Sunshine on your roof can save you cold hard cash—but should you catch those free rays with old-school solar panels or slick integrated solar shingles?
Deciding between solar shingles vs solar panels can be tricky.
While panels may be more familiar, shingles hide their solar powers seamlessly within your roof.
Both transform sunbeams into carbon-cutting electricity for your home, just in different packages.
So, which is the smarter option—boxy blue or black panels or incognito solar shingles?
Let’s dig deeper to uncover the key differences between solar shingles and solar panels to make your decision-making process easier.
- What Are Solar Panels?
- What Are Solar Shingles?
- Solar Panels vs. Solar Shingles: Key Differences
- Solar Shingles: Pros and Cons
- Solar Panels: Pros and Cons
- Best Use Cases for Solar Panels
- Best Use Cases for Solar Shingles
- Should I Choose Solar Shingles or Solar Panels?
- Solar Energy Continues Gaining Efficiency
- Examples of Top Solar Shingle Brands
- Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels – Final Thoughts
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Solar Panels?
Solar panels are those cool blue or black panels you see on people’s rooftops.
They are made up of many smaller solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity.
When the sun’s photons (little packets of light energy) hit the solar cells, it knocks electrons loose and allows them to flow freely, creating an electrical current.
This electricity then flows into your home’s electrical panel and powers your appliances and devices, reducing the amount of electricity you need to pull from the utility grid.
Pretty neat, right? By putting solar panels on your roof, you can reduce your home’s carbon footprint and your dependence on fossil fuels.
You may even get paid for the extra electricity you produce!
Here’s a quick rundown of how solar panels work:
- Solar cells are made of silicon and other conductive materials that respond to sunlight
- Sunlight knocks electrons free to create an electric current
- The current flows into an inverter, which converts DC to usable AC electricity
- Excess electricity is fed back into the grid for bill credits
Read More – Solar Panels: The Ultimate Guide to Solar Panels
What Are Solar Shingles?
Solar shingles are photovoltaic cells designed to look like and integrate seamlessly with your roof shingles.
Rather than mounting bulky solar panels on top of your roof, solar shingles embed the PV cells directly into each shingle, maintaining a sleek, uniform appearance.
Solar shingles are installed just like traditional asphalt or slate roofing tiles, interlocking and overlaying to cover your entire roof.
Wiring runs behind the shingles into your electrical system.
They provide all the benefits of solar panels without compromising your home’s aesthetics.
Solar Panels vs. Solar Shingles: Key Differences
When it comes to dollars and cents, solar shingles tend to cost more than solar panels:
- Higher Initial Costs: The manufacturing process for solar shingles is more complex, increasing the upfront price tag. Expect to pay $3-7 more per square foot compared to solar panels.
- Comparable Long-Term Costs: While more expensive initially, solar shingles can pay for themselves over time, just like solar panels. Lower maintenance needs also save money long-term.
- Similar Return on Investment: Both solar systems can achieve ROI in 6-12 years with energy savings and tax credits. Higher solar panel efficiency can mean faster ROI.
- Same Incentives Available: Tax credits, solar rebates, and other incentives apply equally to solar shingles and panels. Savings help offset the initial cost premium.
For budget-focused homeowners, solar panels provide more bang for your buck upfront. But solar shingles remain a smart long-term investment.
Solar panels tend to be more efficient at converting sunlight into energy:
- Solar Panels: Average 15-18% efficiency with premium models up to 22%. Designed solely for energy generation.
- Solar Shingles: Around 13-15% efficiency since the shingle itself requires space and materials. Improving with newer models.
Higher efficiency yields more energy over time. Solar panels may better serve homes with high energy consumption. But solar shingles can still dramatically reduce your electric bill.
Solar shingles conform to your roof’s shape and design constraints better than rigid solar panels:
- Solar Panels: Require adequate south-facing space for mounting rails. It can be restricted by complex rooflines.
- Solar Shingles: Integrate seamlessly into any roof slope or angle. Sleek low profile adapts to unique architectures.
Panels allow little customization beyond tilt angle. Shingles blend in regardless of surrounding materials or layouts.
Given their low-profile integrated nature, solar shingles take up less visible space than solar panels:
- Solar Panels: Approximately 65 inches by 39 inches for a standard model. Standoff mounting adds height.
- Solar Shingles: Roof slope dictates dimensions, but shingles overlay for a minimal, uniform appearance.
