If you’ve never heard of solar shingles or you just recently heard of it, well, it’s because they are still relatively new in the market. They are as recent as 2005. They are so recent that the very first solar shingle project was done in 2011 in Colorado.
Solar panels have been around for decades, I bet you’ve heard and even seen a solar panel. They date back to 1950 but they have undergone a lot of innovation to this date. There are solar panels that are as old as 4 decades and still functional.
The striking difference between the two is that solar panels are installed over the roof while solar shingles have the solar cells attached to the shingles hence look just like normal shingles.
In this post, we take a closer look at what exactly solar shingles are and how different they are from solar panels.
Keep reading to join this unending debate of solar shingles vs solar panels.
What are Solar Shingles?
Solar shingles, also referred to as solar roof tiles or the Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV), are installed as part of your roof just like normal tiles are. Each of the tiles has a solar cell in it that harnesses solar energy from the sun. This solar energy is then converted to electric power that you can use for your everyday home use. Each of the shingles can produce between 13 and 63 watts although this varies with the brand of the solar shingles. Some brands like Tesla solar roof can produce even more watts.
Solar roof shingles are designed to blend in with the aesthetics of your roof and are better installed when replacing your roof or fitting in a completely new roof. They last as long as regular shingles do and equally protect your home. They are strong enough to withstand the harsh weather elements such as wind, hail, and rain.
What are Solar Panels?
A solar panel is a collection of solar cells that is also composed of layers of other elements. These solar cells are usually spread over a black rigid panel that is placed over the roof. The solar cells work together to collect solar energy during the day and convert it to electric power that can be used to power electrical loads in the home at night.
Solar panels can last anywhere between 25-35 years depending on the quality of the panel. The best thing about solar panels is that you can tilt them or position them on an angle or roof side that they can receive maximum sunlight.
Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels
If you are debating whether to go for solar shingles or solar panels, a keen look at how they differ will be of great help to you.
Efficiency and Energy Production
One key factor when deciding between the two is the amount of energy generated and the efficiency of each. This is because the higher the efficiency level the more energy will be produced to power all your electronic loads.
Solar panels are more efficient hence have the capacity to produce more energy. Their efficiency levels range between 16% and 22% compared to solar shingles whose levels range between 10% and 20%.
A solar panel will take a minimal roof space to produce the same energy as solar shingles and still cost less. As far as ROI is concerned, solar panels will give you a quick return than solar shingles.
First things first, if you have no intention of replacing your whole roof then the option of solar shingles should be off your list. That means you are left with solar panels which are even easier to install but takes longer and with several steps than solar shingles.
The whole installation process takes between 2-5 days and you still have to obtain a building permit and have electrical inspections done. The frame will first be bolted onto the roof and then panels installed on the frame. Once done, the system will be connected to the battery and the converter. Installing solar tiles will only take 10 hours, you only have to set aside a day as long as you have everything with you.
The best thing with panels is that you can uninstall and move with it to a new home, unlike shingles that get damaged when uninstalled. That is why you can only opt for solar shingles if you are certain your current home is your long term home or rather your retirement home.
Whether you choose solar shingles or solar panels, the installation has to be done by a professional. Getting a professional to install solar panels is easier than finding a solar tile installer. However, manufacturers can always point you to a qualified installer.
What draws so many people to integrated solar panels is the fact that they are esthetically pleasing. They blend in effortlessly with the rest of the shingles on the roof that you can’t tell they are there unless you are told.
Unlike shingles, you can easily spot a solar panel from afar. They are bulkier, protrude from the roof and the gap between the roof and the panel is another eyesore. They are generally not good looking and most people, especially those who are keen on aesthetics, don’t prefer them.
Another concern for most people is that the gap could be a breeding area for birds and small animals who eventually find a way into the house. Although you can prevent this by placing a wire mesh, it will make it look even more unpleasing to the eye.
The good news is that there are new solar panels that are black, slim, and sleek; they do not have the signature grid lines. There are even newer panels that are in-roof meaning they are so slim that you can hardly note the difference between the shingles and the panel.
