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Solar shingles and solar panels are two options for homeowners interested in harnessing solar energy. While traditional solar panels are efficient and recognizable, solar shingles offer a more seamless look and can be more durable than panels. However, the cost of solar shingles is typically higher than solar panels due to the amount of materials needed for installation.
Highlights & Key Takeaways
- Solar panels are more energy-efficient than solar shingles, but solar shingles can still significantly reduce utility bills.
- Both solar panels and solar shingles are easy to install and take only a few days to complete.
- The cost of solar shingles is considerably higher than the cost of traditional roofing materials, while solar panels are more affordable.
- It is recommended to hire a professional for the installation of both solar panels and solar shingles.
Comparing Solar Shingles vs. Solar Panels
The solar industry in the U.S. is rapidly growing, making it the third-largest solar energy market worldwide. Due to the declining cost of solar technology, an increasing number of American households are now equipped with solar panels, accounting for approximately 4% of homes. In this comparison, we evaluate two solar roofing options, namely solar shingles and solar panels, taking into account various factors such as cost, durability, availability, installation, and more to assist you in making an informed decision regarding which option would best suit your needs.
Solar shingles tend to have a higher upfront cost than solar panels. However, many think solar shingles are more aesthetically pleasing (because they look just like other roof shingles) and may increase your home's resale value. Solar panels, on the other hand, are typically less expensive, but their installation may require additional structural support or roof modifications, which can increase the total cost.
If you’re trying to understand the cost differences between solar tiles vs. solar panels, you should know that solar shingles average $55,000 for a home but range between $25,000 and $75,000. When it comes to solar panels, on the other hand, most homes require between 17 and 21 solar panels, and solar panel costs after credits can range from $16,870 to $23,170. Due to the investment size of either option, many homeowners seek solar panel financing to help them afford the purchase.
One of the reasons so many homeowners elect solar panels instead of solar shingles is because of availability. Solar panels are more widely available across the U.S. and can be installed on various roof types, including shingle, metal, and tile roofs. In contrast, solar shingles are a relatively newer technology and are not yet available in all areas of the country.
Moreover, not all roofing contractors have experience installing solar shingles, making it important to research and find qualified professionals in your area.
Durability & Longevity
Solar shingles and panels have similar lifespans, lasting approximately 25 to 30 years at maximum energy production. However, it’s important to remember that solar shingles are intended to replace your standard shingles. And solar shingles have a longer lifespan than traditional asphalt shingles, which only last 15 to 30 years. Further, solar shingles are also available in weather- and fire-resistant varieties.
The longevity of your solar energy products can greatly depend on the manufacturer, and different solar companies offer their warranties. For instance, Tesla's solar shingles come with a 30-year warranty, making Tesla shingles vs. solar panels a compelling consideration. With solar panels, the energy output significantly decreases after the projected lifespan. Therefore, it's crucial to check the manufacturer's warranty for solar panels and shingles to understand the extent of your coverage.
As we’ve mentioned, solar shingles are designed to look and function just like your normal home shingles, but better. For this reason, many homeowners prefer the shingles approach because it serves as a one-and-done approach, for at least the next 25 to 30 years. Solar panels, on the other hand, sit on top of your home’s shingles. And depending on if you choose monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels, they will have either a black or blue look to them.
Solar shingles are lightweight and flexible, weighing around 13 pounds per square foot, and are the same size as traditional shingles, measuring approximately 12 inches wide by 86 inches long and less than one inch thick.
In contrast, solar panels are much larger and heavier, with residential panels averaging around 65 inches long by 39 inches wide and weighing approximately 40 pounds. While solar panels are heavier than solar shingles, most roofs can support their weight without additional structural support unless the roof is quite old.
Both solar panel and solar shingle installation are a quick process. Just as with your normal asphalt shingles, replacing them with solar shingles will take just a few days and typically takes less than one week. Much of the time involved with solar shingle installation is the removal of your previous roof and the power hookups for the new ones. Solar panels can be installed in one to two days.
Your roof type is an essential factor to consider when deciding between solar panels and shingles. Both options can be installed on various roof types, but the type of roofing material will affect the installation process and overall cost. For example, on flat or low-slope roofs, solar panels are usually mounted on racks; on pitched roofs, panels are typically mounted directly onto the roof. Different roof types require different mounting techniques and may require additional support structures, such as a ballasted mounting system for flat roofs.
