What are solar shingles?
You’ve probably seen solar panels on the rooftops of houses or office buildings, but have you ever seen solar shingles up there? If you have, chances are you didn’t know it.
Solar shingles are an integrated photovoltaic (PV) building product, which means they directly generate electricity from sunlight. They’re made with specific materials that naturally undergo an electronic process in the presence of sunlight.
From a distance, they look like ordinary roof shingles. But up close, it’s obvious they’re more than that. Solar shingles are used on the roofs of commercial and residential buildings to generate electricity, and some models can convert the electricity to heat.
Solar shingles are made of the same materials as those used in regular solar panels, including wire, a photosensitive waterproof product to protect the roof from outdoor elements, and material that can generate an electric current in sunlight.
In fact, solar shingles and solar panels operate the same way and are overall quite similar. The main difference between them is cost. Solar panels have one function: They generate electricity. But solar shingles serve a dual purpose — they generate electricity and act as shingles, which makes them less expensive in the long run.
If you’re curious how solar shingles work, turn to the next page to learn about their interesting technical aspects.
Solar shingles have a special property that allows them to make electricity from sunlight. Let’s break down the scientific process behind how this works.
A photon is a unit of electromagnetic radiation with no charge; Its protons (positively charged subatomic particles) and electrons (negatively charged subatomic particles) are equal, giving it no charge. The photon, here, is a particle of sunlight. Sunlight strikes a solar shingle coated with a special surface that naturally knocks off an electron from the particle of light. The freed electron travels through an electrical circuit to an area where other electrons are stored. This collection of electrons is then harvested to generate a current. This is how all solar electricity works, whether it’s a solar shingle, solar panel or something else. Photovoltaic (PV) devices like these can be used to power anything from a calculator to a skyscraper
Solar shingles, in theory, can produce 100 percent of a building’s electricity usage, but it depends on a number of factors: the demand of a building, the amount of sunlight the structure gets at that particular geographic location, the building’s current utility rates and availability of sufficient space on the roof that opens to southern skies.
Solar shingles can work practically anywhere (even in gray-weather places) because they can use diffused, scattered sunshine on overcast or even rainy days. In fact, the country with the most buildings that use PV devices is Germany, and the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) says that all 50 states in the US get better sunlight than Germany.
But what if you live in a sunny place where there is ample sunlight year round? Can your solar shingles produce too much power? Yes, and this is good news. When this happens, your excess energy is sent to the electric grid, and you usually receive a check from the electric company or a credit on your next utility bill. Jurisdictions differ in how they address excess energy, so check with your electric company to find out how this process works in your area.
Solar shingles are about the same size as a typical roof shingle, while solar panels are flat, rigid panes often several square feet. It’s because of this size difference that installation of solar shingles is much more labor-intensive — more shingles are needed to complete a job compared to the number of panels required for the same project. Installers tediously put in one shingle after another after another and wire each one inside the building. If you decide to get solar shingles, always hire a professional certified by a reputable certifying group, such as the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers or state or trade organizations.
Photovoltaic (PV) installations cost between $9 and $11 per watt. An average system will range from $15,000 to $30,000 (after incentives). Price is affected by the size of your PV system and the amount of sun and shading in your location.
The time it takes to do an installation varies and is affected by roof space, the number of people in an installation crew and the status of the building (re-roofing verses new construction). Once all the solar shingles are put in and wired together indoors, under the roof, the installer applies for a permit to connect your system to the electric grid.
Needless to say, homeowners can’t (or shouldn’t) attempt installation on their own. However, the industry is changing, and five to 10 years from now, homeowners may be able to safely and easily “plug and play,” according to the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). For this to happen, more sophisticated infrastructure would have to be in place, specifically, smart meters and a smart grid, which don’t yet exist. Here’s how it would work: The homeowner would plug his or her solar shingles into a smart meter — a meter with plug-in ports for solar electric applications like solar shingles. Through this special meter, they could hook up to the electric grid.
The next page has even more information to take your roof solar, as well as other ideas to make your home energy efficient. Enjoy all that money you’ll save.
Solar Shingles: Make Your Roof Solar-Powered (5 Brands)
The total installed capacity of solar power in the U.S. reached 71.3 GW in the third quarter of 2019, with new capacity of 2.6 GW added during this quarter. It was also the best quarter in history for residential solar, which has experienced remarkable growth throughout the decade.
From 2010 to 2020, the number of residential solar panel installations in the U.S. has exceeded two million. With increasing innovation in technologies such as solar shingles, residential solar is expected to set new growth records in the 2020s
What are solar shingles and how do they work?
