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Solar Roof Shingles. Building-integrated photovoltaics system consisting of modern monocrystal black solar roof tiles.

Should You Buy Solar Shingles? (2024 Guide)

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Author Image Written by Tamara Jude + 1 other Reviewer Icon Reviewed by Roger Horowitz Updated 04/16/2024

Most solar systems use traditional rooftop solar panels. While these offer excellent energy savings, they can look clunky and noticeable on your roof. New technology has led to solar shingles, which function as solar panels but mimic traditional roofs for a sleeker, more low-profile look.

To help you decide whether solar shingles are the right option for your home, we have broken down their benefits and average costs, We also explored how they compare to traditional solar panels and reviewed a few of our favorite solar companies that install shingles.

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What Are Solar Shingles?

Solar shingles are an alternative to traditional solar panels that blend in more seamlessly with your roof. Like solar panels, they absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity for your home. Solar shingles are categorized as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), which are solar products that replace conventional building materials such as asphalt shingles or glass windows. BIPV solutions reduce building material costs while providing renewable energy.

Solar shingles aren’t as readily available as traditional panels, but interest in them is growing. The DOW Chemical Company introduced solar shingles to the United States market in 2011. They became more popular when Tesla debuted its solar roof in 2016. Since then, more solar panel companies and installers have begun offering solar shingles for residential installations. 

From a distance, solar shingles resemble standard asphalt roof shingles but they contain thin layers of photovoltaic (PV) sheets protected by tempered glass. Solar shingles are designed to withstand the elements just like regular shingles, including heavy rain, wind, and hail. As a result, they can safely cover or replace your existing roof. The video below will provide more information about solar shingles.

What are the Drawbacks of Solar Shingles

Here are some drawbacks of solar shingles compared to solar panels:

  • Higher installation costs than solar panels
  • Lower efficiency rating than high-performance solar panels
  • Solar Shingle Availability may low depending on your region
  • More solar shingles are required to power your home compared to solar panels

How Do Solar Roof Shingles and Solar Panels Compare?

Solar shingles and solar panels both produce renewable energy to power your home. However, our comparison below reveals some key differences in how they look and perform.

FactorSolar PanelsSolar Shingles
AestheticsBlue or black hueBlack hue
Average size39 inches wide by 65 inches long12 inches wide by 86 inches long
CompositionSilicon cellsCopper indium gallium selenide or monocrystalline silicone cells
Efficiency ratingUp to 24%14%–18%
Life span25–40 years25–30 years
Power productionUp to 400 watts13–70 watts

Further Details about These Factors

Most residential solar installations use rooftop solar panels. These rack-mounted panels are more visible than solar shingles, but some types stick out more than others. Monocrystalline (mono) panels are less noticeable because they’re black, while the blue color of polycrystalline (poly) solar panels sets them apart from traditional asphalt shingles.

Solar shingles can be integrated with your existing roof or used in place of a new roof, so they blend in more seamlessly with your home.

Solar shingles are significantly smaller than standard solar panels. Since they’re meant to cover or replace traditional asphalt shingles, they’re usually 12 inches wide by 86 inches long. They’re also lighter than solar panels, with an average weight of 13 pounds per square foot. They don’t add undue weight to your roof and they eliminate the need for mounts or bracketing systems. 

Traditional solar panels use crystalline silicon, which acts as a semiconductor and helps absorb the sun’s rays. Homeowners can choose from monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film solar panels. Mono panels use solar cells cut from a single silicon crystal, while poly panels combine several crystal fragments.

Although some solar shingles incorporate monocrystalline silicon cells in their design, most solar shingles use copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) cells. These cells create conductivity by utilizing glass along with a combination of copper, indium, gallium, and selenium.

Solar manufacturers use energy efficiency ratings to show how effectively panels and shingles can convert the sun’s rays into usable electricity. As we mentioned above, monocrystalline solar panels are generally the most efficient solar panels. They offer efficiency ratings up to 24%, which means they can convert 24% of the sunlight they absorb into energy. Polycrystalline panels only achieve 13–17% efficiency.

Solar shingles are less efficient than mono panels yet they are comparable to poly panels, with efficiency ratings in the range of 14%–18%. 

You’ll need to match your home’s energy needs to your solar system’s output. High-quality mono panels can produce more than 400 watts per panel, while solar shingles generate 13–70 watts each. Depending on their output, it could take 20–30 shingles to provide as much power as one high-powered solar panel.  

