In simple terms, solar shingles, also referred to as solar roof shingles, are solar products designed to look like and be integrated with traditional roof shingles. Initially, a solar shingle could only be installed on an asphalt roof. However, with the vast improvements in solar technology, solar installers can also place solar shingles on other types of roofing materials, such as slate, concrete, tile, and shake.
They look like your existing roof and protect the building from weather elements when installed. Still, the difference here is that, like traditional solar panels, they can convert light from the sun to electricity. In other words, PV shingles transform your conventional roofs into solar roofs. Let’s start with understanding solar shingles by knowing the types of PV shingles.
Types of Solar Roof Shingles
Solar roof shingles come in two types – the traditional silicon solar shingles and the copper-indium-gallium-selenide thin-film photovoltaics.
Silicon Solar Shingles
These are the closest things to standard solar panels because they are rigid, are manufactured in a frame, but can be installed with existing roof materials.
CIGS Thin-Film Panels
This solar shingle is more recent, and it utilizes the improved thin-film photovoltaics technology to have more energy efficiency than silicon solar shingles. These types of shingles are lighter in weight and more flexible, and blend perfectly with a new or existing roof.
Solar Shingles Vs. Solar Panels – How Different Are They
People will get confused when they hear solar shingles, especially when they know that, like panels, it powers the home. What are solar shingles? We should mark their differences from traditional solar panels to establish that fully. So in what ways do solar roof tiles differ from solar panels?
When it comes to size, solar shingles have a smaller build than solar panels. Typically, a solar shingle is the same size and weight as a roof shingle, which makes solar shingle installation more suited to converting the entire roof than solar panel installation. Solar shingles weigh about 13 pounds per square foot and have a general dimension of 12 inches in width and 86 inches in length. Its smaller size also means you’ll need more solar shingles than you’ll need bulky solar panels for an installation project.
Solar shingles offer better value in terms of aesthetics because they look more like conventional roof tiles and blend better. They create an enhanced visual appeal that you can’t achieve with solar panels. It also comes down to preference. When many homeowners are asked to choose which looks better on a roof between solar shingles and panels, the answer will most likely be solar shingles. Conventional solar panels stand out on the roof and don’t blend with asphalt shingles with the same grace that shingles can.
Solar shingles are a less appealing prospect when it comes to installation because they take more time to install, ultimately costing you more. Since installation is a time-based project and you’ll pay for labor costs by the hour, you’ll spend far more on installing solar shingles. Solar shingles cost more to install because the project can take up to a week if your roof is in excellent condition for installation.
On the other hand, if your roof is not in great condition and has to be repaired or replaced, the project will take longer – we’re talking 2-3 weeks. Solar panels would be better because they can be installed within a day if the roof is in good condition. A significant reason solar shingles installation costs are higher and will take longer is that the company will be installing about 350 tiles compared to 12-25 panels.
Another factor that explains why solar shingles take more time to install is that solar panels are mounted atop the roof and wired in one solar combiner box. In contrast, solar shingles cover apart or the entire roof, depending on the square footage you intend to cover. In some cases, installing solar shingles is more like a complete roof replacement.
Unlike solar panels, solar shingles produce a very low energy output per tile. This makes solar panels far more appealing in how much energy it produces. The output of a solar shingle ranges between 13-70 watts of electricity per tile, while solar panels can produce at least 250 watts of electricity per tile and as much as 550 watts per panel. The gap between their energy outputs is very large, which is another reason you’ll need more solar shingles than solar panels on your roof. Six hundred watts, for instance, can be produced by two solar panels, but the same can’t be said for solar shingles. It will take 15 solar tiles of 40 watts apiece to replicate that.
From the installation costs and an illustration of how many solar roof shingles you may need to match the energy output of high-efficiency solar panels, the cost of solar shingles makes them more expensive than solar panels. The price depends on factors such as the square footage you want to cover, the type, and the wattage.
Both solar shingles and solar panels are very durable, but panels have a slight edge in lifespan. Solar shingles last for 25-30 years, while solar panels generate electricity for 25-35 years. With good maintenance, both will last longer than the expected lifespan. However, while solar panels are slightly more durable, solar shingles are more resilient and fire-resistant.