For smaller roof surfaces, shingles avoid clutter and leave room for vents and skylights.
Solar shingles offer a major aesthetic advantage for homeowners who dislike the industrial look of solar panels:
- Solar Panels: Visually apparent rectangles mounted over your roof. It can seem industrial.
- Solar Shingles: Blend into your roof for little visual impact. Maintain architectural harmony.
Shingles generate solar energy discretely for historic homes or neighborhoods with solar restrictions. Panels are the obvious eco-friendly statement.
Solar panels tend to last longer than solar shingles:
- Solar Panels: Lifespan of 25-30 years with sustained energy output over time.
- Solar Shingles: Lifespan around 20-25 years. Loss of shingle integrity can reduce efficiency.
Solar panels are purpose-built for durability, with minimal maintenance required. Improper solar shingle installation can lead to earlier wear or damage. But manufactured warranties provide protection.
While product warranties differ, solar shingles and solar panels both typically offer:
- 10-year craftsmanship warranty covering defects and installation issues
- 25-year power output warranty protecting against efficiency degradation
Carefully review warranty terms for coverage scope and limitations. Strong warranties ensure your solar investment is protected long-term.
The same financial incentives apply to both solar shingles and panels, including:
- Federal Solar Tax Credit: 26% credit for systems installed through 2032. No limit on the credit amount.
- State/Local Solar Incentives: Can include rebates, property tax exemptions, net metering credits, and renewable energy credits (SRECs)
- Utility Rebates and Incentives: Check with your local utility for solar rebates and other rewards for generating your own energy
Incentives help make solar more affordable and can offset some extra costs for solar shingles.
The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency lists incentives in your state.
While solar shingles are growing in popularity, solar panels remain far more widely available through installers nationally.
Limited solar shingle manufacturing and installation capacity can mean longer wait times or limited geographic availability.
Solar Shingles: Pros and Cons
Pros of Solar Shingles:
- Seamless aesthetic – won’t disrupt your home’s look
- Versatile installation for complex roof shapes
- Lower profile than bulky panels
- Durable and weather-resistant like normal roof shingles
- It may be ideal for neighborhoods with HOA solar panel rules.
Cons of Solar Shingles:
- More expensive upfront cost per watt compared to solar panels
- Slightly lower energy efficiency than traditional panels
- Shorter expected lifespan than dedicated solar panels
- There are fewer installation options currently than established solar panels.
- Requires complete roof replacement for installation
Solar Panels: Pros and Cons
Pros of Solar Panels:
- Lower upfront costs per watt for energy production
- Higher efficiency than current solar shingle models
- Tried and true technology with a track record of reliability.
- Easy to add incrementally to grow your solar system over time
- The wide availability of panels and extensive installer network
Cons of Solar Panels:
- Visually alters the look of your home’s roofline
- It can seem industrial or out of place aesthetically.
- Limits on installation based on roof angle and orientation
- Does not integrate seamlessly into roof-like shingles
- Can be restricted by homeowner’s associations
Best Use Cases for Solar Panels
While solar panels work on many home roofs, they excel in these specific applications:
The large flat roofs of warehouses, schools, retail stores, or office buildings provide ideal surfaces for solar arrays. Plenty of space allows large systems that maximize energy production.
Since panels don’t require roof alterations, they are ideal for rental properties. Remove or expand the system quickly when tenants change.
Homes not connected to the grid depend on solar panels for all their electricity. Large, high-capacity systems are easy to tailor to energy needs.
Best Use Cases for Solar Shingles
Though adaptable to many homes, solar shingles are especially advantageous in these situations:
New Construction or Full Re-Roofing
Installing solar shingles is most economical when your roof needs complete replacement anyway—roll installation into your roofing project.
affair regulations limit visible solar panels. Shingles provide discrete solar power generation in older homes.
Tightly Packed Subdivisions
For homes with limited roof space, shingles allow smaller-scale solar systems that maximize available area.
High-End Contemporary Architecture
Architectural styles favoring smooth, uniform rooflines maintain their aesthetic with integrated solar shingles.
Should I Choose Solar Shingles or Solar Panels?
Are you ready to install solar on your roof but unsure whether solar shingles or panels are the right fit? Choosing the best home solar solution depends on factors like:
- Roof Type: Solar shingles only work for sloped roofs, while panels can also be mounted on flat roofs.