Solar power shingles, also known as photovoltaic shingles, are solar panels that mimic the appearance and function of conventional roofing materials like asphalt or slate, while performing their core task of generating electricity.
Technically called BIPV (building-integrated photovoltaics), solar roof shingles present a unique and increasingly popular renewable energy solution. Studies backed by the Department of Energy in recent years have shown that solar roofing features such as solar shingles can boost the value of your home by as much as $15,000 or even more.
The average solar power roof shingle could easily last for two to three decades while delivering maximum energy output. Beyond its peak life, it will still continue to produce energy, but at a progressively reduced capacity.
In functional terms, solar roof shingles are similar to traditional solar panels, but in terms of size, they are smaller than most solar panels, with the average photovoltaic shingle being 12” x 86” in dimensions and weighing about 13 lbs per sq. ft.
The number of solar panel roof shingles it would take to power a home or building will depend on the building size and your average energy consumption, but even if you install just a few solar shingles, it will bring down your overall energy costs.
Many of today’s solar shingles are composed of TFSC or thin-film solar cells made from copper indium gallium selenide. This semiconductor is known to have one of the highest energy conversion efficiency rates at about 12 percent. Some of the PV shingle brands use mono-Si (monocrystalline silicon), which are usually costlier but have an average efficiency rate of up to 20 percent.
Why you should choose solar shingle technology
When you have to choose between traditional solar panels and solar shingles for your roof, you should carefully consider the pros and cons of both.
Pros of solar shingles
- More aesthetically appealing and sleeker compared to the bulky and somewhat unattractive traditional solar panels, and can blend in more easily with your existing roof design
- If you are building a new home or replacing your roof, solar power shingles could prove to be more cost-effective because you would save on the traditional roofing material and labor
- Solar panel shingles can usually be removed and reinstalled in a situation where you have to move your home
Cons of solar shingles
- Not every solar roofing installer may be offering solar shingles yet because they are still catching up in acceptance and popularity
- Not all types of solar roof shingles can be installed on an existing roof (unlike traditional solar panels, which can be installed on almost any type of roof)
- If you choose advanced options, such as Tesla solar shingles, you will most likely need to build a new roof, and the installation time may also be relatively longer
Solar shingles for sale—average cost
Solar shingles cost per square foot can vary widely between different brands, and your overall solar panel shingles cost will depend on the total square footage, typical energy needs, and your choice of manufacturer and installer.
The average solar shingles price for your roof could be in the range of $15,000 to $20,000, but if you choose a highly sophisticated system, such as Tesla solar roof shingles, it could cost you as much as $70,000 or more.
You should request the brands of your choice to provide you a free quote, and evaluate their features and unique selling propositions in the context of your budgetary limits in order to make the right decision.
The leader: Tesla solar shingles
If you want nothing but the best solar shingles for your home, the choice is actually quite simple: Tesla. Tesla solar shingles were launched in 2016 following the company’s multi-billion dollar acquisition of SolarCity. The Tesla brand name is associated with futuristic products with designer looks, and Tesla shingles will not disappoint you either on that count.
Tesla solar roof shingles are the elite brand on the market, highlighted by its cutting-edge technology and some compelling extras, such as Tesla’s in-house Powerwall battery as well as a custom monitoring mobile app for both iPhone and Android devices.
Tesla solar roof shingle—pros
- Unlike almost every other silica-based solar panel, Tesla shingles are quartz-based, which promises superior efficiency and resilience
- Tesla will directly handle the complete roofing project, from design to installation, including the removal of your old roof
- Tesla shingles offer the longest warranty period at 30 years for power output, which allows you a solid payback period at maximum energy efficiency
- The looks of a Tesla roof are stunning—you have a choice between textured tiles that blend in with your building and a futuristic glass roof that can give plenty of bragging points
- Tesla’s smartphone app will keep you updated about your battery storage levels and your energy usage at any point of time
Tesla solar roof shingle—cons
- Compared to almost every other brand on the market, Tesla solar power shingles will have a significantly higher cost at anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000 for most homes, including the price of PV tiles and Powerwall batteries
- While traditional installations may take about three days or less, a Tesla solar roof installation could take up to two weeks
- If you are using an electric car, and plan to recharge it with your Tesla solar roof installation, you will require an additional one or two Powerwall batteries
- Tesla roof installation will require a complete removal of your existing roof, which could be an unsavory prospect if your roof is still in good condition and doesn’t really need a replacement
Tesla solar shingles cost at present is $21.35 per square foot. This means, if you are looking to install a Tesla solar roof on a 3,000 square foot home, it could cost you somewhere around $60,000.
