Solar Roof Shingles: A Guide for Homeowners

Solar shingles, also known as building-integrated photovoltaic shingles (BIPV), are a comparatively newer solar option than solar panels for homes, and they’re starting to go mainstream. You may also hear people talk about solar tiles. Tiles and shingles are interchangeable terms in the solar industry. The main thing to remember is that they mount onto your roof like conventional asphalt shingles. That makes them look different from solar panels.

Getting solar shingles on a home represents a major decision. If you’re thinking about having them installed but still need some helpful insights, this guide is for you. It’s also a great resource if you want to find most of the essential information about solar singles in one easy-to-reference place.

You’ll learn the pros and cons of having solar shingles, get specifics about some of the leading brands, solar shingles cost, and find details about choosing the best solar roof shingle for your home.

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    Are Solar Shingles Worth It?

    Perhaps the most pressing question on homeowners’ minds is whether they’ll feel satisfied with the investment. Solar shingles are worth the investment in the vast majority of cases, provided you’re well informed about the available options before making a decision. For example, there are numerous solar roof tiles on the market and you want to take the time to find an experienced and competent installer.

    They’re also a good buying decision if you’re already planning on getting a roof replacement and want to retain the aesthetics of the original one. Unlike conventional solar panels, solar roof shingles are about the same size as non-energy-producing roof shingles. So, they’re the ideal choice for people who love the idea of adding solar to their home but aren’t as enthusiastic about how they change the roof’s overall appearance.

    Pros and Cons of Solar Shingles

    Pros

    • Each shingle typically produces 13-63 watts of energy based on the brand. Some companies claim their offerings can do even more. That means they’re a great option if you’re interested in making your home more energy-efficient and are ready to make a change that will make the residence well-equipped for the future.

    • Then, as mentioned above, one of the primary benefits is that solar shingles allow you to generate electricity and use electricity at home without installing solar panels that significantly change how your roof looks.

    Cons

    • A possible disadvantage is that there’s a significant solar shingle cost range. Some starting prices are less than $30,000, but the costliest options could surpass $100,000. That’s why it’s a good idea for homeowners to think carefully about how much they can afford to spend. Remember that you’re making a long-term investment that will provide years of payoffs.

    • Solar shingles are not as widely available as solar panels yet. Finding a solar roof installer could be challenging if you live in a small town or another area with limited service providers. However, that’s starting to change. GAF Energy – one of the largest roofing companies in the United States – began offering a solar shingle product in January 2022.

      Martin DeBono, president of GAF Energy, used his home as an example of the potential solar shingles cost savings. Installing the roof and getting solar panels on it would lead to expenses of about $52,000, or $44,000 after available rebates. However, a solar roof from GAF would have a price tag of approximately $42,000, then decrease to $30,000 after an eligible homeowner received eligible rebates.

    Best Solar Shingle and Tile Brands

    People interested in solar roof shingles understandably want to know more about some of the industry’s leading options…

    • GAF Energy Timberline Solar

      These solar roof shingles offer nailable installation, so you don’t have to find a solar installer to do the job.  Any contractor with roofing experience can do it for you. Additionally, the solar shingles and roof are under the same warranty, making things easier if anything goes wrong down the line.

      DeBono said that having solar shingles installed while replacing a $15,000 roof would probably bring the total cost to $30,000 before subsidies. A GAF Energy representative mentioned that these solar roof shingles are about half the cost of a Tesla solar roof.

      A comment from someone at the company clarified how the mono passivated emitter and rear cells (PERC) used in the solar shingles achieve 22.6% average efficiency, and the flexibility the shingles provide allows installing solar in places previously unsuitable for it.

    • SunTegra Solar Shingles and Tiles

      SunTegra sells both solar shingles and solar roof tiles. The shingle version integrates with asphalt shingle roofs, while the other option works with tile roofs. These possibilities reportedly have 50% fewer parts than a conventional rack-mounted solar setup, making solar shingle installation easier. They’re also comparably lighter.

      SunTegra’s solar shingles come in three options: 105, 110, and 114 watts. Then, the associated price range is between $3.80 and $4.25 per watt, depending on the type chosen. As for the solar roof tiles, they cost between $6.16 and $6.57 per watt.

      SunTegra’s systems include the trademarked TegraVent technology, too. It improves performance through ventilation, keeping the whole roof cooler.

    • Tesla Solar Roof

      The solar roof shingles for the Tesla Solar Roof come in several sizes, giving homeowners plenty of options. They offer a maximum output of 71.67 watts. Each Tesla Solar Roof purchase comes bundled with a Powerwall backup system. It stores produced electricity so homeowners can keep enjoying it, even during an outage.

