What Are the Pros and Cons of Solar Shingles?

Close up of solar panels

Solar power has been providing homes with a cost-efficient and sustainable source of energy for decades. All this time, solar panels have been the common equipment for solar power systems. However, today, there is another option in the form of solar shingles.

Solar shingles, as their name suggests, look exactly like standard roof shingles. They look like and function the same way as any other roof shingles made of asphalt or composite, with the additional feature of producing electricity. They have the same photovoltaic technology as rooftop solar panels, allowing them to absorb and convert solar power into electricity.

Solar shingles are a “new” technology. While solar panels have been around for decades, solar shingles, or “the solar roof,” were just introduced in 2009 by DOW Chemistry Company. One of the recent developments in the industry was Tesla’s introduction of its solar shingles, the Tesla Solar Roof Tiles, in 2016.

Side view of a solar panel mounted on roof
Corner view of a solar panel layout on roof

Solar shingles cost significantly more than regular roof shingles, as they can provide solar power to your home. Compared to solar panels, a solar shingles installation also costs more. Solar shingles may cost 15% to 25% more than traditional solar panels or between $25,000 to $60,000. The price, of course, varies with the brand, as some might cost around $70,000, like the Tesla Solar Roof.

You can never go wrong with getting a solar energy system for your home. Aside from a reduced carbon footprint, solar power can also provide a reliable and cost-efficient source of electricity.

Solar shingles are another option for anyone who plans to switch to solar power. But, as a newer technology in the market, how do solar shingles fare compared to solar panels?

What Are the Advantages of a Solar Roof?

Solar shingles are fairly new to the market, yet more people are attracted to this innovation due to its appearance and utility.

  • 1. Reduced utility bills — Like solar panels, solar shingles’ main benefit is supplying your home with solar power, which can be cheaper than ordinary electricity. Installing a solar power system for your home reduces your utility bills and provides significant savings.
  • 2. Environmentally friendly — Another significant advantage to any solar power system is the potential to reduce your carbon footprint.
  • 3. Aesthetic — Solar shingles are designed to look and function like regular roof shingles. A solar roof blends in better since it resembles traditional roofing materials. It can help avoid any potential issues with a Homeowners’ Association.
  • 4. Durable — They are durable and weather-resistant, protecting your home while providing solar power.
  • 5. Incentives — Similar to solar panels, solar shingles are eligible for rebates and incentives, which can reduce the initial cost of your solar power system.

Solar shingles may seem ideal for those who want to switch to solar power. Still, it is also important to consider the disadvantages of having a solar roof, particularly compared to traditional solar panels.

Fron facing shingle roof with solar panels
  • 1. Higher cost — Solar shingles sometimes cost more than solar panels. A traditional solar panel, on average, can cost around $2.86 per watt, while solar shingles may range from $4.80 – $6.40 per watt.
  • 2. Less efficient — Solar shingles are usually less efficient than traditional solar panels. Solar panels tend to have an energy efficiency of over 22% to 23%, meaning they convert 22% to 23% of the sunlight they absorb. Solar shingles, on the other hand, often only have 14% to 18%. The efficiency of solar shingles is affected by the lack of airflow underneath the solar shingles, unlike that of rack-mounted solar panels. The lack of airflow causes a build-up in temperature, affecting solar shingles’ energy production.
  • 3. Less flexible — Since solar shingles are designed to function as a roofing material, they are restricted to the shape and orientation of your roof, making them susceptible to shade or other factors that may hinder their performance, unlike rack-mounted solar panels, which can be placed in different locations and angles to maximize the solar power system’s output. Also, the amount of solar shingles you can use can be restricted by the size of your roof. Make sure to compute your household’s energy needs before making your purchase.
  • 4. Lower output — A solar shingle is smaller than a traditional solar panel, causing a potentially lower output than a solar panel. A solar panel’s output can reach 400 watts, while an individual solar shingle can generate 13 to 70 watts. One solar panel is equivalent to 20 to 30 solar shingles.
  • 5. Limited availability — Despite more companies, like Tesla, releasing their solar shingles to the market, production is still limited. You may experience a long wait before you can begin your installation. Another problem is the lack of expert installers, unlike solar panels, because solar shingles are relatively new.
Shingle roof with solar panels mounted

Solar shingles are indeed a great innovation. They provide a mix of modern solar power and traditional aesthetics. However, if you are considering using solar shingles for your roof, it would be best to remember your purpose for purchasing a solar power system.

The appearance of solar shingles comes at a price. When it comes to generating power, solar shingles may be less efficient than traditional solar panels as their design can hinder the performance of the solar power system. They provide protection for your home like regular solar shingles, but they may have lower energy production than traditional solar panels.

If you are purchasing solar shingles to provide an alternative power source for your home, consider the trade-off between appearance and performance. Solar shingles tend to cost more while generating less energy. Yes, you are getting a more aesthetically appealing design, but you might be sacrificing output, which also affects your savings. Remember, the more efficient your solar power system is, the more you can save.

Overall, solar shingles are an innovative technology, though solar panels are still the more efficient and effective option.

The overall cost of installing solar shingles differs from household to household, as the number of solar shingles depends on the household’s utility needs.

Following these steps will estimate how many solar shingles you will need and, more importantly, how much it will cost. Although, it is still best to get a professional estimate to get a more accurate computation. This gives you the number of solar shingles you need to supply your household’s daily electricity needs.

Birds eye view of a shingle roof with solar panels installed