Solar power is the way of the future. The technology is constantly changing and improving, creating new ways and opportunities for us to choose clean renewable energy every day. One of the biggest innovations to come out in the last decade is the solar roof. Solar roofs are made up of solar panel shingles, turning your entire roof into a solar array without affecting the aesthetics of your home. Although they may not look exactly like traditional shingles, they definitely look better than traditional solar panels. And to some, solar shingles may even look better than traditional shingles.
Because solar shingles are so new, there has been a lot of controversy about them. Like all solar products, it has taken time for this invention to reach it’s potential, but over the last couple of years we have seen a drastic improvement in this technology. We may not be seeing a vast number of solar roofs for a few more years since manufacturers are limited. Even so, these could be a huge game-changer in the solar scene so we wanted to take a look at the options that are available and discuss whether or not a solar roof may be right for you.
Top 4 Solar Panel Shingles of 2020
- Tesla Solar Roof: Best Full Solar Roof
- SunTegra Solar Roof Tiles: Best Integrated Solar Tiles
- CertainTeed Apollo II Solar Tiles: Best Integrated Solar Shingles
- Luma Luxury Roof Systems: Best Upgradable Solar Shingles
Reviews of the Best Solar Shingles
When you think solar shingles, you think Tesla. Although Tesla was not the first company to produce solar shingles, they are the most well-known.
This popularity stems mainly from all the promises that Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, made concerning solar shingles when the company first became involved in the field. There were a lot of big promises, plenty of speculation, and even some failures, but Tesla’s third generation of solar shingles seems to have finally hit the mark.
These shingles are just as durable, if not more durable, than traditional roof slates. They can withstand wind, rain, and hail and they are fire-resistant. You can choose between having your entire roof covered in solar panel shingles or you can have part solar and part traditional slates. Installation of this solar system includes Tesla’s Powerwall, a powerful battery that acts as a power storage unit as well as a generator during power outages.
One of the best benefits of this system is that the entire thing can be monitored from the Tesla app. You can set your power preferences, such as when you would like to store the energy and when you would like to use it. The app will also notify you when brownouts or power outages are expected in your area so you can be conscientious of how that affects your power usage.
If you love the look of tile roofs but still want to go solar, then these solar tiles from SunTegra are the perfect choice for you. They are designed to fit in with standard concrete roof tiles, offering you a sleek low-profile look that won’t alter the aesthetics of your home the way traditional solar panels do.
Don’t let their attention to aesthetics fool you, these are still high-performance solar panels. They function nearly as efficiently as traditional panels and they come with patented TegraVent technology which keeps the panels cooler, making them more efficient.
These shingles also offer easy installation, using less than 50% as many parts as other brands. This makes them safer and easier to install, giving you peace of mind and saving you money on installation costs. SunTegra offers residential and commercial installation, so no matter what size roof you need, they have a solar solution for you.
With over 100 years of roofing experience, Certainteed knows what they are doing when it comes to creating and installing roofing materials. These solar shingles were designed for roofers, by roofers. They are fully weather-resistant and capable of withstanding up to 25lb per square foot.
Not only are these tiles a great building material, but they are also great solar panels. Each shingle contains 14 high-efficiency monocrystalline solar cells, making these shingles capable of generating 63W each. That is an impressive output for any compact solar panel, let alone one designed to look like a roofing shingle.
One of the best benefits of this solar system is that you don’t have to replace your entire roof to have it installed. It is installed the same way a typical asphalt roof is installed, meaning that the solar shingles can easily be integrated into your existing asphalt roof.
Much like all other cool pieces of technology, solar shingles also come in a luxury version. Luma’s solar roofs come with fully customized designs and installation meaning that you get the absolute best system for your home, guaranteed. This highly customer-focused company is all about making sure you have the best installation experience and the best outcome when it comes to your solar roof.
With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that they use only top of line materials and back it all up with extensive warranties. Best of all, this is a fully upgradable solar system, so as technology changes and improves, your solar system can change and improve with it.
This is a Michigan based company so these solar panel shingles are designed to function well in areas with less direct sunlight just as well as they function in sunnier areas. They offer a few varieties of solar shingles including both polycrystalline and monocrystalline. Their top of the line monocrystalline shingles can generate up to 75W per shingle.
How We Chose These Companies
We chose these companies for one very simple reason and that is that they are the only companies producing solar shingles at this time. There was one other company, Powerhouse By Dow, but sadly they ceased production in February 2020. With that being said, we chose to include all four companies instead of just one or two because they each had some interesting features to offer. We hope to see more companies jump on board as the technology improves, but for now, Tesla, SunTegra, CertainTeed, and Luma are the companies to watch.