      Since the shingles have a 25-year warranty against defects and leaks, homeowners can rest assured that they’re long-term investments. Tesla also offers a production warranty. It promises that the panels will produce 95% of their rated power after five years and 85% after 25 years. That’s comparable to the guarantees many solar panel manufacturers offer.

      However, the Tesla Solar Roof does not integrate with all types of existing roofs, meaning replacements are often necessary before a roof can produce electricity. Also, the price estimates for this option vary, but they’re often significantly pricier than other options. One approximate price for putting this system on a complex roof with steep pitches was $176,600 for the solar aspect and $29,600 to remove the old roof.

    • CertainTeed Solar Shingles and Tiles

      Whether you opt for CertainTeed’s solar shingles or tiles, each one has 14 high-efficiency monocrystalline silicon solar cells, resulting in a power rating of 70 watts per piece. The shingles are sleek and look like black bands on the roof. Then, the tiles have the same profile as concrete roof tiling.

      Certainteed Solar provides a 25-year warranty on numerous performance-related aspects of its solar shingles and tiles. The coverage includes the solar shingle installation work, microinverters, and more.

      Certainteed Solar sells its solar shingles and tiles under the names Apollo II and Apollo Tile II, respectively. The costs to install solar shingles vary based on factors such as the desired energy generation and the roof’s angle and age. However, estimates for the Apollo II range from $6.40 to $8.00 per watt. Alternatively, if you opt for the tiles, expect to pay $7.64 to $10.00 per watt. However, the specifics of individual projects can raise the costs by 25%.

    • LUMA SOLAR

      LUMA SOLAR shingles have 16 monocrystalline cells and offer 80 watts of rated power output. They’re also good options if you don’t want a whole roof replacement but are interested in viable ways to get solar power.

      These solar shingles are like others in that the total cost depends on numerous factors specific to your roof and the project scope. However, estimates suggest getting a partial roof upgrade with LUMA’s shingles could cost less than $4 per watt.

      The LUMA website notes that these products can tolerate Category 5 hurricanes. The product spec sheet also mentions that they have a 22.1% efficiency and continue performing well in low-light or high-temperature conditions. One of the impressive things about solar energy is its power. It only takes 90 minutes of sunlight to produce a year’s worth of power for the world.

    • Forward

      Some people view the solar roof product from Forward as a direct competitor to Tesla’s Solar Roof. However, when it comes to costs, Forward is the superior choice. Its product costs less than $12 per square foot to install versus Tesla’s $22 per square foot. The company’s construction team reportedly wanted to design an option that was easy to install and replace. It also uses widely available materials, which keeps costs down.

      The overall design is substantially different from Tesla’s, too. Whereas the Tesla Solar Roof has individual shingles, Forward created a product comprised of one large piece with five layers. Thus, it’s slightly different from the other products discussed so far. However, many people discussing this company still categorize it under the solar shingles umbrella.

      Something else that sets Forward apart is that the outward-facing materials come in eight colors. That variety gives people more stylistic freedom than most other solar shingles available. Another aesthetic factor is that the installed solar product looks like a traditional metal roof. That could be helpful if you live in a community with strict rules about appearance.

    Best Solar Roof Shingles Installers

    Solar power is getting increasingly easier to enjoy. One of the many reasons for that is the growing influence of electrical cooperatives. There are hundreds of cooperatives within the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) alone. Of them, 95% focus on renewable energy sources through either generation or procurement. Since solar panels are becoming a more popular choice, people progressively find they have more options when finding professional installers.

    One thing to keep in mind is that you might not need a solar panel specialist to install solar roof shingles or solar roof tiles. One of the advantages of the GAF Timberline shingles is that people only need a nail gun to mount them, giving them the same installation requirements as traditional roof shingles.

    If you’ve gotten to the point of knowing which brand of solar shingles and solar roof tiles you want, most of those companies have preferred installer directories or listings on their websites. It’s also worth looking for installers by researching lists of the top solar roofing companies. Then, you can check out details about customer feedback, Better Business Bureau ratings, whether the company operates in your state, and more.

    Moreover, if you’re going with a Tesla Solar Roof, the company has installers to schedule for jobs after obtaining the necessary permits and utility approval. In that case, there’s no need to source installers independently.

    Should I Choose Solar Shingles or Solar Panels?

    Now that you know some of the pros and cons of solar shingles and are aware of the companies providing them, it should be easier to evaluate if solar shingles are the best option for your situation or if other possibilities are more appropriate.

