Our world has started to pay attention to the fact that we need to use renewable sources of energy if we want to help save the Earth. That is why solar power, which is one of the popular renewable sources, is getting a lot of traction nowadays. More and more people have shown interest in buying solar products like solar panels and solar systems. But there is one solar product that has been introduced quite recently to the world that is also getting a lot of attention. And that solar product is the solar shingle.
Solar Shingles: What Are They? And How Do They Work?
Essentially speaking, solar shingles, sometimes known as photovoltaic shingles, are solar panels that are designed to look like and function as conventional roofing materials while still producing electricity. In other words, solar shingles are considered to be a type of solar energy solution known as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV).
From that description alone, it is obvious that solar shingles work like traditional solar panels. They make use of the sun as a source of energy to generate electricity. To be more specific, each cell on solar shingles contains semiconductors that will be the ones to capture the sunlight once it hits the shingles. Once the semiconductors have captured the sunlight, an electron from the particle of light will be naturally knocked off. This freed electron will then travel through an electrical circuit to an area where the other electrons are stored, thus finally generating a current that can be used for electrical power.
Solar shingles are reported to be able to power anything, from a calculator to a skyscraper, and they are also said to be able to produce 100% of a building’s electricity usage. But the latter is still debatable since there are factors that affect the efficiency of solar shingles on buildings: the demand of a building, the amount of sunlight the structure gets at that particular location, the building’s current utility rates, and the availability of sufficient space on the roof that opens to southern skies.
However, that said, solar shingles are still efficient solar products since they can practically anywhere — even in places that are prone to gray weather. This is because solar shingles can use diffused, scattered sunshine on overcast or even rainy days. And on the opposite side of the spectrum, if the building is on a place that is exposed quite a lot to the sun, then the solar shingles will produce excess energy that will just be sent to the electrical grid. In other words, it doesn’t matter if your geographical location is incredibly sunny or not — solar shingles will still work and help you reduce your electricity costs.
Top Solar Shingle Brands
Tesla Solar Roof
Of course, this one is #1 on this list, considering that this is the product that causes the popularity of solar shingles to skyrocket. Elon Musk, the co-founder of Tesla, revealed the news of the company’s new roofing product back in 2016, and in 2018, installations of these new solar shingles began. Production for these solar shingles is still ongoing, and as of right now, Tesla Solar Roof is already on its third version.
Technically speaking, Tesla is not the first company to ever come up with the idea of solar shingles. At the very least, the development of this solar roof concept has been ongoing for a few years now. However, what made Tesla be the company to somehow launch back the popularity of the solar roof concept is its innovation on the product. Unlike the other companies before them, Tesla has made sure that their solar system is a roof first. And since the idea of a complete solar roof has not yet been successfully brought to market, it was an incredibly big deal that Tesla managed to achieve that.
The Tesla Solar Roof costs at around $21.85 per square foot. So, if your house needs about 2,000 square feet of roofing, then you would need to pay about $44,000. Additionally, the Tesla solar shingles are made up of quartz, with four available designs: Tuscan glass tile, slate glass tile, textured glass tile, and smooth glass tile. With these four designs and innovations, Tesla is confident that they can make inroads into both the solar industry and roofing industry.
CertainTeed Apollo II Solar Roofing System
CertainTeed is a North American company that focuses on the manufacturing of products for roofing, insulation, wallboard, and more. As of right now, they have two solar products under their Apollo line: Apollo II, which is a shingle that is applied on top of your existing roof, and the Apollo II Tile, which is a replacement tile, very much like the Tesla Solar Roof.
CertainTeed makes use of monocrystalline silicon solar cells for their Apollo products. Additionally, they also don’t use glass louvres or hydrographic printing, and the product doesn’t come in a variety of appearances that mimic conventional high-end roofing products like slate. Because of this, the CertainTeed Apollo II isn’t as physically attractive as the Tesla Solar Roof is.
That said, the Apollo tiles are still more attractive than the typical solar module. This is because the Apollo tiles sit flush on top of your existing roof, unlike the solar panel where there will be several inches of air space between the back of the panel and the roof. Additionally, the Apollo product is approximately 47 inches by 17 inches in size, and it has an STC rating of 63 watts and a PTC rating of 53.5 watts.
The current pricing for the Apollo products aren’t advertised, but it is reported that it is around $178 per tile. So, this would mean that the price per watt is $2.82.
Luma Solar Roof
Just like Tesla, Luma Solar offers a complete roof replacement product that is simply named the Solar Roof. And the company’s solar roof replacement products include both non-solar and solar cell components that give the roof a more uniform appearance than the solar-only shingles offered by other companies such as CertainTeed.
In addition to the solar roof replacement, Luma Solar also offers its PV shingles as a standalone product that can be mixed with conventional roof shingles. Each of their shingles is 54.37 inches by 15.62 inches and is made up of polycrystalline cells to generate 60 watts. Luma Solar prides themselves as customer-focused, and so, for their customers, they offer a 25-year warranty and 5-year warranty for materials and workmanship.
Just like a lot of solar companies, Luma Solar also doesn’t list the pricing of the Solar Roof on their website. A rough guess for the price would probably be $4 per watt, which is actually at the very high end of pricing for premium modules.
RGS POWERHOUSE 3.0
The POWERHOUSE line of solar shingles was actually originally a Dow Chemical product based on thin-film solar. Dow stopped producing solar products back in 2016 and sold their POWERHOUSE product line to RGS Energy the year after that. The first change that RGS Energy implemented onto the POWERHOUSE line is to use monocrystalline cells instead of thin-film.