Solar panels are more efficient in generating power than solar shingles because they can be adjusted to get the best angle that will enable them to absorb sunlight efficiently. On the other hand, solar shingles are fixed and can’t be adjusted or tilted to get the best angle. This makes them less efficient in generating electricity. Although, one solution will be buying more shingles to make up for this deficiency.
Solar Shingles Vs. Solar Panels – How Similar Are They?
Solar roof shingles and solar panels are made with similar photovoltaic materials. They’re both manufactured with semiconductors, and a certain type of panel (the thin-film panel) is made with copper-indium-gallium-selenium, which is also used to produce solar roofing. This is no surprise, as solar panels and shingles work the same way – absorbing solar energy from the sun to power the home.
It doesn’t matter if you decide to buy solar shingles or solar panels; they come with similar benefits, most notably reducing or eliminating electricity bills. This will save you so much money in the long run. Furthermore, a solar system on your property is a worthy investment because it will enhance the value of your home on the property market.
Solar shingles, like panels, attract tax credits and other incentives to assist homeowners with the cost of purchasing and installation.
Pros and Cons of Installing Solar Shingles
Renewable energy has its perks, but there are also downsides to using solar roof tiles.
- Since it’s basically solar roofing, it provides double benefits. When you install solar shingles, they provide a roof for the building and power the home.
- Solar shingles are more visually appealing than solar panels.
- Solar shingles are more cost-effective than traditional roofing materials in the long run.
- Most solar shingles have a range of 25-30 years, making them highly durable.
- Solar shingles are more resilient in extreme weather conditions and are fire-resistant.
- Just like traditional solar panels, solar roof tiles can be installed with a solar battery to provide backup power at night, during unfavorable weather conditions, or during a power outage
- Solar roof tiles come with warranties that cover more than two decades.
- Regarding upfront costs, efficient solar shingles are among the most pricey roofing materials. The roofing material costs can discourage many homeowners from its purchase.
- Like the traditional solar panel, solar shingles are not suitable for every roof type.
- Solar installation takes much longer and costs more.
- Solar roof shingles are harder to install, so DIY installation is out of the question.
- It’s less common in the solar industry than solar panels because few manufacturers make it.
- Solar shingles are less durable than conventional building materials like metal or slate.
- Its maintenance cannot be handled by nearby roofing companies as it’s a solar roof.
- It’s less efficient in getting solar power from the sun than a solar panel.
- There is not much variety of colors and styles, although brands like Tesla solar roof are introducing more options.
Are Solar Shingles Worth It?
Yes. they are. With time, solar shingles will reduce significantly in price and improve efficiency. Solar roof shingles are your best bet if you want to replace your roof and install panels atop it. This is because installing a solar roof is more affordable than replacing your roof and installing solar panels atop it, as it serves both functions.
Also, you should know that, at first, it will cost you a lot to install solar roof tiles, but eventually, it will pay off in the long run.
Factors that Influence the Cost of Installing Solar Roof Shingles
The cost of solar shingles depends on the following:
The bigger the roof size, the higher the cost of installing solar tiles. Asides from that, more complex roof designs such as tiered roofs, steep roofs, and obstructions such as chimneys, ventilation systems, and skylights will increase the cost of installing shingles.
Type of Solar Shingle
The type of shingle affects the cost. For instance, there are monocrystalline solar shingles, solar tiles, solar glass roofs, and thin-film (copper-indium-gallium-selenium solar panels).
Some solar brands are more expensive than others. Brands like Tesla sell the most expensive shingles on the market, but it’s a fair bargain considering they’re also the most efficient and visually appealing tiles.
The cost of roof removal and disposal: Before a single solar tile is installed, the contractor has to remove and dispose of the existing roof, increasing the project cost.
Solar Shingles Cost
Generally, the average cost of installation for PV shingles ranges between $21 and $25 per square foot, which is $2.100-$2,600 per roofing square. In total, everything can amount to $60k-$75k.
How to Determine How Many Solar Shingles You Need
To answer this, you have to know the size of your house and your energy usage. The bigger the size of your roof and the more energy you consume equates to a higher number of solar shingles.
Best Solar Shingles Installation Brands
- Timberline solar roofing by GAF energy