Dow solar shingles
Dow Chemical Co. is another major manufacturer of solar shingles, which originally introduced the popular Dow Powerhouse shingles. In early 2018, RGS Energy signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Dow to produce the Powerhouse 3.0 solar shingles.
These new-generation RGS Powerhouse solar shingles are manufactured using silicon instead of CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide). Silicon solar cell technology allows these Powerhouse solar roof shingles to be more cost-competitive without compromising on the energy conversion efficiency.
RGS has more than four decades of experience in the installation and servicing of solar panels. As part of their agreement with Dow Chemical Co. for solar shingles sales and distribution, RGS is also servicing all warranty agreements for the older-gen Dow Powerhouse solar installations as well.
RGS solar shingles could cost approximately $3.89 per watt on average for a new construction project, as per the pricing information available from the company. This includes the cost of labor, electrical work, and the equipment kit. Roofing installation costs are extra, which will add another $0.85 per watt, resulting in an aggregate cost of about $4.74 per watt of solar power.
To put this price in perspective, you may compare it with the cost of a Tesla photovoltaic shingle installation, which could cost you significantly more.
CertainTeed solar shingles
CertainTeed solar power shingles are manufactured using the same technology as traditional solar panels—mono-crystalline solar PV cells. But unlike the traditional panels that use a racking system for affixing the panel to the roof, CertainTeed solar roof shingles are installed as an integral element of your existing roof. So, what you get is an unobtrusive, low profile solar roof that goes well with your existing roof tiles.
You can choose between two solar panel shingles from CertainTeed: the Apollo II and the Apollo Tile II system. Power out remains the same for both these options at 60 watts from 14 solar cells. The Apollo Tile II system is designed to match with concrete tile roofs, while the Apollo II system will integrate well with an asphalt shingle roof.
Product specs of CertainTeed solar shingles will show that the conversion efficiency of the Apollo II system is 15.4%, while it is 16% for the Apollo Tile II system. In general, these efficiency ratings are at the lower end for similarly sized traditional solar panels, which can deliver an average efficiency between 16% and 20%.
CertainTeed solar power shingles are one of the ideal choices when you are seeking a low-cost option along with high long-term savings. This system will cost you substantially lesser than Tesla shingles. As an average customer, you can expect to cover up to 90 or 95% of your electricity bills with this installation.
SunTegra solar shingles
SunTegra solar roof shingles offer an attractive alternative if you are looking for an affordable and practical solar roofing solution. These solar shingles will directly integrate into your roof, providing a low profile, sleek solar power system along with a durable roof.
SunTegra’s integrated wiring and lightweight design minimizes complexity and cuts down the installation time by up to half compared to a traditional rack-mounted solar panel roof. Dual functionality as a roof and a solar energy system will improve the resale value of your home and savings on roof costs because you will not require roofing tiles or shingles underneath this system.
SunTegra solar roofs are available in two options: SunTegra Shingle system and SunTegra Tile system. The Shingle system is built to match with asphalt shingle roofs, while the Tile system will integrate with concrete roof tiles. Each shingle includes 16 solar cells with a power output of 64 to 67 watts.
SunTegra photovoltaic shingles are based on the same solar technology that is used for standard solar panels: silicon solar PV cells. Product specs of SunTegra show that the Shingle system has a conversion efficiency rate of 14.4% to 15.9%, which is quite comparable to the rate of CertainTeed solar power shingles.
SunTegra solar shingles come with a product warranty of 10 years, and a power output warranty of 25 years. In comparison, CertainTeed offers an installation and workmanship warranty of 15 years, and a wind warranty of 10 years. Tesla, on the other hand, offers a 30-year warranty for power output and weatherization, apart from an “infinite” warranty on the physical roof tiles.
Luma solar shingles
Luma solar power shingles distinguish themselves from other brands by positioning the system as the only “upgradable” solar roof shingle system. Luma Solar has an experience of several years in solar roof installation in more than 20 states across the U.S..
Luma solar shingles promise a higher conversion efficiency rate of 21%, which is even higher than the standard rack-mounted solar panels. According to the company, Luma’s patented shingle design enables airflow beneath the shingle and its smaller shingle profile ensures that the shingles will usually “turn on” earlier in the day.
Luma solar roof shingle pricing varies according to the complexity of the system. If you just want to solarize a part of your roof, it will cost you about $4.50 per watt. However, the cost could go up to $38 per square foot for an edge-to-edge customized solar roof system. A custom roof will take into account your energy use, average sun exposure, and your budget.
A sunny outlook
The solar rooftop market in the U.S. is highly dynamic, and with the advancing technology and innovations in solar shingles, high growth is expected in this market in the foreseeable future.