    Solar Shingles vs. Asphalt Shingles and Other Roof Surfaces

    Most comparisons of solar shingles and other roofing surfaces relate to asphalt since it’s in such widespread use. Solar shingles and the asphalt versions have some similarities. For example, both protect your home from outdoor elements. Asphalt and solar shingles weigh approximately the same and they look similar to each other. However, there are some differences. Asphalt shingles are widely available, and that’s not yet the case with solar tiles and solar roof shingles.

    Of course, the main benefit of choosing either solar shingles or solar panels is that you can generate electricity with them. That’s not an option with asphalt or any other common roofing material. Perhaps you’re ready to make a long-term investment for your home and want to capitalize on solar energy without the bulkier appearance of traditional solar panels. Solar tiles and panels let you do that.

    Solar Roof and Solar Shingle Costs

    As you’ve already seen in earlier sections, there are some minor cost differences depending on which solar company you choose. However, speaking more generally, the average cost associated with getting a solar roof or shingles are about $21 to $25 per square foot or $1,100 to $2,600 per roofing square. In that case, the total average cost is at least $60,000 to $75,000.

    Contrast that with the costs of replacing the existing roof. It has a national average price of $11,536. As you weigh the overall costs, think about other factors related to your living situation. For example, do you plan to live in the home for the foreseeable future? If you might sell it relatively soon and need to replace the existing roof anyway, getting solar shingles at the same time could make the property more appealing in a saturated market.

    What Are Your Options for Solar Roof Financing?

    Figuring out how to pay for your solar shingles is a substantial part of making them affordable and more attractive overall. Fortunately, many manufacturers in the solar roof and shingle market offer financing options for customers.

    For example, when you order a Tesla Solar Roof, the company’s website provides an estimated purchase price. It includes the down payment and associated monthly payments for your installation.

    The other solar shingle companies mentioned here are not as transparent about financing possibilities. However, they usually have a Reserve section on their respective websites. 

    Clicking that will take you through various prompts, such as confirming whether you’re a homeowner or want a commercial installation. You may also need to enter the details of your average monthly utility bill. Providing the requested information will help narrow down the specifics of how much you can expect to pay.

    If you live in the United States, there’s also a federal residential solar energy credit to consider. It gives a 26% tax credit to solar systems installed in the 2020-2022 tax years. The credit drops to 22% for installations occurring in 2023. This tax credit runs out in 2024 unless Congress extends it.

    There are also state-specific rebates for renewable and energy-efficient upgrades. Calculating financing options, along with all other rebates or credits, will make it easier to build solar shingles into your budget.

    Solar Shingles for a New Roof or Roof Replacement

    Experts say 20 years is the expected roof life span. However, that figure can vary depending on the materials used. Two of the best times to install solar shingles are when you’re having a roof put on a new home or replacing an existing roof.

    Not long ago, people who wanted solar panel alternatives had to select flexible, thin-film solar material to go over a conventional roof. Today’s solar shingles don’t require mounting onto another material. They work as both shingles and generators of clean power. That’s why it’s most cost-effective to get them when you need a new or replacement roof.

    How Many Solar Shingles Do I Need?

    The manufacturers and solar installers typically don’t provide generalities about how many solar shingles or tiles a homeowner needs per roof square footage. The answer largely depends on how much average energy the home uses and whether the residents expect solar shingles to generate all or most of the energy required. That’s why the inquiry forms on most providers’ websites ask for average electricity bill amounts.

    However, one source clarified that solar tiles could cause a 40% to 70% reduction in a typical home’s energy bill. As the number of tiles increases, so does the expected energy output.

    Another thing to consider is your residence’s location and its weather patterns. The more sunlight it gets, the less photovoltaic surface area required to meet your energy needs.

    Some people may initially think that the best and only option is to cover significant portions of the roof with solar shingles. But, one possibility is that you may get impressive results with less solar coverage than initially expected. Keep in mind, too, that it’s easy to add more solar shingles if your needs change and make you decide the home should generate more energy.

    How Long Do Solar Shingles Last?

    Solar shingles and tiles should last at least 20 years, similar to solar panels. However, something mentioned earlier that bears repeating here is that they haven’t been on the market long enough to prove that. Dow Chemical first publicized the solar shingle concept in 2009. The first such products available to purchase became available two years later.

    However, the company discontinued them in 2016 because the products didn’t gain marketplace traction. By that time, only 1,000 homes had Dow Chemical’s solar shingles.

    Solar Shingle Warranties

    You can understand more about how long your solar shingles should last by finding warranty details associated with particular solar shingle brands.  For example, GAF Energy has several enhanced warranties and two solar addendums, each with relevant terms.

