Most solar systems use traditional rooftop solar panels. While these offer excellent energy savings, they can look clunky and noticeable on your roof. New technology has led to solar shingles, which function as solar panels but provide a sleeker, more low-profile, integrated look. But are solar shingles worth the investment?
What Are Solar Shingles?
Solar shingles are an alternative to traditional solar panels that blend in more seamlessly with your roof. Like solar panels, they absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity for your home. Solar shingles are categorized as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), or solar products that replace conventional building materials such as roofs or glass windows. BIPV solutions reduce building material costs while providing renewable energy.
Shingles aren’t as readily available as traditional panels, but there’s a growing interest in them. The DOW Chemical Company introduced solar shingles to the U.S. market in 2011. They became more popular when Tesla debuted its solar roof in 2016. Since then, more solar panel companies and installers have begun offering solar shingles for residential installations.
Solar shingles resemble standard asphalt roof shingles but vary in composition. These shingles contain thin layers of photovoltaic (PV) sheets that cover a glass base. They can either cover your existing roof or replace it. Just like your roof, shingles are designed to withstand the elements, including heavy rain, wind, and hail. Th average size of solar shingles is typically 12″ x 86″. They are designed to cover or replace traditional asphalt shingles. These solar shingles use copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) cells.
You’ll need to match your home’s energy needs to your solar system’s power output. High-quality mono panels can produce more than 400 watts per panel, while solar shingles generate 13–70 watts each. You’ll need more solar roof tiles to match a single solar panel adequately. Depending on their output, it could take 20–30 shingles to provide as much power as one high-powered solar panel.
Lifespan and Warranty Coverage
Solar panels can last more than 25 years with the right upkeep. High-efficiency solar panels typically have 25-year warranties to match this life span. Solar shingles last around 20 years. Similar to panels, solar manufacturers may include two separate clauses for durability and power production. Your power production guarantee covers your shingles for 20 years, but the durability coverage may extend through your home’s lifetime.
Solar Shingles Costs
Solar shingles are more expensive than the cost of installing solar panels. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a standard 5-kilowatt (kW) solar panel system costs around $15,500. Solar shingles cost $20–$30 per square foot, so you could pay between $36,000 to $54,000 for an 1,800-square-foot roof. This is an estimated cost for an entire roof installation. The price may vary based on how many shingles are needed to run your home and your shingle configuration.
Solar shingles allow homeowners to benefit from solar energy without bulky panel installations. However, the added aesthetic is rarely worth the cost. Being a fairly new technology, solar shingle technology and efficiency should improve rapidly in the next few years. So I would not install solar shingles at this point. As with any new technology, there are those that want to have the uniqueness of the latest and greatest, regardless of the cost. For most of our financially responsible clients, solar shingles are not yet desirable.