Homeowners interested in conserving energy and saving money on electric costs have been turning to solar for a number of years. Offering cost and energy savings, rooftop solar energy systems are sprouting up more and more in areas of the country where the climate conditions are conducive to harvesting the sun’s energy.
Until fairly recently, residential solar power was typically generated by installing large panels on the roof. With advances in technology, however, manufacturers are now offering less obtrusive solar shingles (sometimes called solar roof tiles), which are designed to blend in with the roof while still producing energy for the home.
How Does Rooftop Solar Work?
Rooftop solar systems, whether they consist of solar panels or solar shingles, work by harnessing the power of sunlight and converting it into usable electricity. The process involves the following steps:
Solar panels and solar shingles both utilize the photovoltaic effect, which is the process of converting sunlight into electricity. This is achieved through the use of photovoltaic cells, typically made of silicon, that absorb photons from sunlight and release electrons, generating a direct current (DC).
The direct current generated by the solar system needs to be converted into alternating current (AC) to be used by household appliances. This is done by an inverter, which converts the DC electricity into AC electricity compatible with the electrical grid.
Excess electricity produced by the solar system can be sent back to the grid through a process called net metering. This allows homeowners to receive credits for the electricity they contribute to the grid, offsetting their energy consumption during periods of lower solar production, such as at night.
What Is the Difference Between Solar Panels and Solar Shingles?
While both are viable options for homeowners interested in harnessing solar energy, there are some key differences between solar panels and solar shingles.
Design and Integration
Solar panels are large, rigid structures that are installed on top of the roof, typically using mounting brackets. On the other hand, solar shingles are designed to integrate seamlessly with the roof, resembling traditional roofing materials like asphalt tiles. Solar shingles are smaller and have a more discreet appearance, making them an attractive option for homeowners concerned with aesthetics.
When it comes to efficiency, solar panels generally outperform solar shingles. Solar shingles are less efficient because they are directly attached to the roof, which limits airflow underneath and leads to more heat dissipation. Additionally, solar panels can be adjusted to face the sun optimally, while solar shingles are fixed in their position on the roof, which may result in suboptimal sunlight capture.
Solar panels are generally less expensive than solar shingles. The installation process for solar shingles is more complex, contributing to their higher cost. However, for homeowners who are already planning a roof replacement, the cost of solar shingles may be comparable to installing a solar panel array in addition to replacing the roof.
Solar Panels vs. Solar Shingles – Pros and Cons
- Generally more efficient than solar shingles, providing higher energy output per square foot.
- Established technology with a wide range of options and competitive pricing.
- Adjustable positioning allows for optimal sunlight capture.
- Can be installed on various roof types.
- Less visually appealing compared to solar shingles.
- Requires mounting brackets, which may be visible on the roof.
- More noticeable and may affect the aesthetic of the property.
- Blend seamlessly with the roof, resembling traditional roofing materials.
- Discreet appearance and aesthetic appeal.
- Suitable for homeowners concerned with the visual impact of solar installations.
- Can be installed as part of a roof replacement or restoration.
- Less efficient than solar panels, resulting in lower energy output.
- Limited availability compared to solar panels, as not all manufacturers offer solar shingles.
- Higher installation cost compared to solar panels.
- Fixed position on the roof may result in suboptimal sunlight capture in certain climates or home designs.
Solar Shingles vs. Panels – Efficiency
When comparing the efficiency of solar shingles and solar panels, solar panels generally have a higher efficiency rating. Solar efficiency refers to the percentage of sunlight that is converted into electricity. On average, solar panels have an efficiency range of 19-23%. In contrast, solar shingles typically have lower efficiency, ranging from 15.9% to 17.2%.
The lower efficiency of solar shingles can be attributed to their design and installation method. Solar shingles are directly integrated into the roof, which restricts airflow underneath. This lack of airflow results in more heat dissipation and reduces the overall efficiency of the system. In contrast, solar panels are mounted with a gap between the panels and the roof, allowing for better ventilation and heat dissipation, thus maximizing their efficiency.
Solar Shingles vs. Panels – Price
The cost of solar shingles versus solar panels depends on a number of factors. Solar panels are generally less expensive than solar shingles, which have a higher installation cost due to their integration into the roof and the limited availability of brands on the market. The cost per square foot of a solar shingle system depends on the portion of the roof covered by solar shingles versus regular roofing material. While not the entire roof is covered with solar shingles, the number of shingles included varies based on the size of the roof and the electricity consumption of the home.
On the other hand, solar panels have a wider range of options and competitive pricing due to their established technology and larger market presence. The cost of solar panels is generally lower, making them a more cost-effective option for homeowners who prioritize affordability.
Solar Shingles vs. Panels – Aesthetics
Solar shingles offer several aesthetic benefits compared to traditional solar panels.
One of the primary aesthetic benefits of solar shingles is their ability to seamlessly integrate with the existing roof, providing a more cohesive and visually appealing appearance.
Unlike traditional solar panels that are mounted on top of the roof, solar shingles are designed to look like regular roofing materials such as asphalt tiles. This design allows them to blend in with the rest of the roof, making them less noticeable and preserving the overall aesthetic of the home. The ability to maintain the architectural integrity of the house is particularly beneficial for homeowners who prioritize the visual appeal of their property.
Versatile Design Options
Solar shingles offer a range of design options, allowing homeowners to customize the appearance of their solar installation. They are available in various styles, colors, and textures, giving homeowners the flexibility to choose shingles that complement their roof and suit their personal preferences. This versatility in design options ensures that solar shingles can be seamlessly integrated into a wide range of architectural styles, from traditional to modern.
By offering a visually appealing alternative to standard solar panels, solar shingles enable homeowners to embrace renewable energy without compromising the aesthetic appeal of their homes.
Enhanced Curb Appeal
Solar shingles can enhance the curb appeal of a property, increasing its overall value and attractiveness. By combining the functionality of solar power generation with an aesthetically pleasing design, solar shingles contribute to a home’s overall visual appeal. This is especially important for homeowners who prioritize a clean and modern look or who live in neighborhoods with strict design guidelines. Solar shingles provide an opportunity to showcase sustainability and renewable energy adoption in a visually appealing way, potentially attracting more buyers and increasing the market value of the property.
Solar Roofing from Stronghold Roofing & Solar
At our roofing company, we are proud to be an authorized installer of GAF’s Timberline Solar™ roofing solutions.
As a GAF Master Elite roofing contractor in Florida, we’re experts in solar shingle installation and will make the process seamless for you. Contact us today!