With Tesla’s Solar Roof on fire in the news recently (both literally and figuratively), some people have asked us: which is the better option, solar shingles or traditional solar panels?
(For quick and dirty answers, skip to the bottom.)
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of solar options based on the most important factors for homeowners.
What are Solar Shingles?
Solar shingles are solar cells made to look like regular asphalt tiles on your roof. They replace roof tiles, and require no racking, whereas traditional solar panels are installed above your existing roof, usually using racking systems.
Otherwise, they perform the same function, harnessing the sun’s energy to power your home. Both systems work with inverters and can be connected to the grid. They increase your property value, get the same incentives, and can be used with net metering.
Solar shingles can actually be easier and faster to install than a traditional solar panel system, taking as little as 10 hours, compared to traditional solar panels’ 2-5 days. Plus, with solar panels, you’ll need to make sure your roof is in good shape first - otherwise, you may end up paying for removal and re-installation down the road.
Since solar shingles replace your existing roof shingles, they may be more cost-effective to install with a new roofing job, or during roof replacement. You’ll spend less on purchasing asphault shingles, since solar shingles double as energy producers and roofing shingles. Like owned solar panels, you can remove them and take them with you if you move to a new home, however, it is more difficult to do so.
A big con of solar shingles is that slope of your roof needs to be the appropriate angle to the sun for them to be effective, whereas solar panel angles can often be adjusted. If you have a particularly steep roof, or one that isn’t facing the correct direction, solar roof shingles may not be a good option for you.
Also, since solar shingles haven’t been on the market for very long, you may find it hard to find a local solar installer to complete your solar installation. Whereas traditional solar panels have been around a while, and there are tons of options wherever you are.
Solar shingles are more expensive than traditional solar panels.
For a 5-kilowatt system powering a 2,400-sq.-ft. home, traditional panels cost about $10,00-37,000 to install, depending on which options you choose, with about $5,000 of that for the panels and the rest for the inverter, mounting, labor, permits & inspections. If you need to replace your shingles before installation, that can add another $15,000. Solar batteries can add $7,000.
Tesla solar shingles cost about $65,550 all told, with another $7,000 for a Powerwall.
If you want cheaper options, you may want to go with other solar shingle companies, like SunTegra, CertainTeed, or RGS Energy’s PowerHouse. But you can still expect to pay more than traditional solar, in most cases.
While solar shingles are more expensive to install than traditional solar panels, they can still save homeowners 40-70% on electricity costs. They can be more cost-effective if you are replacing your roof, with a potential 10-15% savings per watt of solar energy.
Solar shingles are less efficient than solar panels, which means you’ll get less energy from them. Efficiency will also depend on your roof’s positioning and slope in relation to the sun, whereas solar panels can be adjusted or installed in ground mount systems.
Solar shingles are the obvious choice if your main concern is a pretty-looking home, and price is not a factor for you. Solar panels are big, bulky, and hard to miss on a rooftop. Whereas solar shingles are sleek and flush with your roof tiles to blend in.
Some newer solar panels models offer a nicer appearance, including black modules without gridlines. However, they will still be about 6 inches from the surface of your roof, making them stand out more.
Solar panels have an average lifespan of 25 years, with some lasting longer (though albeit at reduced efficiency). Solar shingles vary, with Tesla claiming a 40-year lifespan, while other shingle providers like RGS Energy only offer a 24-year warranty. However, since solar shingles are relatively new, their longevity is not yet as proven as solar panels.
Solar Shingles: Pros and Cons
- Aesthetically pleasing.
- Quicker installation process.
- Protects your roof and replaces asphault shingles, making them more cost-effective if you need to replace your roof.
- Few installers.
- New, hasn’t been around long.
- Much higher cost.
- Lower efficiency.
- Dependent on the slope and positioning of your roof.
- Harder to take with you if you move.
Solar Panels: Pros and Cons
- Many installers and manufacturers available.
- High efficiency.
- Adjustable for optimal positioning.
- Bulky, not as aesthetically pleasing.
- Requires roof to be in good condition.
- Requires racking and longer, more complicated installation process.
Both Solar Shingles and Solar Panels:
- Increase home resell value.
- Save on energy costs.
- Solar Incentives available.
- Can be connected to the grid.
- Can be used with net metering.
- Can be taken with you if you move.
In summary, traditional solar panels are likely the best option if you’re looking for cost-effectiveness.
Solar shingles might be a better option 1) if you are already needing to repair or replace your roof, and 2) if appearance is more imporant to you than cost.
New technologies are emerging every day. Perhaps solar shingles will become more affordable to compete with solar panels over time.
Which would you choose, solar shingles or solar panels? Leave a comment below!
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