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Are Insulated Patio Covers Worth it?

Have you ever got too hot on your patio in the height of summer (even with an umbrella), and then got freezing cold in winter (even with a patio heater)? Then it could be time to invest in an insulated patio cover. But are they worth it?

If you want to use your patio all year round then an insulated patio cover is definitely worth the investment. The insulated layer will keep extreme heat away from you in summer, while in winter it will keep the cold at bay. You can also walk on an insulated patio cover to clean and maintain it.

Let’s dive down into this subject in more detail. We’ll discover the benefits of an insulated patio cover, the temperature difference created, how to insulate your patio cover – and also consider maintenance issues.

Do I Need An Insulated Patio Cover? (Benefits & Drawbacks)

When you are designing your new patio, at some point you will have to decide: add insulation to the cover, yes or no? It’s an added expense. Or maybe you are thinking about retrofitting your old patio cover. Is insulating it worth it?

Having an insulated patio cover has several benefits – some you probably didn’t even consider. But the number one benefit is – temperature. Insulation will keep extreme heat away from you in summer. In winter, it will keep the cold at bay.

Just like inside your house, adding insulation (as much as possible) will protect you from climate extremes. Patios are important – they add living space to your house. We spend time with friends and family on our patios. Covered patios draw you outside but shelter you.

Whether you need insulation or not depends a lot on your climate and the location of your patio. Insulation will extend the patio season as long as possible. If you are thinking about adding a patio, or retro-fitting an old one, consider how many more months you could enjoy it if it wasn’t so hot – or cold – out there. What would it be worth to you to add a month?

Not all patios need insulation. You may not need insulation if you have lovely breezes on your patio. If you live in a windy place, like the lake, or have steady ocean breezes, you probably don’t need an insulated patio cover. 

If your climate is moderate year-round, you don’t need insulation. Even if your climate gets warm in the summer, if your patio is on a north-facing side of the house, you may not need an insulated patio cover. Consider installing a ceiling fan or mister instead.

Insulated patio covers are ideal in very hot or very cold places. Most patios are built onto the back or side of a house, so the patio has at least one wall. If your patio has more walls than that, you may want to consider insulation. The more walls, nearby fences, lattices or wall curtains your patio has, the less chance a passing breeze will cool it.

Patio covers don’t just insulate humans from temperature extremes. Insulation also protects everything else under the cover from extreme heat: garden furniture, concrete, wooden deck, grills, light fixtures, fans and the electrical wiring itself (cords can melt).

Insulated patio covers are thicker than non-insulated ones – by several inches. The additional thickness of an insulated patio cover provides other benefits. You can walk on them to check out damage from tree limbs, wear from windstorms, or to clean them. You have space to mount can lights into the ceiling. Or ceiling fan boxes.

The added thickness allows you to run electrical cables to hook up lights or a ceiling fan on your patio. The cables are safe and hidden. The look is neat and professional. High-end.

Insulated covers dampen sound. This may be a positive or negative. Some people love the sound of a gentle rain on a roof. But do you love the sound of hail? If you entertain on your patio, this might be a consideration.

Speaking of rain and hail, the added thickness of the roof allows a good gutter system to be mounted. Rain falling in sheets off your patio can be annoying. It can damage your slab, leave stains on your patio and send your mulch and flowers out into the middle of the lawn. Rain sheeting down decreases the patio living space.

Finally, the benefit of any insulation in our homes is that it increases energy efficiency. Increasing energy efficiency – even in small ways – helps our planet get to net zero. 

The major drawback to insulated patio covers is – bucks. 

What’s The Temperature Difference Between Insulated & Non Insulated Patio Covers?

This is a tricky question, because the truth is – it depends. 

Some manufacturers (of insulated roof panels) claim that the difference is around 15°F. That’s pretty huge. This author tends to be a manufacturer claims skeptic – there’s too much in it for them.

But let’s say the manufacturer did an exceptionally scientific study and the results were clear. Would your patio be 15°F cooler? Only maybe. 

Maybe you’ll have that much difference. If you live in a hot climate that has infrequent breezes, and your patio is semi-enclosed, and the patio ceiling is relatively low, then you may feel that much difference. That would be great.

Even if the temperature difference is more like 10°F, the point is that insulating your patio cover is the single most significant way you can lower the temperature on the patio. Once you’ve insulated, you can keep the cooling going with ceiling fans and misters.

Insulation is almost always a good thing. It increases energy efficiency and that’s a good goal for your home, patio and planet.

Insulated undercover patio

How Much Do Insulated Patio Covers Cost? (Approximate Figures)

No doubt, insulation will cost more. But how much? Experts say around 30%.

To make the math easy, let’s say that you have chosen an aluminum patio roof. Here’s a resource with a recent cost breakdown. This expert says that a 10 foot x 10 foot non-insulated aluminum patio cover will cost up to $4,000. For the same size, a patio cover with 3 inches of insulation will cost up to $5,500. That’s an increase of 37%.

Another expert quoted, for an aluminum patio cover, an increase of 25% for an aluminum patio cover.

If you are DIYing a patio, or having a contractor build one, the math is harder. Insulation is cheap but materials, like wood, are dear. The cost of adding insulation will depend on your choice of building materials.

How Do You Insulate a Patio Roof Anyway?

Insulation (or radiant shield barriers), like in your home, are inserted between the roofing material and the ceiling of your patio cover.

Here’s a guide to your insulation zone (in the US) with a recommendation for insulation strength (R-value).

If you are DIYing your patio cover or having a contractor build it, then adding insulation is the same process as for your roof. For cold climates, insulation goes between the rafters, closer to the ceiling. 

For hot roofs, insulation goes above the rafters, closer to the roof. Insulation can be in rolls, boards, batts or it can be blown in. Make sure you have proper venting if you are adding insulation.

If you are going more modular, a popular patio or gazebo roof material is aluminum. Aluminum is durable and low-maintenance. In an insulated aluminum patio cover, a sheet of high R-value polystyrene foam is inserted between the thin sheets of metal. Insulated aluminum panels have connectors to fit together and lock. 

Some patio covers are constructed with SIPs. SIP stands for structural insulation panel. SIPs are ordered by size and R-value. 

Labor for modular roof panel will be lower than traditional roofs because the panels snap together.

Can You Walk On Insulated Patio Covers? (For Cleaning & Maintenance)

Yes, you can walk on them. Insulated patio covers, because they have a layer of insulation, are thicker. Insulated patio covers are at least 3 inches thick, some up to 6 inches. They are simply more substantial.

For non-insulated patios, you may have to first hoist a sheet of plywood onto the roof to walk on it safely.

In Conclusion

To stay as toasty as toast in winter and as cool as a cucumber in summer – you should definitely invest in an insulated patio cover if you’re planning on using your patio all year round.

Although they are quite pricey to install, they last for years and the benefits for temperature control are superb for those of us who are always using their outside patio space.

Added benefits include increased strength and durability – which means you can actually walk on top of your insulated patio roof to clean and maintain it – so your investment should last for years to come.

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >