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Solar Shingles Vs. Solar Panels: Which is Better?

Updated: Apr 30


solar shingles vs solar panels

Many homeowners are interested in going solar but want their photovoltaic system to look sleek. Some households are also concerned about the hassle of performing roof work with modules covering the roof. Because the design life of solar panels is around 30 years, many homeowners will need to replace their roofs during the lifespan of the solar power system. Although all-black solar panels are now widespread, solar shingles can completely conceal the solar panels and avoid the issue of replacing the roof with solar panels. So, let's explore solar shingles vs solar panels.


Although Tesla solar shingles have gotten a lot of media attention, they still aren’t prevalent, largely due to their high price. They are most cost-effective for new construction projects, homes that need new roofs, or when the homeowner is willing to pay more due to aesthetic preferences.


Regardless of whether you offer solar roof tiles, it is critical to have a basic understanding of solar shingles vs. solar panels to answer customer questions and stay current on trends in the solar energy industry.


What Are Solar Shingles?

Photovoltaic shingles contain solar cells within the roofing material, and they are part of a family of solar energy products called building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). Depending on the product's design, they can almost completely conceal the solar cells. Other solar roof shingle products look different in the sections with solar cells but have a very low profile.


Installation Cost of Photovoltaic Shingles

The cost of installing solar shingles is typically greater than roof replacement or a solar installation with traditional solar panels. However, the product provides two functions: generating renewable energy and protecting the home from the elements.


The efficiency of solar roof tiles is usually 14% – 18%. By contrast, the efficiency of conventional solar panels is usually around 22%.


When installing PV shingles, the solar contractor typically replaces the existing roof or installs them on new construction. Often, these installations contain both active and inactive solar shingles that may or may not be identical. The inactive shingles can be installed where there is not an ample solar resource. The durability varies a bit by the product, but the typical lifespan is about 25 years.


How Do Solar Shingles Work?

Photovoltaic shingles operate the same way as conventional solar panels and produce renewable energy from the sun. Thus, they are a complete roofing solution, provide the same function as a traditional roof, and protect the home from the elements. In addition, these systems require inverters and are suitable for both grid-tied and off-grid applications.


Solar Shingles vs. Solar Panels

Let's explore the two photovoltaic technologies side-by-side.

Feature

Solar Shingles

Solar Panels

Appearance

Blend with roof design

Mounted on structures

Installation

Integrated with roofing

Mounted on rooftops

Efficiency

Typically lower

Generally higher

Cost

Higher initial cost

Lower initial cost

Energy Production

May be less efficient

Higher efficiency

Aesthetics

Seamless integration

Visible on rooftops

Durability

Less durable

Durable and robust

Integration with Battery

Possible, but complex

Easily integrated

Maintenance

More challenging

Easier maintenance

Availability

Limited market options

Widespread availability


The Different Types Of Solar Shingles

There are two different designs for photovoltaic shingles: interlocking and integrated. Although they aren’t quite as sleek, the interlocking shingles are relatively simple to install. They provide protection, so no additional roofing materials are needed underneath.


The solar shingle array has a low profile because the solar cells are close to the roof deck and do not contain a frame. GAF Materials Corporation and Suntegra Shingles offer an interlocking solar shingle product. Unfortunately, with this product, the solar shingles look different from the remainder of the roof.


By contrast, integrated solar roofing mimics the size and shape of shingles or roof tiles. This means it tends to blend in well with the roof and can have a very sleek appearance.


There are numerous solar shingle products on the market, but Tesla solar roofs are the most well-known. Tesla provides a 25-year tile and performance warranty.


This photovoltaic shingle product only replaces part of the roof and looks different than the traditional roofing materials around it. The Apollo II system can be installed with either new or existing roof shingles.


This multilayer system has the appearance of traditional metal roofing, comes in several different colors, and has a 30-year guarantee.


This interlocking solar shingle system was created by one of the oldest and largest roofing materials manufacturers in North America. The energy-generating part of the roof looks different than the non-solar portion.