On the other hand, solar shingles are typically installed in the same manner as traditional asphalt shingles and are suitable for sloped roofs with a pitch of at least 14 degrees.
Solar shingles have a lower energy efficiency than traditional solar panels due to constricted airflow underneath the shingles. Typically, solar shingles produce between 13 to 63 watts of power, which is lower than the power output of most solar panels. However, even with lower efficiency, a typical solar shingle installation can still significantly reduce residential utility bills by 40% to 70%, depending on factors such as energy usage and regional electricity rates.
Flexibility & Resale Value
Solar shingles are designed to replace traditional asphalt tiles on sloped or tilted roofs. In contrast, solar panels can be installed on any roof type, including flat roofs. Unlike solar panels, once solar shingles are installed and affixed to the roof, they cannot be removed or detached.
This lack of flexibility is important to consider, especially if you plan on moving in the near future. Though solar panels will raise your home’s property value by approximately $20 for every $1 saved on utility bills, not all buyers want a home with solar power.
Conversely, solar panels are relatively easy to relocate and reposition if you move to a new location, providing greater flexibility and versatility. Therefore, while solar shingles offer seamless integration with the roof, solar panels provide more flexibility in mounting and repositioning.
Many countries and states offer tax incentives to homeowners who install solar panel systems, which can significantly lower the upfront costs of installation. And the great news is that you can access those incentives regardless of whether or not you choose solar shingles vs. solar panels.
Solar panels and shingles require minimal maintenance, but whichever option you choose, you should have a solar professional perform an annual inspection and cleaning. However, when cleaning the solar roof, it is crucial to avoid using a pressure washer, regardless of the roofing material. Instead, use a gentle, low-pressure spray and a commercial detergent designed explicitly for roofs to remove dirt and debris and improve energy efficiency effectively.
This approach will help preserve the integrity of the solar panels or shingles and prevent any potential damage caused by high-pressure washing.
What Are Solar Shingles?
Solar shingles, sometimes called solar tiles, integrate seamlessly with a home's roofing system. Think of them as small solar panels installed in place of traditional roof shingles or tiles, allowing you to generate electricity from the sun while protecting your home from the elements.
Solar shingles are typically made from materials like tempered glass or lightweight polymers. They are designed to be durable and long-lasting, with an average lifespan of around 25 to 30 years. Unlike traditional solar panels, solar shingles are often preferred for their aesthetic appeal, as they blend in more naturally with a home's architecture and roofing design.
What Are Solar Panels?
Solar panels capture energy from the sun and convert it into usable electricity, resulting in less drain on the U.S. power grid. Also known as photovoltaic (PV) panels, solar panels are made up of a collection of solar cells, typically made from silicon, a semiconductor material capable of converting sunlight into electrical energy.
When exposed to sunlight, these cells create an electric field, which allows them to generate a direct current (DC) flow of electricity. This electricity can then be converted into an alternating current (AC) flow using an inverter, making it suitable for use in homes, businesses, and other applications. Solar panels are typically installed on rooftops or in other sunny locations, where they can receive maximum exposure to the sun's rays and generate the most energy possible.
How Do Solar Shingles and Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels and solar shingles work similarly to generate electricity from sunlight. Solar panels use photovoltaic cells made of silicon to convert sunlight into electrical energy. When sunlight hits the cells, they generate an electric field, which creates a flow of electricity. The electricity produced is direct current (DC), which needs to be converted to alternating current (AC) by an inverter before it can be used in homes or businesses. The cells are wired together in a panel to create the desired amount of electricity.
Conversely, solar shingles are individual shingles installed on the roof, ultimately replacing your standard shingles. They are designed to look like regular shingles but capture sunlight and convert it into electrical energy. They have photovoltaic cells inside, situated between layers of materials, including silicon, glass, and metal. These cells absorb sunlight and generate an electric charge. The electricity produced is then sent through a wire that runs under the shingles to an inverter, which is converted into AC electricity for use.
