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Solar Shingles Vs. Solar Panels: Cost, Efficiency & More (2021)

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Laying solar shingles
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If you live in an area that gets consistent, year-round exposure to the sun, then you may be a good candidate to install a residential solar system. Installing solar panels on your roof is by far the most common way to harness the sun's energy, but solar shingles are another option that's becoming increasingly popular.

So how, exactly, do solar shingles work, and how do they compare to traditional solar panels? In this article, we'll explain the answers to these questions and more.

What are Solar Shingles and How Do They Work?

You can think of solar shingles like small solar panels that integrate with your existing roof shingles or a new roof (if you need one). They work the same way standard types of solar panels do, but where solar panels are assembled on top of your roof, solar shingles are used to build a roof.

The most obvious benefit to this type of solar energy system is simple aesthetics; while photovoltaic solar panels tend to be pretty obtrusive, solar shingles allow you to have a completely normal-looking roof.

Like solar panels, solar shingles absorb energy from the sun, some of which may be stored in a solar battery and some of which is converted into useful alternating current. This allows you to power appliances and devices throughout your home with renewable energy.

Note: Those who prefer the appearance of a "tiled" roof to a shingled one may wish to consider solar tiles. These work in roughly the same way that photovoltaic shingles do but integrate with roofing tiles rather than asphalt shingles. If you're interested in finding out more about he cost of solar system installations, you can fill out the free quote form below.

Solar Shingles vs. Solar Panels: Pros and Cons

As you consider your options for residential solar power, it's worthwhile to note the pros and cons of both solar shingles and conventional solar panels. Both PV systems can supply your home with energy, but with its own advantages and drawbacks.

Solar Shingles: Pros and Cons

Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding whether solar shingles are the best choice for your residential solar system:

Solar Shingles Pros Solar Shingles Cons
Solar roof shingles are more aesthetically pleasing Shingles are a newer solar technology, so there aren't as many options readily available
Shingles are typically quicker to install Fewer top solar companies install solar shingles
They can be a more cost-effective if you need a roof replacement anyway Solar panel shingles are much more expensive than regular solar panels
Shingles have a lower conversion efficiency than solar panels
Solar shingles are more difficult to take with you if you move
Shingles are much more dependent on the slope of your roof

Solar Panels: Pros and Cons

Now, consider how standard solar panels compare:

Solar Panels Pros Solar Panels Cons
There are plenty of products to choose from Panels look bulkier and do not have the same elegant aesthetics
There are many solar installers that work with panels You'll need your roof to be in good condition before you can install solar panels
The cost of solar panels is much lower than that of solar shingles The solar panel installation process is usually a little longer than solar shingle installation
Solar panels are more efficient than solar shingles
You can more easily adjust panels to get an optimal position

Generally speaking, solar shingles are a better option if you:

  • Need to replace your roof
  • Care a great deal about the aesthetics of your roof
  • Have a roof that is already well-positioned and sloped to capture sunlight

If you don't fit into any of those categories, you may be better off pursuing solar panels, which are the more time-tested, widely available, energy-efficient and affordable option.

How Much Do Solar Shingles Cost?

As a rule of thumb, you can assume that solar shingles will be more expensive than panels. With that said, the exact cost of solar shingles can vary depending on which company you go with.

According to Solar Magazine, the average solar shingle installation cost runs somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000. But of course, there are some outliers. High-end solar shingles from a company like Tesla may cost as much as $70,000 or more for full roof installation.

Before installing, it's best to shop around and compare rates from at least two or three different solar shingle companies, ensuring you get the best value.

Also, keep in mind that the solar tax credits, rebates and other incentives for homeowners who buy solar panels are also available for those that opt for solar shingles. The current federal incentive program will give you 26% of the cost of your system back as a tax credit.

Installing Solar Shingles: How Many Do You Need?

Installation of solar roofing shingles may take up to a week; old shingles will need to be removed from the home, new shingles put into place, and the entire solar system connected through your inverter and solar battery.

Before the installation process begins, an installer will join you at your home to help you assess how many solar shingles you'll need. There are a couple of factors that will determine how many shingles you need: The size of the shingles you select, the square footage of your home and the amount of energy you need to generate.

One thing to keep in mind is that most homeowners do not need to cover their entire roof with solar shingles; you can intermingle them with traditional roof shingles to cut costs while still generating plenty of solar power.

Where to Buy Solar Shingles

Solar shingles are still relatively new, which means there aren't a lot of companies offering them. Some of the heavy hitters in the solar shingle industry include:

Tesla

Though the Tesla Solar Roof system is one of the most expensive options on the market, many homeowners find it totally worth the cost. Indeed, Elon Musk's high-efficiency solar shingles may actually be more cost-effective than traditional solar systems, at least in the long run. And while they only come in one style, their sleek aesthetics will be appealing to anyone who prefers a more contemporary look.

SunTegra

A bit less expensive than Tesla's system, SunTegra shingles are notable for their low-profile appearance, ease of installation and high level of efficiency.

CertainTeed

CertainTeed was one of the companies that pioneered solar shingles, and its products are still top-notch. They have a number of options to choose from, including solar shingles as well as solar roof tiles.

Luma

Luma's shingles are efficient and aesthetically pleasing and fall somewhere in the middle of the pack with regard to price.

Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Shingles

If you're thinking about switching to solar shingles, here are some other questions you may have:

How long do solar shingles last?

While it depends on the product, most solar shingles will last somewhere between 25 and 30 years.

Can you walk on solar shingles?

While most solar shingles are made to be fairly durable, and can probably accommodate you walking on them, you probably don't want to walk on your roof any more than is necessary.

Can you go off-grid with a Tesla Solar Roof?

Yes, if you want to completely break away from dependence on traditional utilities, Tesla roofs can offer you an off-grid option.

Are solar shingles worth it?

Given the high cost of solar shingle installation, they are unlikely to ever "pay for themselves." However, they can reduce your monthly electric bills considerably; factor in tax incentives and increases to your property values, and shingles can certainly be a reasonable investment.

Whether solar shingles are worth it for you will likely depend on how much it would cost for you to install a standard solar panel array. To get a free quote for your home system, you can fill out the form below.

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