High initial capital costs are still a deterrent for many people who would otherwise prefer to install solar shingles. But with the growing demand, the per-unit cost of production and installation is likely to come down, which could dramatically expand the market for solar shingles in the years to come.
Are solar shingles worth it? 2020
With the rise in the popularity of solar power, people have continuously expressed the desire to have more options in terms of solar products. Some of the more popular ones are solar shingles. Solar shingles — sometimes known as photovoltaic shingles — are essentially just solar panels designed to look like and function as conventional roofing materials while generating electricity. Solar shingles are considered a type of solar energy solution known as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV).
Solar shingles are worth it, especially for homeowners who need a new roof and want to retain aesthetics and roof functionality. Solar shingles and solar tiles are more durable than ordinary shingles, so investment in multifunctional roof coverings can be considered as a lifetime investment. Also, solar shingles are more suitable for roofs that can not take much weight.
To make your home eco-friendly, but also budget-friendly, the solar industry has a lot to offer. Alternative materials, higher conversion efficiency, and a varied range of applications spawned solar shingles, solar tiles, and solar façade. The solar industry wants to remind us not to waste space, and to increase the property value.
Types of Solar Roofs
- Solar tiles – durable, multilayer tiles with integrated thin-film solar cells, monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon solar cells
- Solar shingles – durable shingles with integrated monocrystalline silicon solar cells
Some solar shingle types are embedded with existing rooftop coverings. Still, some types must be the part of exact matching rooftop shingles, which are also offered by the solar shingle manufacturers, such as is Tesla Solar Roof.
Tesla Solar Roof Overview
As was mentioned earlier, solar shingles are gaining traction nowadays. And the primary reason for that is because of the Tesla Solar Roof, a product announced by Tesla back in October 2016 and first released in 2018.
Technically, Tesla is not the first company to launch a solar roof product. The development of solar roof tiles and solar shingles has been ongoing for a couple of years now. The only reason why it’s Tesla that’s broadening this conversation is because of the company’s revolutionary innovation, which is the production of a solar system that is a roof first. BIPV solutions have indeed been around for some time, but it is still a relatively new concept to have a complete solar roof. Hence, the popularity of the Tesla Solar Roof.
Tesla began accepting deposits to reserve solar roof tiles in May 2017. In January 2018, the company started ramping up its solar shingle products so that in mid-March, they could complete some of the first initial installations for their customers at the top of their waitlist in California. Production of the solar shingles is ongoing, and as of 2019, the Solar Roof is now on its third version. Elon Musk recently announced to build up 1,000 Tesla solar roofs a week, and the whole world knows that nothing is too challenging for Tesla.
Tesla solar shingles are worth it if there is a need to build or renovate a complete roof, which will eventually pay off for itself. For homeowners with new roofs, this can be an extremely high initial investment in solar power generating. Therefore, built-in solar shingles to suit any roof covering could be a more affordable option.
Homeowners should know that Tesla solar shingles are mostly covering 35% of the roof, and the rest 65% of the roof consists of matching Tesla’s non-solar shingles. Tesla emphasizes the solid structure of its solar tiles, which are 3x more durable than standard roofing tiles. This bold statement can be decisive if you are looking for a longlasting roof covering that will improve your home budget.
Moreover, Tesla reported that its Solar Roof is made of quartz and that it is offered in four designs: Tuscan glass tile, slate glass tile, textured glass tile, and smooth glass tile. With these four designs, Tesla will be able to make progress into both the solar industry and the roofing industry and offer competitive advantages for both.
Solar Shingles Electricity Generation
Since solar shingles are BIPV products, they understandably work like traditional solar panels. In other words, solar shingles make use of sunlight to generate electricity.
Sunlight strikes the solar single with the silicon semiconductor, and this semiconductor will then contain the captured energy. After some time, the electrons from the particles of light get loose and move freely, and these freed electrons travel through an electrical circuit to an area where other electrons are stored. This collection of electrons will then be harvested to generate a current, which can be used for electrical power.
How Much Power Do Solar Shingles Produce?
To achieve high yields from a limited roof space with suitable light solar shingles solutions, manufacturers had to unify all the solar panel’s features into rooftop covering. The challenges they faced were materials, roof-mounting solutions, dimensions, and output. Every homeowner is interested in the overall output from the solar roof system – or how much power do solar shingles produce? As shown in the table above, one solar roof tile covering can produce from 50Watts to 114Watts.
Another important thing that homeowners need to pay attention to is roof sides. The best roof side for solar shingles installation is the true south in the US. Even if the roof is facing southwest and southeast, solar roof shingles can be an excellent decision for your future. The northern sides of the roof should be covered with ordinary matching shingles since it will not be able to achieve optimal efficiency.
