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Solar Roofing Shingles vs. Solar Panels | Which is Better For You?

February 12, 2021
By John Cole

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Solar roofing shingles vs. solar panels; is there one choice that’s better for your home or business? There is no easy answer to that question, as shingles and panels offer various advantages and disadvantages, so what works for one property owner might not work for another!

The best way to decide between solar roofing shingles vs. solar panels is to consider the pros and cons of each, and then discuss your options with a solar panel installer near you. He or she can assess your property, consider your power needs and budget, and offer some personalized suggestions on what might be best when you’re ready to “go green” and invest in solar.

Pros and Cons of Solar Roofing Shingles vs. Solar Panels

First note what is meant by solar shingles; these are small solar pieces that attach to a roof permanently, just like standard asphalt shingles or clay tiles. Solar panels attach to a metal racking or mounting system, which looks similar to a bed frame. That racking system attaches to the roof, but it can be removed as needed, such as for roof repairs.

Both solar shingles and panels must be connected to an inverter, which converts solar power to the electricity used by homes and businesses. Both solar panels and shingles can work off-grid, meaning they store that power in batteries which then power appliances or an entire structure, or are connected to local utility providers. To help you better understand which is the right choice for your home, note how solar shingles and panels compare side-by-side.

Cost Considerations

While solar shingles have come down in price in the past few years, they still outpace solar panels significantly when it comes to cost. While prices vary from location to location and will change over the years, Tesla solar shingles might average around $21.50 per square foot; solar shingle installation for a 1700 square foot roof would then cost $36,500.

Solar panel costs also vary greatly, according to their quality and manufacturer. However, a solar panel installation for a 1700 square foot home might start at around $9000 and run upwards of $30,000, making solar panels a more cost-effective choice for many homeowners.

That being said, note that solar shingles have reduced in price since their inception, and will no doubt become more affordable as their technology improves. Any property owner concerned about costs should consult with a local solar power installer, to check current and local pricing for their area.

Appearance and Visual Appeal

One area where solar shingles or tiles might have panels beat is appearance! Solar shingles apply directly onto roof decking, just like standard shingles or tiles, so they lay flat against the roof slope. In most cases, the roof needs to be covered with the shingles to gain maximum solar benefit and ensure they stay in place.

Since solar panels attach to a racking or mounting system set above the roof, they often seem a bit more obvious and don’t “blend in” with the roof as easily as solar shingles. Most property owners also don’t cover their entire roof with solar panels, so they are somewhat obvious and noticable. If you need the most visually appealing solar system for your property, shingles might be the best choice.

Installing Solar Panels vs. Solar Roofing shingles

Both solar panels and solar shingles need specialty contractors trained in their installation, to eliminate the risk of roof damage, so that they stay in place over the years, and to ensure they are connected to their inverter and a structure’s wiring properly. Since solar panels have been available to residential consumers since the early 2000s, there are many solar panel installation companies skilled in their installation and replacement.

This isn’t quite the case with solar shingles! Ever since Tesla unveiled their solar shingle roof, countless homeowners are jumping on the chance to go solar while replacing their roof shingles! It can be the perfect option if you require a roof replacement. Since solar shingles are part of a structure’s entire roofing system, they require even more specialized know-how and experience, and contractors skilled in their installation are not as common as those offering solar panel installation.

This isn’t to say that you won’t be able to find an installer near you, and more companies are bound to offer solar shingle installation in the coming years as they become more popular with consumers. However, a property owner should consider how easily you might find a solar shingle installer in the future, if you should need eventual repairs or replacement shingles.

Efficiency and Solar Power Produced

Solar panels typically outpace shingles when it comes to efficiency and power produced. One reason for this is the racking or mounting system on which they’re installed. While this system can make solar panels more obvious, it also allows an installer to tilt the panels as needed, for maximum sun exposure!

solar installer completing the racking system for solar panels

Some advanced solar power systems even have rotating or tracking mounting systems, so that the panels tilt automatically and continue to face the sun as it moves across the sky. To find out more about these systems, ask your solar panel installer if they’re an option for your property.

Longevity

Most solar panels are expected to last at least 25 years if not longer. This doesn’t mean those panels simply stop working; instead, they lose their efficiency a slight bit every year. After that 25 or 30 years, panels might lose enough efficiency that a property owner would consider investing in new solar power systems.

tesla solar shingles

Companies like Tesla, which offers the most popular solar shingles on the market today, have claimed that they expect their solar shingles to last 30 years or more. However, since solar shingles are relatively new to the market, this claim has not yet been tested! However, Tesla does currently provide what they call an “infinite tile warranty,” which covers those shingles over the life of the home.

A property owner should also note that solar panels and shingles don’t have moving parts that break down over time and are built for durability, so they can withstand high winds, heavy snows, and the like. Even if solar shingles have not yet been put to the test when it comes to durability and longevity, there is no reason to think that they won’t last for several decades before needing replacing.