They offer a product designed to exceed Category 5 hurricanes, that’s three times stronger than traditional roof tiles, and generates 80 watts of electricity per shingle. It claims to be the only upgradable roof shingle system.


The interlocking system comes in both a tile and shingle product and has a low profile. It attaches directly to roofing materials but doesn’t necessarily have a uniform appearance.


photovoltaic shingles

How Much Do Solar Shingles Cost To Install And Maintain?

The cost of PV shingles varies based on the size of the roof, the solar roof shingle product, the capacity of the solar power system, and the complexity of the roofline. As a result, it is difficult to provide a ballpark price for PV shingles.


For example, the price of a Tesla solar roof has fluctuated considerably in the last few years. Currently, an 8.3 kW solar energy system in Massachusetts with a Powerwall solar battery costs about $50,000 before incentives for a 1,600-square-foot roof. However, the price could increase by thousands for homes with complex roofs.


Solar shingles commonly qualify for solar incentives and rebates, such as the investment tax credit and net metering through the electric utility. However, because solar shingles tend to be less efficient, they may produce less electricity and result in smaller energy bill savings than standard solar panel systems.


The maintenance for solar shingles is similar to solar panels, and most systems have a design life of 25 – 30 years. In addition, many products come with 25-year warranties.


Pros And Cons Of Solar Shingles

Because solar shingles are different from traditional solar panels, they have distinct advantages and disadvantages.


Pros of Solar Shingles

A certain portion of the population considers solar panels unsightly and, therefore, doesn’t want to install them. Thus, these shingles make solar PV more appealing to this market segment.


Also, some homes are located in communities where the homeowners association (HOA) limits the installation of solar panels or requires homes to have a consistent appearance. However, solar shingles are often permitted in these cases, enabling more homes to take advantage of solar energy.


Although solar shingles are relatively expensive, they can reduce roofing costs. The average cost to replace an entire roof for asphalt shingles is $5,100 – $10,000 in the United States. Therefore, the total lifecycle cost of a solar roof is not necessarily more than with solar panels and separate roofing material.


In addition, the lifespan of the solar shingles matches the roofing materials, eliminating the need to remove solar panels for a roof replacement. So often, solar contractors charge around $2,000 or $3,000 for this service. Also, solar shingles offer peace of mind to homeowners who don’t want to remove the panels to replace the roof. However, installing solar PV panels on a metal roof is another way to potentially sidestep this issue because metal roofs are designed to last 40 – 70 years.


Cons of Photovoltaic Shingles

Photovoltaic shingles are still a somewhat new technology and haven’t reached very widespread adoption. As a result, the cost is still relatively high, and the conversion efficiency is typically lower. As a result, they generally are far more expensive, especially if the home doesn’t need a new roof, and it can be more challenging for a home to be net-zero with PV shingles alone.


When a solar system is less efficient, it often produces a lower percentage of the total home electricity. Thus, such homes can have higher utility bills and associated carbon emissions from sourcing grid electricity from fossil fuels than homes with traditional PV arrays.


Unfortunately, it is challenging to expand the capacity of a solar system with shingles compared to panels, and the tilt angle is limited to that of the roof. Also, because shingles are less common than conventional panels, solar shoppers may need to be educated more to understand the advantages and disadvantages.


Solar shingle roof installation takes longer than a typical roof replacement or solar panel installation. Unfortunately, few solar installers have extensive experience installing solar shingles, so it can be challenging to find qualified contractors. For solar companies, this means training solar technicians, which can be costly or time-consuming.


Solar Panels Vs. Solar Shingles: Which Is Best For Your Clients?

Ultimately, whether solar shingles are a good fit for your customers depends on their home, goals, and project budget. As solar roof shingles become more common, the prices may decrease, creating more widespread appeal.


The solar permitting process is tedious for installers. GreenLancer’s marketplace was built to help you breeze through it with permit design, engineering stamps, solar proposals, feasibility studies, and more. Sign up today for a free consultation or complete the form below to learn more.




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