Solar Shingles Maintenance
Since solar shingles look like traditional roof tiles, their maintenance will be much simpler. Sure, you still have to look out for snowfall and leaves, but you don’t need specialized equipment to keep to clean the shingles. A garden hose is enough equipment to be used. Solar shingles are typically lightweight but can withstand large front loads, gusts of wind, and hail.
Solar shingles don’t require that much maintenance from you. Some would even say that even with no maintenance, solar shingles can last between 25 and 30 years.
How Much Does a Tesla Solar Roof Cost Compared to Regular Roofing Materials?
Unlike solar panels, solar shingles have a dual purpose: to function as both solar panels and a roof. As a result, you can expect for solar shingles to be expensive.
To be more specific, Tesla has claimed that their roof will cost $21.85 per square foot. This would then mean that for a home that needs 2,000 square feet of roofing, the total cost for a Tesla Solar Roof would be about $44,000 for Tesla solar tiles and Tesla non-solar tiles. This price reduces after the tax incentives.
Meanwhile, conventional roofing materials usually cost around $3.50 to $5.50 per square foot. Most homeowners would spend between $6,000 and $10,000 to install a roof using conventional roofing materials. Long story short, as you can see, a Tesla non-solar tiles does indeed cost a lot more than traditional roofing materials. Luckily, several manufacturers have offered the market solar tiles that fit into the existing roof.
Alternatives to the Tesla Solar Roof
Considering that the Tesla Solar Roof doesn’t exactly come cheap, some people want to know if there are alternatives. Luckily, there are many alternatives out there, and here is a list of the most popular ones:
- CertainTeed Apollo II. Unlike the Tesla Solar Roof, CertainTeed Apollo II doesn’t make use of glass louvers or hydrographic printing, thus making it not as attractive as the Solar Roof. However, the Apollo tiles are still undeniably more attractive than a standard solar module. CertainTeed Apollo II costs about $4.82 per watt.
- Luma Solar Roof. Just like Tesla, Lumo Solar Roof is a complete solar roof replacement product that includes both non-solar and solar cell components. This product costs about $4 per watt.
- SunTegra Tile and Shingle. The SunTegra Shingle can be mounted on top of existing asphalt shingles while their Tile is pitched as a replacement for concrete tile products. Both of them make use of monocrystalline cells and have a peak output of 70-110 watts. The price range starts from $3.80 per watt up to $4.25.
- Exasun X-Tile and X-Roof. The X-Roof product is a complete roof replacement while the X-Tile resembles a terracotta tile.
- Forward. The Forward intends their line to be a whole-roof replacement product that includes PV and non-PV components. They have two styles in development: Metal, which resembles a steel roof, and Tile, which resembles terracotta.
- Hanergy HanTile. The Hanergy HanTile mimics a dark terracotta roofing tile and integrates thin-film PV.
|Dimensions (inch)||Max power per shingle (W)||Conversion efficiency (%)||Weight (lbs)||Cell type||Power warranty (years)|
|Certain Teed Apollo II||46×13-3/4||63||15.4||12||Mono||25|
Can Solar Incentives and Tax Credits Be Applied to Solar Roof Tiles?
Yes, solar shingles and solar roof tiles qualify for solar tax credits and incentives. The US federal government provides a 26% tax credit for homeowners in 2020 and a 22% tax credit in 2021. On top of that, states and local jurisdictions offer even additional incentives.
The Future Is Bright for Solar Roof Tiles
Our world is in dire need of solar solutions to combat energy problems that we’re currently facing. And though solar panels and other solar systems are great, they’re not the most practical at times, especially in terms of the space needed for installation. That is why more people would like to have products that are already building-integrated photovoltaics because they solve multiple problems at the same time. And a perfect example of a BIPV product is the solar shingle.
Moreover, solar shingles save time and money in the long run, as they only require a single installation crew and a single product for roofing and solar energy production. They don’t need that much maintenance as well.
Additionally, solar shingles can produce as much energy as conventional, roof-mounted solar, which makes them highly efficient. And most importantly, solar installation prices continue to fall, so homeowners will grow more accustomed to owning PV systems instead of using third-party financing. As a result, differentiated solar products, like solar shingles, will increase market share.
Although the roof has it’s own feature to keep your home a cozy and safe place for your family; solar manufacturers added a new feature to it – electricity generation. Solar roof shingle companies are continually improving their products to make them cheaper and more affordable, so we can expect to see more beautiful and stylish rooftop coverings that can also harvest power directly from the sun, for decades.