wall or exterior house paint. It is also extremely effective for painting your roof to extend its life and block the heat.

Applying energy-saving paint to your walls reflects body heat back to you for comfort and energy savings in the winter. In the summer, its low-emissivity (like new low-e window glass) reduces the radiant heat from hot, sun-drenched walls to make you feel more comfortable indoors.

Other than a very slightly textured surface, that you would not notice unless it was called to your attention, these paints look like ordinary wall paint when dry. It is available in many standard and custom colors.

These paints have dried thickness up to 10 mils, much thicker than ordinary wall paint, making them good for hiding small cracks and imperfections. Although most of these energy-savings paint costs about the same as other premium paints, they are applied thicker so you will use more.

Most energy-saving paints use fine ceramic particles mixed in with the paint. It is the same material that NASA uses on the space shuttle tiles. I reluctantly tried their test of putting a layer of ceramic powder on my hand and then placing a lit propane torch on it. I was not burned.

Most particles used are microscopic hollow ceramic spheres. They are produced under high temperature so that when they cool, a partial vacuum is created inside. In effect, they become millions of tiny Thermos bottles on your wall. Some paints also use platelets for additional ceramic coverage.

The other technology uses microscopic aluminum particles encapsulated in infrared transparent binders. These particles, which cannot be seen in the paint, minimize radiant heat transfer. There are different formulas for walls and ceilings. With its high opacity, it provides good coverage per gallon.

Another option is to buy the ceramic sphere powder and add it to your own wall or house paint. A 32-oz. bottle costs about $15 and is enough for one gallon of paint. It is very important to mix it thoroughly before use.

If your roof looks bad, painting it with energy-saving ceramic-filled roof paint can reduce the heat indoors. For example, in the hot afternoon sun, a roof painted white can be 90 degrees cooler than a standard black roof.

Write for (instantly download at www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 682 — buyer's guide of 10 energy-saving ceramic and low-emissivity wall, house and roof paints, particle types, coverages, colors, features/uses, warranties, prices and painting tips. Please include $3 and a business-size SASE. James Dulley, Deseret News, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

Dear Jim: I am planning my new house in the Midwest tornado belt, so I am considering using one of the foam block ones that you recently wrote about. What is the best type of roof to put on that type of house? — Sarah W.

Dear Sarah W.: Concrete/foam block construction is one of the strongest methods to build a house because of the heavy monolithic concrete wall structure. It is also extremely energy efficient and airtight. Although no roof framing will be as strong as the walls, consider using steel roof trusses. When bolted to the concrete walls, they are very strong. Residential-style metal roofing, either steel or aluminum, would be a wise choice.