- Energy Needs: Homes with high energy use benefit from the maximum efficiency of solar panels.
- Budget: The extra upfront cost of shingles must align with your spending plan.
- Aesthetics: Shingles blend in for minimal visual impact, while panels openly flaunt your eco-friendliness.
- Geography: Your region’s climate and solar incentives sway cost-benefit analysis.
Ultimately, solar shingles vs. panels comes down to individual home fit and personal preference. Carefully weigh the pros and cons against your priorities to make the solar solution decision that’s right for you!
Solar Energy Continues Gaining Efficiency
As solar technology evolves, homeowners benefit from increasingly powerful options:
- Better Efficiency Solar Cells: Companies like SunPower, LG, and Panasonic are innovating cells that squeeze more energy from sunlight.
- Improved Aesthetics: From integrated solar systems to solar roof tile variety, aesthetics keep improving.
- Expanded Production: Large shingle producers like GAF Energy, CertainTeed, and Tesla’s Solar Roof are scaling up manufacturing capacity.
- New Financial Incentives: Expanded federal tax credits, state/local initiatives, and utility programs make solar more accessible and affordable.
The future looks bright for residential solar energy. Solar panels and solar shingles will both continue trending as practical options for sustainable, cost-effective home energy.
Examples of Top Solar Shingle Brands
Leading options include:
Tesla Solar Roof
The Tesla Solar Roof is the most well-known solar shingle system.
It is made of tempered glass solar tiles that are designed to look like traditional roof shingles.
The Solar Roof has a high-efficiency rating of up to 21% and is weatherproof, making it a good choice for all climates.
It also comes with a 25-year warranty.
CertainTeed Apollo II
The CertainTeed Apollo II solar shingle system is available in slate and shake styles.
This makes it a good choice for homeowners who want their solar shingles to match the style of their home.
The Apollo II also has integrated support rails, which make installation easier.
GAF Energy Timberline Solar
The GAF Energy Timberline Solar is a solar shingle system that is made of asphalt composition. This makes it a durable and fire-resistant option. Timberline Solar also comes with a money-back efficiency guarantee, which means that GAF will refund you the shingles cost if they do not generate the amount of energy promised.
Suntegra Solar Shingles
SunTegra Solar Shingles are made of a combination of solar cells and roofing materials. The solar cells are embedded in the shingles, and the roofing materials provide protection from the elements. SunTegra Solar Shingles are available in a variety of styles to match your roof, and they come with a 25-year warranty.
Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels – Final Thoughts
Transitioning to solar energy provides great benefits for your wallet and the planet.
When deciding between adding solar panels or solar shingles to your roof, carefully consider the following:
- Cost differences in upfront price, long-term expenses, incentives, and ROI
- Efficiency levels based on your home’s electricity demands
- Aesthetic factors and seamless integration with your roof design
- Intended lifespan as solar shingles may need replacing sooner
- Availability and lead times in your region for installation
With all factors weighed thoughtfully, you can select the best solar solution for powering your household sustainably!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are solar roof shingles better than solar panels?
Solar shingles and solar panels each have advantages and disadvantages. Shingles win on aesthetics and integration, while panels excel at lower costs and higher efficiency. Overall quality is comparable.
Are solar shingles as effective as solar panels?
Solar shingles are moderately less efficient than solar panels, averaging 13-15% efficiency compared to 15-18% for panels. But energy output can still offset a meaningful portion of your electric bill.
Should I get a solar shingle roof or solar panels?
Solar shingles are ideal for a visually seamless solar system if your budget allows. But if lower cost is your priority, solar panels provide greater value per watt. Compare the pros and cons carefully based on your home and preferences.
Can you walk on solar shingles?
Yes. Solar shingles are designed to withstand weight but should not be walked on regularly due to their delicate electronic nature. Walking on them may lead to damage accidents, especially when wet. For maintenance, consult a professional with safety equipment and training. They can inspect for damage and ensure safety. Generally, avoid walking on solar shingles unless necessary and with proper precautions.
Do solar shingles leak?
Solar shingles, when installed correctly, do not typically leak. Proper installation involves sealing and flashing to prevent water infiltration. However, improper installation or damage can lead to leaks. Regular maintenance and professional installation can help ensure that solar shingles remain watertight and secure. If you suspect a leak, it’s essential to address it promptly to prevent potential damage to your roof and property.