Radiant barriers are a good investment in a home or business, as they will save money on cooling costs over a summer. The warmer the weather, the more effective the barrier will be. There are a lot of factors that go into it, but the government website, energy.com, says people can save five to 10 percent on cooling bills. Manufacturers say a person can save 17 percent, but either way, that is a substantial savings and should more than pay for the cost of the radiant barrier.
There is a debate over whether radiant barriers are effective in cold climates. They could be, but perhaps not as much as in very hot climates. The radiant barrier is an aluminum surface that reflects heat back to where it came from. Heat from the sun in summer beats down on a roof and the surface gets very hot. The heat comes through the surface of the roof and into the attic and eventually it works its way down into the rest of the house, creating more need for air conditioning.
With a radiant barrier, that heat is reflected back toward the roof and does not allow as much heat to sink down into the house.
The same principal should apply in very cold weather. Heat rises and would normally escape through the roof to some degree. Having the barrier near the floor of an attic should keep some of that heat in, and save on heating bills as well. The radiant barrier is most effective in extremes, as it reflects the temperature back to where it came from, either keeping heat inside or outside.
Another aspect to the savings is the wear and tear on your heating and air conditioning units. A good radiant barrier might allow you to use a smaller heating or air conditioning system, which would be cheaper to run, and would produce additional savings.
A University of Central Florida study says installing a radiant barrier could pay for itself in 10 years, based on the idea of the barrier costing 30 to 35 cents per square foot installed. If the person installed it himself, it might cost half as much, reducing the time to five years, but the barrier does have to be installed correctly to work. A do-it-yourself type project might not work if the person does not have the understanding of how a radiant barrier works.
Radiant barriers are static items however, and should last a very long time, probably longer than the house itself. There would be savings every year after it was installed. There is no maintenance cost and it does not wear out. The only maintenance is making sure there is no dust buildup, which can reduce its effectiveness. In Florida at least, you could expect your radiant barrier to pay for itself in 10 years, and save five to 10 percent savings each summer on your cooling bill. It should never have to be replaced.