Just like the CertainTeed Apollo II Tile, POWERHOUSE is a roofing shingle that can be used instead of the conventional asphalt shingle. The dimensions of one shingle are 41.6 inches by 31.5 inches, and each of them generates 60 watts. Additionally, RGS reports that the efficiency of each cell is 17.1%.
Unlike the Tesla Solar Roof which comes with various designs, POWERHOUSE only comes in one style — an all-black appearance similar to the Apollo Tile. This design allows the solar cells to be clearly visible when viewed from above but not apparent when viewed from street level.
As for the price, RGS Energy did publish a press release that claims that the installed cost for a 6 kW system is $3.30 per watt, including labour and materials. In addition to that, RGS also offers a 24-year power production warranty and an 11-year product workmanship warranty for their shingles.
SunTegra Tile and Shingle
SunTegra is a New York-based solar products company that provides two solar roof products. The first is their Shingle, which is mounted on top of your existing asphalt shingles, and the second is their Tile, which is the replacement for concrete tile products. Both of these products are offered with PV-option only. In other words, both the SunTegra Shingle and Tile are meant to be integrated alongside conventional roofing shingles or tiles.
The SunTegra Shingle is actually a little different from the other solar shingles considering that it is larger than asphalt shingle. To be specific, the SunTegra Shingle measures at 52 ⅝ inches by 23 ⅛ inches. The reason for these particular dimensions is that the Shingles sit on top of the roof and do not replace your existing shingles. Additionally, the Shingle is also very low-profile as it only measures ¾ inches high. Because of that, SunTegrs has incorporated an air channel on the backside of the module, thus keeping the panel cooler and improving efficiency.
Both the SunTegra Shingle and Tile use monocrystalline cells and have a peak output of 100 to 110 watts. The pricing for either is not listed on their website, but both products do come with a 25-year power warranty and a 10-year product warranty.
Exasun X-Tile and X-Roof
Exasun is a company based in the Netherlands, and they offer multiple solar products. Two of which are solar-roof-related: the X-Tile which resembles a terracotta tile that can be laid in place of roof tiles, and the X-Roof, which is a complete roof replacement.
To be more specific, the Exasun X-Tile is based on its back-contact-on-glass technology and equipped with a suspension system for quick assembly. It has a high-efficiency rate of 18-18.6% as well as a high-performance ration of 4-7% more kWh/kWp.
On the other hand, the Exasun X-Roof system consists of small X-Glass panels of 60 cm by 82 cm. These roof panels are attached to the roof in seconds with an innovative but simple mounting system. These panels also have great ventilation behind them, optimally cooling them for a high-performance ratio. Additionally, the X-Roof is also perfectly perfected against rain, hail, and any other extreme weather conditions.
Forward Solar Roofing
Forward Solar Roofing is a startup that used a Kickstarter campaign to develop its solar roofing projects. The company actually intends to make its solar shingle line similar to the Tesla Solar Roof in that it is a whole-roof replacement product. Additionally, the Forward Solar Roof also includes PV and non-PV components for a seamless visual appearance. As of right now, they have to styles in development: Metal, which resembles a steel roof, and Tile, which resembles terracotta. In the future, Forward plans to have eight colours available for their products.
Forward makes use of durable tempered glass and monocrystalline solar cells for optimal efficiency. In fact, in terms of technical aspects, the company reports that its solar roof has an energy density of 19 watts per square foot. Additionally, their non-solar portions cost at $9.75 per square foot and their solar roofing costs at $3.75 per watt.
Just like every other solar company, Forward provides a weatherization warranty for its products of 30 years.
Hanenergy is a solar company based in San Francisco that specializes in thin-film solar. Their HanTile product attempts to replicate the look of a dark terracotta roofing tile, and it also integrates thin-film PV. Not much information is available for this product at the time, except for the company’s planned 25-year warranty for their HanTile product line.
Sunflare is an American company that has been in the business of PV design and manufacturing since 2009. As such, they have offered a variety of PV products for about a decade now — from parking retrofit systems to semi-rigid products for large-scale ground-mount installations. Arguably their most popular product is their flexible solar panels that are designed for rooftop installations. These panels stick to roofs without any need for mounting hardware or roof penetration.
However, despite their wide array of solar products, Sunflare is still planning on branching out. And this time, they’re planning to get into the residential solar shingle market as well. That is why as of right now, they’re currently working on developing on a new line that will be similar to the other BIPV options. Sunflare plans that these solar shingles will not be adhesive but will be applied using traditional roofing methods.
Not much information is yet available for this product, but Sunflare has announced that they expect to release their solar shingle technology to the market sometime in 2020.
The rise of popularity of the solar industry means that there is now a huge demand for building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) products. After all, the available solar products right now sound great and effective, but not everyone will be attracted to buy them when they don’t have space for them in their houses. So, the solar industry has to find a way to integrate all these solar technologies into the residential spaces without it being too conspicuous.
Luckily, the industry has come up with the idea of solar shingles. Simply put, the idea behind solar shingles is to combine two primary purposes — to act both as a roof and as solar panels simultaneously — into one solar product. Basically, solar shingles aim to solve a lot of problems that people face when it comes to acquiring residential solar, hence making it an innovative BIPV product.
Even though the development of solar shingles has been around for years, their integration into the solar market has been relatively new. That is why there are only a handful of companies out there that actively sell solar shingles. Tesla is arguably the most popular of the companies, but slowly yet surely, other companies have caught up with the trend. Some have started to develop their own version of solar shingles while others are still in the planning stage.
Long story short, solar shingles are relatively new solar products that can be the solution to people’s solar problems. And with these nine companies, the popularity of this product may just skyrocket in the near future, thus making it a huge victory for the solar industry.