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Solar Roof: Are Solar Shingles the Future?

Last modified: 2018/04/10 | 3 mins

More and more people seem to be switching to renewable energy sources to help power their homes or to decrease their dependency on traditional sources. While solar panels are still very much the go-to option for solar generation, a relatively new form may change the way we implement photovoltaic cells on our homes and those are solar shingles.

What are solar shingles?

Solar shingles are exactly what they sound like, shingles designed to have the function of the photovoltaic cells on a solar panel but on a much smaller scale. These shingles are designed to blend in smoothly with conventional roofing materials like asphalt shingles.

Solar shingles come in multiple variations such as wider panels that cover several typical shingles in a strip or a new system where the shingles are the same size as conventional shingles, giving the appearance of normal shingles while blending in seamlessly.

Initially, solar shingles were made to be slightly larger than regular shingles to maximize surface area and enhance efficiency. These shingles are roughly 12 by 86 inches and are stapled directly on to the waterproof membrane. More recent developments have allowed some companies to offer a product which is nearly identical to regular shingles in terms of size, look, and ease of installation, making this option a very attractive one.

While different type of shingles have different mounting specifications, most solar shingles can be installed as easily and with the same method as regular shingles. This means that they can be less of a burden to install than solar panels, as some solar panels require big rafters to be installed to bear the load. This also translates into solar shingles being much less of an “eyesore” as compared to big solar panels which can become the visual focus of your roof.

Solar shingles

Photo: Mount Pleasant Granary

Are solar shingles better than solar panels?

This is not a simple answer and the reality is only time will tell. But costs, which are often the determining factor, are coming down year after year.

The cost of solar shingles has been lowering consistently over the past few years. Cost today ranges from roughly $4 up to $12 per watt installed. This of course varies depending on the manufacturer and system size. Although solar shingles are known to have a higher cost of installation than solar panels, recently some companies have worked to decrease the costs to make it competitive with a transition to solar panels. The price of an array of about 350 solar shingles would cost around $20,000 for installation. However, it is worth noting that many places have incentives in place to bring that cost down significantly. Also, a setup of 350 solar shingles could help cut the household electricity bill by 40% to 60% which ammounts to considerable savings for any homeowner.

Many believe this technology will eventually surpass solar panels as the homeowner’s choice for renewable energy gathering. Unfortunately, the current lifespan of solar shingles is believed to be at roughly 10 years as indicated by certain product guarantees. With efficiency dropping off after 10 years, solar shingles can be less attractive in this sense because solar panels still maintain a longer effective lifespan.

While more advances need to be made in the realms of efficiency and lifespan, solar shingles are without a doubt a very promising option. Thanks to the fact that it’s still an emerging technology, prices for solar shingles will inevitably come down while efficiency is increased. This will no doubt make the switch more enticing to the average home owner while also making it cost effective to transition.

If you’re trying to avoid massive unsightly roof structures, then solar shingles could very well be the solution for you. With every year that passes, governments are working to encourage the switch to solar more and more by offering tax credits and other subsidies.  As the rates for electricity rise, which is inevitable, the price of solar will come down.

Author: David Ben-Zaken

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