Solar panels can last more than 25 years with the right upkeep. High-efficiency solar panels typically have 25-year warranties to match this life span. Some solar installers also include a power production guarantee covering your panels’ power output. 

Solar shingles have similar 25-year warranties. Manufacturers may include two separate clauses for durability and power production. Your power production guarantee covers your shingles for 25 years, but the durability coverage may extend through your home’s lifetime.

How Much Do Solar Shingles Cost?

Solar shingles cost more than traditional solar panels. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), residential solar panels cost an average of $3.42 per watt in 2023, which works out to roughly $17,000 for a standard 5-kW system. Solar shingles, on the other hand, typically cost $21-$25 per square foot, or an average total of $55,000. However, prices vary based on how many shingles you need to run your home and their configuration.

Homeowners can take advantage of solar incentives, rebates, and credits to offset solar shingle costs. These incentives are offered at federal and local government levels. For example, the federal solar tax credit provides a tax reduction equal to 30% of your solar installation costs. Check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) for additional state and local incentives in your area.

What Is the Solar Shingles Installation Process?

Your solar shingle installer will begin by analyzing your energy needs and roof size. The higher your energy consumption, the more shingles you’ll need, and the higher your installation costs will be. The average installation requires 300–350 solar shingles and takes seven days or less.

The roofing company will also check your roof’s condition. Any roof repairs must be completed before installing solar shingles to minimize installation problems and damage. You may not need to replace or cover all of your roof shingles, but if your roof needs extensive work, it may be better to opt for a full solar roof to save on roofing material costs.

Solar Shingle and Roof Companies

A limited number of solar manufacturers produce solar shingles. Here’s an overview of some companies that provide solar roofing solutions. 
CertainTeed Solar: This company manufactures monocrystalline solar shingles and tiles. The Apollo Tile II system integrates with flat concrete tile roofs, and the Apollo II system installs on asphalt tile configurations. 
Luma Solar: Luma’s monocrystalline shingles have a Miami-Dade hurricane rating of Class 5+, which means they’re durable enough to withstand even the most dangerous hurricane-force winds. They work with metal shingles and have upgradable technology.
SunTegra Solar: SunTegra shingles and tiles can be customized for composite and tile roofs. Sheets of tiles are attached on composite layouts, while individual tiles are assembled on tiled roofs. 
Tesla Solar Roof: Tesla is one of the few solar installers that provides full-roof installations. The Tesla Solar Roof uses both glass solar tiles and architectural steel tiles to enhance the roof’s strength. This installation replaces conventional roofing to combine clean energy generation with protection from the elements.
Timberline Solar Roofing by GAF Energy: Timberland solar roofing uses rack-mounting, so it doesn’t need to drill into your shingles for proper attachment. These shingles come in four colors to match your roof’s design and withstand winds up to 130 mph.

Are Solar Shingles Worth It?

We believe that solar shingles are worth the investment for homeowners who do not want bulky solar panel installations but want the benefits of utilizing solar energy and are willing to spend for it. Solar shingles do require a more extensive roof installation and typically cost more than standard solar panels. However, their low-profile design blends in better with your home’s aesthetic, and they provide the same level of home protection as a traditional roof. If you hate the look of rooftop solar panels or have a picky homeowner association (HOA), solar shingles may be worth the higher price.

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FAQ About Solar Shingles

How are solar shingles installed?

Solar shingles can be installed on top of your current roof shingles or in place of them. They’re attached with nails or a racking system when assembled over your current shingles. The exact installation process varies between manufacturers. Solar shingles can also replace your entire roof and provide the same protection as traditional roofing. 

How long does it take to install solar shingles?

It can take as little as one to two days or as long as seven days to install solar shingles. The exact timing depends on the specifics of your project, including the condition and size of your roof and the number and type of tiles used.

Are solar shingles a good investment?

Solar shingles may pay for themselves eventually, which makes them a good investment for many homes. They are pricier and less efficient than solar panels. As a result, the break-even point or payback period will likely take longer than the average 8–9 years quoted for solar panels.

How long do solar shingles last?

Most solar shingles come with a 25-year manufacturer’s warranty, but they often last up to 30 years, which is a little shorter of a time period compared to solar panels, which can last between 25 and 40 years.

Are solar shingles better than regular shingles?

Solar shingles are better than regular shingles if you are interested in renewable energy for your home. Regular shingles will have a significantly lower up front cost while solar shingles have a large up front cost but provide a return on investment over several years.

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