WASHINGTON - "Cool" metal-roofing supporters are celebrating a change in Energy Star testing procedures, saying it could help promote the material among consumers.

Energy Star officials will now use "weathering farms" to test the ability of roofing products to reflect the sun's heat. A weathering farm is a special area set up to gauge the environment's impact on a material. Previously, roofing products were required to be tested on actual structures in metropolitan areas to quality for the Energy Star program.

"This will truly benefit the consumer and the environment by providing broader selection and recognition of cool-roofing products," said Scott Kriner, chairman of the Cool Metal Roofing Coalition, a group of manufacturers promoting metal as an environmentally friendly material.

"A testing period of three years is still required, so the new process is not any faster. However, more manufacturers will be encouraged to become Energy Star partners sooner," Kriner said.

Steve Ryan, Energy Star product manager, said the new test "allows manufacturers to qualify more products using established, yet rigorous testing procedures."

"This will be a boon to the metal roofing industry at large, since it will speed the introduction of Energy Star-qualified products into the marketplace," said Jim Robinson, vice chairman of the coalition. "The practice of using actual roofing as a weathering-performance test-bed has been rather daunting to the metal-roofing industry because of the logistical difficulty and expense.

"Weathering farms are a practical and yet responsible way to go since they comply with established quality control procedures and receive accreditation from professional independent standards organizations," Robinson added.