Final Comparisons

Note a few added comparisons between solar roofing shingles vs. solar panels and, as always, ask your solar panel installer which might be right for you.

  • Some areas restrict roof types for buildings such as historic homes and other structures, or a local HOA might require property owners to use certain roofing materials. Those restrictions might not offer exceptions for solar shingles; solar panels might then be a property owner’s only option.
  • Since solar panels are not part of the roof itself, they can be removed and taken with you to a new residence!
  • Solar panels allow a property owner to install that system where desired, as opposed to solar shingles. If, as an example, a solar power system might detract from your home’s curb appeal, you can install panels along the sides or back of your home’s roof, where they won’t be as noticeable from the curb or entryway.

Do Solar Panels Have to Be On the Roof?

solar panels ground mounting

If you’re not sure that your home’s roof can support solar shingles or solar panels, you can choose ground-mounted solar power systems. Ground-mounted solar systems and roof-mounted systems produce about the same amounts of solar power, so if you have room on the ground for the panels you need, this can be an option for your property.

A ground-mounted solar power system is also an excellent choice if your roof has lots of obstructions blocking sunlight throughout the day, such as overhanging branches, dormers, or a large chimney. Skylights and other add-ons might also limit the roof area on which you can mount solar panels.

Many pole-mounted or ground-mounted solar power systems also come with tracking systems, so they can track sunlight throughout the day and move as needed, for maximum sun exposure. This increases the solar power captured by the panels, and your return on investment!

The Downside to Ground Mounting

Ground-mounted solar power systems do have their own disadvantages, however. A ground-mounted system might interfere with your property’s appearance and limit the space you would use otherwise, such as for an outdoor deck or patio. Ground-mounted panels are also easier for someone to steal! Your solar panel contractor can note if ground-mounted systems are a good choice for you, depending on your property’s size and your power needs.

Questions to Ask Before Deciding on Solar Power Systems for Your Home

solar energy panels in the sun

When deciding on solar roofing shingles vs. solar panels, you might note some vital questions to ask and a few steps to take before any installation. This will ensure you choose the best system for your home and get as much return on your investment as possible.

What is the condition of your home’s roof?

If you’ve chosen a solar panel system, your home’s roof must be in good condition so that it can support that racking system. A mounted solar panel system will also need removing for roof repairs or a new roof installation. To avoid that added cost, schedule needed repairs before having a solar power system installed.

Since solar shingles are part of the roof itself, they are an excellent choice for homes that need new roofs! Rather than investing in a new roof and then solar panels, you can simply choose solar shingles.

Have you lowered your energy consumption?

No matter your solar power choice, your return on investment will depend on how much energy provided by those solar panels or shingles, as compared to your energy usage. The more power you get from solar, the less you’ll pay to your local utility company. While investing in several high-quality panels translates to lots of solar power for your home, reducing your overall consumption is also an excellent step for reducing your power costs.

An energy audit, often provided for free by your local utility company, can note the biggest energy culprits in your home, and where you might be losing heating and cooling, such as through gaps around windows. Investing in energy-efficient appliances, insulating the water heater so it doesn’t cycle on as often, weather-stripping those gaps and other such steps can mean saving as much money as possible on your energy costs once you have new solar panels installed.

Have you checked on all financial incentives?

solar energy incentives

Property owners are often eligible for tax credits, manufacturer rebates, and other financial incentives for a solar power installation. However, these incentives can vary according to the solar power system chosen and when you purchase it or have it installed!

If you haven’t checked on financial incentives, consult with your solar power installation contractor. He or she can note your eligible incentives and if there is a certain system or time of year that will maximize your savings.

Have you checked on skilled installers near you?

One significant drawback with solar roofing shingles is that they are relatively new to the market, so there aren’t as many solar power companies skilled in their installation, especially when compared to solar panel installers. While solar shingles and panels are designed for durability, they should be inspected regularly and might need some repairs over time.

In turn, it’s useful to note if there are skilled contractors near you who can install your chosen solar power system and offer needed inspections and maintenance services over the years. While there will no doubt be more skilled solar roofing shingle installers in coming years, ensure you’ve found a reputable, reliable solar power company near you before deciding on solar roofing shingles vs. solar panels.

skilled solar installer near me

In conclusion, a homeowner or commercial property owner should consider more than just installation costs when deciding on a solar power system. Note how the installation will affect your property’s curb appeal, how long those panels or shingles should last, and if they offer easy maintenance over the years. Your solar installer can also help you decide on the right choice of shingles versus panels for your property.

Green Energy Geeks is proud to offer this information to our readers and we hope it helped answer the question of solar roofing shingles vs. solar panels for your property. If you still have questions or would like to schedule your free solar power consultation, give us a call. We carry only name-brand, durable solar power systems and guarantee those systems to last! To find out more, call us today.

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