What You Need To Know About Solar Shingles
Just in case this is your first foray into the world of solar shingles, let’s take a quick look at what they are and how they differ from traditional panels. We’re also going to discuss the cost and longevity of these solar systems.
What are Solar Shingles?
Solar shingles are exactly what they sound like, plus a bit more. Like traditional panels, solar shingles use photovoltaic technology to absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. Traditional panels are typically large, heavy units that are made out of silicon crystal wafers.
Most solar shingles are considered thin-film panels. They’re called thin-film because they are made with a thin film semiconductor, such as copper indium gallium selenide. The thin design allows manufacturers to create solar panels that look more like traditional roofing materials. As you probably noticed from our list, a couple of companies still use silicon crystals for their shingles, such as Luma and CertainTeed. This makes the shingles a bit heavier, but it also makes them more efficient when it comes to converting solar energy into electricity.
One of the reasons it took so long for solar roofs to become a reality is that solar shingles are not just solar devices, but they are also a building material. Where traditional panels are mounted on frames that attach to your roof, solar shingles are your roof. This means that they have to be just as tough and durable as other roofing materials while still functioning as solar panels. This means that they have to go through a lot more testing to be deemed safe enough for home installation.
You may be surprised to find out that a solar roof is actually less expensive than several other premium roofing materials. On average it does cost more than a traditional asphalt shingle roof, but it could cost less than half as much as a slate roof. That being said, it’s still not cheap. It could cost upwards of $15,000 to $80,000 after installation which is quite an investment. As you would expect, the cost depends on several factors including the brand you choose as well as the size and shape of your roof. If you’re comparing prices, remember that you’re not just comparing roof prices. You have to compare the price of the solar roof with the price of a traditional roof plus a comparable solar system. When you put it in this light, you’ll find that solar roofs are quite reasonably priced.
This may also come as a bit of a surprise, but it’s true. Solar roofs are as durable and long-lasting as traditional shingle roofs. As we said earlier, they have to go through rigorous testing before they can be considered an acceptable building material. These shingles are waterproof, weather-resistant, and designed to withstand most extreme weather conditions such as large hail and high winds. All of the companies on our list offer some pretty impressive warranties, most of them offering coverage for up to 25-years. The main concern when it comes to longevity is that solar shingles are not as easy to replace as traditional shingles, so if the manufacturer goes out of business, you’re out of luck. That is a risk that you take with every large purchase though, so it can hardly be considered a deal-breaker.
Are Solar Shingles Right For You?
So now that you know all about solar shingles, the final question is: Are solar shingles right for you? The answer is a resounding maybe. Whether or not they are right for you depends on three key factors: timing, your location, and the size of your roof.
The biggest issue to consider when contemplating a solar roof is timing. Although the cost of a solar roof may be comparable to the cost of installing a traditional roof with a solar system, this is only helpful if you need a new roof in the first place. If your existing roof is only a few years old, you may still get 25 to 45 more years of use out of it. In that case, it would likely be more cost-effective to install a solar array on your existing roof instead. On the other hand, if you do need a new roof then you should definitely consider solar shingles.
Location And Roof Size
Solar panel shingles are just like traditional solar panels in that they can only produce so much power per square foot and that power varies depending on the location of the sun. If you live closer to the equator then your roof will receive more direct sunlight throughout the year than it would if you lived further away from the equator. The further you are from the equator, the more important it is to have high-efficient solar panels because you’ll want to make the most of every little bit of sunshine you get.
The benefit of solar shingles is that they cover your entire roof. This means that no matter what time of day it is, if the sun is out then the panels are likely generating at least a little power. On the downside, solar shingles are still less efficient than traditional solid panels. Where most solid panels are approximately 24% to 28% efficient, solar shingles are only about 15% efficient.
So what does this mean for you? Well, if you live near the equator or have a very large roof then solar panel shingles are the perfect choice. They may not be quite as efficient, but the sheer volume of panels combined with the fact that they can be installed on every angle of your roof will make up the difference. If you have a smaller roof and live further away from the equator, you will probably want to stick with traditional panels for now. The technology is constantly improving, so that may change in the near future, but for now the shingles just aren’t able to generate the amount of power you would need to produce to offset the cost of installation.
Solar shingles are a hot topic right now and for good reason. Although the technology may not be advanced enough to make them the perfect solar solution for everyone, they are certainly a good option for many solar enthusiasts.
Just like all forms of technology, solar shingles do have their drawbacks, so it is important to carefully consider your options before making a decision. You have the opportunity to take part in the next big solar power movement. We hope you find this information helpful and inspiring for your solar power journey.