    Tesla provides a 25-year warranty on its tiles, while the warranties associated with CertainTeed’s solar products are either 10 or 25 years. However, in any case, you should always read the fine print and ask a representative from the relevant company if you have any questions or concerns before finalizing your decision.

    Some providers mandate that specific parties in an installer network must put the solar shingles or tiles on your roof for the warranty to maintain its validity for the indicated periods. Specifics also exist for making warranty-related claims. The better you understand solar shingle warranty terms before getting the products installed, the more confident you’ll feel about your purchase and long-term investment.

    How to Maintain Solar Shingles

    Solar shingles and tiles do not require engaging in any special maintenance activities. Many providers specifically describe them as low- or no-maintenance options. Tesla’s Solar Roof website recommends periodically hiring a professional cleaner to ensure the system gives continually high performance. It specifies that cleaners should use telescoping soft brushes to tackle the areas with built-up dirt and debris.

    The GAF Energy website recommends people monitor energy output through the accompanying smartphone app, suggesting progressive decreases could signal its time for cleaning. It recommends hosing the solar system off if it’s safely accessible. However, people should only do that at night or other times when the solar panels are cool. Otherwise, the contrast of cold water and hot weather could cause damage.

    If you identify a problem with some of the solar tiles while performing upkeep, addressing it could be more complicated than when dealing with solar panels. That’s because the panels are usually well separated from each other. Solar tiles get individually placed close enough to create a complete roof. Thus, fixing one or a few might require removing several other undamaged ones around the problematic one to reach it.

    Will Solar Shingles and Tiles Increase the Value of My Home?

    Current research about the impact of solar energy on home prices centers on the effects of solar panels, specifically. For example, one finding showed you could get a $15,000 home value boost by adding an average-sized solar panel system.

    It’s also good news that more Americans are warming up to renewable energy, regardless of political leanings. They support a full transition to it, too. Those were some of the takeaways from a 2020 study. It showed people’s renewable energy priorities differ depending on if they’re Democrats or Republicans.

    Democrats are comparably the likelier of the two political groups to embrace renewable energy for how it can help conquer climate change. Republicans, on the other hand, focus on the associated economic benefits.

    Something else to consider is the positive effects of minimalistic solar panels on historic homes or buildings. Researchers found that putting solar panels on England’s Bath Abbey could save approximately 10 tonnes of carbon dioxide yearly and account for 35% of the site’s energy usage. However, the building dates back to 1572. Some preservationists could rightfully argue that moving forward with such an installation interferes with historical merit.

    Solar tiles provide an appealing alternative. Representatives from a Swiss solar tile company called Freesuns indicate its products are ideal for use on historically significant structures. The tiles generally cost between $28 and $30 per square foot. More specifically, the company sells three product styles. The most expensive of these mimics the appearance of slate roofs. People at the company recommend that type when maintaining a realistic look for historical purposes is a top concern.

    Using Solar Tiles as a Selling Point

    Many people in the home market are somewhat familiar with solar power, but they don’t understand how it could affect their lives. Plus, as mentioned earlier, solar shingles aren’t as well known as solar panels. These realities may mean you need to make some extra effort to help potential buyers see the value of these products on your home.

    When people consider buying things, they often ask themselves what likely benefits they’ll notice from those products. Most individuals can immediately recognize the perks of a spacious garage or a swimming pool. That’s not necessarily the case with solar shingles yet.

    However, you can appeal to potential buyers by giving them hard data about how getting solar tiles improved your life. Consider giving them statistics about how much you spend on electricity now versus before you had them. Cost-conscious angles often catch people’s interest regardless of their income levels.

    Help people feel even more confident and comfortable about solar shingles by discussing their ease of maintenance and any warranty-specific details. It’s also worth mentioning that the adaptability of solar shingle systems makes it easy to add more if a new buyer has more-demanding energy needs.

    How to Select the Right Solar Tile Installer

    You’re now in an excellent position to take the next major step in your solar power journey by finding a competent tile installer. The following questions can help you partner with the right provider:

    • When did you start installing solar roof systems?

    • Have you helped other customers with needs similar to mine?

    • Are your installers licensed and insured?

    • When do you estimate my solar shingle installation can start?

    Don’t forget that the solar shingle providers’ websites often list approved installation companies and have details to walk you through the process. Alternatively, fill out a quote request form from Solar Metric. Doing that is a convenient and quick way to get specifics from top-rated installers.

    Having solar shingles put on your home can help you take advantage of clean energy and future-proof your residence. Once you’re ready to engage with an installer, those professionals will start the process of letting you enjoy solar tiles for years to come.