Pros and Cons of Solar Shingles vs. Solar Panels
When deciding whether to invest in solar energy, homeowners should consider the advantages and disadvantages of different systems. In this section, we'll explore the pros and cons of solar shingles vs. traditional solar panels to help you make an informed decision.
Solar Shingles Pros
- Offer a more streamlined appearance than traditional solar panels.
- Integrated with the roofing material, eliminating the need for separate installation.
- Less square footage is required, so there is no need for the same large installation area that traditional solar panels require.
- Withstands the elements, including high winds, heavy snow, and hail.
Solar Shingles Cons
- Less efficient than traditional solar panels due to their smaller size and limited airflow underneath.
- Does not provide power at night or during storms
- Has a higher initial cost than traditional solar panels.
- Slope of your roof needs to be the correct angle to the sun for the shingles to be effective
Solar Panel Pros
- Reduce or eliminate electric bills
- Energy independence
- Produce and use clean energy
- Improve your home's value
- Federal tax credit available
- Get paid for surplus energy through net metering
Solar Panel Cons
- They are more expensive than traditional solar panels
- Long return on investment
- Potential increase in property taxes
- Potential increase in homeowners insurance premiums
- Accessibility and affordability is dependent on where you live
- Solar storage is additional expense
Solar Shingles vs. Solar Panels: How to Choose the Best Option for You
Solar shingles and solar panels have unique advantages and disadvantages, so be sure to evaluate your specific needs and circumstances before making a decision. In this section, we will explore the key factors to consider when choosing between solar shingles and solar panels and provide questions to ask yourself to help you determine the best option.
Here are some questions to consider when considering solar shingles vs. solar panels:
- What is the slope and material of my roof?
- How much energy do I need to generate to meet my household's energy needs?
- How much am I willing to spend on a solar installation?
- How long do I plan to stay in my current home?
- Am I looking for a more aesthetically pleasing option?
- What is the climate like in my area and how will it impact energy production?
- Do I want a system that can be easily removed or relocated?
Which Is More Affordable: Solar Shingles or Solar Panels?
Determining what is more affordable, panels or shingles, is subjective. Solar shingles average $55,000 for a home but range between $25,000 and $75,000 before tax credits. Solar panel costs after credits can range from $16,870 to $23,170. Solar panels are less costly upfront, which is why many homeowners select them, but they are not as visually appealing as solar shingles. Ultimately, you need to consider the cost of solar shingles vs roof shingles compared to the energy you hope to produce, the money you want to save, and the appearance you are willing to live with.
Which Is More Efficient: Solar Shingles or Solar Panels?
Solar shingles are less energy efficient compared to traditional solar panels due to the limited airflow underneath them. Generally, solar shingles generate lower power output, ranging from 13 to 63 watts, in contrast to solar panels. However, despite lower energy efficiency, solar shingles can still considerably decrease residential utility bills, between 40% and 70%, depending on regional electricity rates and energy consumption factors.
Which Is Easier to Install: Solar Shingles or Solar Panels?
Deciding which is easier to install, solar shingles or panels, depends on the installer, the type of training they receive, and their experience. That said, installing solar panels and solar shingles is a relatively quick process, with either option taking a day or two to just under a week.
However, the time required for solar shingle installation includes the removal of the old roof and power hookups for the new shingles, which can add to the overall installation timeline. When it comes to ease of installation, solar panels are generally considered easier to install as they can be attached to almost any type of roof.
Which Is Better: Solar Shingles or Solar Panels?
Whether solar shingles or solar panels are better depends on a few factors. Solar shingles offer a sleek and seamless appearance, making them a popular choice for homeowners concerned with the aesthetics of their homes. However, solar panels generally have higher energy efficiency and are more cost-effective.
If you prioritize energy efficiency and cost savings, you may prefer solar panels. Solar panels can be installed on any roof type, while solar shingles require a specific roof type and cannot be easily removed or relocated. Ultimately, the best option depends on your priorities and needs.
Choosing between solar shingles vs. solar panels ultimately depends on your needs and preferences. Solar shingles may be better for those looking for a more aesthetically pleasing option that seamlessly integrates into their roof. In contrast, solar panels may be preferred for their higher efficiency and flexibility in installation. Whatever option you choose, investing in solar energy is a step towards a more sustainable future.