As mentioned earlier, solar tiles are still a newer technology and so they have not been used long enough to ascertain how durable they are. Most manufacturers give a guarantee of 20 years but since we are yet to confirm that, we would give solar panels the trophy for being the most durable for now. They can last as long as 25-35 years after which their efficiency starts dropping.
This durability tussle may change with time, given that solar shingles are built to withstand all the harsh weather elements. And with strong brands like Tesla claiming that their solar tiles can last up to 40 years, pretty much how long your house will last, we might just come back and update this article.
The cost of solar shingles is considerably higher than that of solar panels for obvious reasons. The technology is still newer, installation is a bit more complex as it requires a whole roof replacement, and there is still a lower demand and supply. These make their price almost twice that of solar panels and given that they take longer before you estimate your ROI then their cost is higher in the long shot.
Let’s look at an estimated cost comparison of powering a 2,400-square foot home down here.
|Cost of Panels||$5,000|
|Permits & Inspections||$500|
This cost could go up by $15,000 if you choose to replace the shingles. Installing solar shingles will cost you $65,000, materials plus installation.
Looking at the two costs, it is clear that solar panels are a cheaper option. These are just estimated costs; the actual costs may be higher or lower depending on your location, roof size, installer, complexity among other variants.
The only way solar shingles can be considered cheap but not cheaper than solar panels is if you already had plans to replace your roof or when installing a completely new roof in a new house.
The great thing is that should you choose to sell your home with either the solar panels or shingles; the resale value will definitely be heightened. It is estimated that the solar roof increases the resale value of a home by 10%. So even if you cannot reuse your solar shingles, you can always buy new ones for your next home from the extra cash you get.
Solar Shingles Vs Solar Panels: Pros and Cons
Here are the pros and cons of each option to further help you decide on what to pick.
Pros and Cons of Solar Shingles
Pros and Cons of Solar Panels
Q1: Can I replace Solar Panels with Shingles?
Yes, you can remove your panels and install solar shingles on your roof. Solar panels can be uninstalled without causing any damage to the roof whatsoever.
Q2: How much does it Cost to Install Solar Shingles?
Installing solar shingles will cost you anywhere between $60,000 to $80,000. However, these costs may be less or more depending on the size of your roof, pitch, among other variants.
Per square foot, expect to pay anywhere between $20 to $25 for a standard-sized roof.
Q3: How many Solar Shingles do I Need?
The number of solar tiles enough to power your entire home will depend on the size of your home and your energy usage. You can choose to install solar shingles on the entire roof or just a small section as long as the energy needed is met sufficiently.
Q4: How long do Solar Shingles Last?
Even though there isn’t any data as of now of how long solar shingles will last, the best solar shingles are estimated to last at least 20 years before they can reduce their efficiency.
Q5: Are Solar Shingles worth the Cost?
The initial costs may be high and it may take a while to realize the return on investment but they are worth every penny. Aside from generating power and saving you thousands of dollars in electricity bills, they also protect your roof. Solar shingles durability is also a strong factor when looking at the cost.
Q6: Should I replace the Roof before Installing Solar Panels?
You don’t need to replace your roof before you install a solar panel unless you had plans of redoing your roof. You, however, need to ensure that your roof is strong and can last another 10 years before needing a replacement.
Well, back to our question, solar shingles vs solar panels: which is better and why?
To be honest, I can’t really pick one over the other but this is what I would say, go for a solar shingle if you are going to do a roof replacement anyway, are installing a roof on a new house or if you are more concerned about the aesthetics. Also, if you prefer the dual benefits of solar shingles, then these will be your best investment.
If your top priority is generating more power, or if you are on a shoestring budget but still desire to have a solar roof, then the solar panel would be your best pick.
For any option that you go for, one thing is for sure- it will be cheaper than paying monthly electricity bills. You will also be using clean renewable energy and at the same time, saving your environment from carbon emissions. Even though the initial costs of installing both the solar shingles and solar panels may seem steep, the return on investment is totally worth it.