The ability to harness the sun’s power for free electricity is something a growing number of Rockland and Orange County residents are pursuing today. You might be wondering which option is better for your home: solar shingles vs solar panels. Learn how these two technologies compare so you can decide which one to pursue.
Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels: Age of the Technology
You only recently heard of solar shingles because the technology is quite recent. One of the first viable solar shingle projects was installed in 2011 in Colorado.
Solar panels also seem like relatively new technology, but their history actually dates back to the 1950s. In fact, there are some 40-year-old solar panels still working to this day. The longer history behind solar panels has given them a chance to prove their viability.
Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels: Installation
Solar shingles take the place of regular asphalt shingles in a roofing installation. They are designed to protect the roof while simultaneously capturing energy from the sun. In a reroofing project, solar shingles may be a logical solution since you can replace many of the asphalt shingles you would ordinarily have to install with solar shingles. Installation is fairly simple and takes an average of 10 hours for a professional to complete.
Solar panels are mounted on the roof above the existing shingles. Installation takes longer and is more complex than solar shingles, but if you relocate to a new home you can easily remove the panels and take them with you.
Installation of either type of solar solution is best left to a professional.
Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels: Aesthetics
One reason consumers are drawn to solar shingles is for their sleek appearance. Since they are installed flush with the roof’s shingles, they don’t “stand out” the way solar panels do.
Still, not all solar panels share the same aesthetics. Newer black modules without gridlines have a sleek appearance to them, even though they sit about six inches from the surface of the roof. Depending on the tilt of your roof, the ability to mount solar panels at a different angle can be very beneficial for increasing electricity production.
Before 2008, the thin-film solar cells that have evolved into today’s solar shingles peaked at just above 10% efficient. In recent years, breakthroughs in thin-film cell technology have allowed solar shingles to achieve around 20% efficiency.
Depending on the brand and quality, solar shingles range from 13 to 63 watts per shingle. On the high end of 60 watts per shingle, this means you need 17 tiles covering about 22 square feet of roof to produce 1 kilowatt (kW) of energy. Most residential systems are 5 kW, so 85 60-watt shingles would need to cover 110 square feet of roof to generate the desired amount of power.
Today’s solar panels continue to get more efficient every year. The current record holder for the most efficient panel is SunPower at 21.5% efficient. At 345 watts each, you need about 15 42-inch by 62-inch panels to produce about 5 kW of electricity, which takes up about 270 square feet of roof space.
Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels: Versatility
Solar shingles are limited in their use. They can only be installed on rooftops and are primarily designed to sit alongside asphalt shingles. They are restricted to the existing pitch of the roof, which may negatively impact efficiency. They must remain grid tied, which isn’t an option for anyone living off the grid.
Solar panels are much more versatile. They can be used to power street signs, traffic lights, cars and commercial buildings with flat roofs, all with peak efficiency in each application. They can be mounted at the perfect angle and even be designed to track the sun’s movement across the sky for increased electricity production throughout the day. They can also be installed with batteries so homeowners living off the grid can produce their own clean energy without supplementary electricity from the grid.
A key reason many people switch to solar is to save money, so price matters. Historically, solar shingles have cost more than solar panels. However, as thin film technology swiftly advances, pricing has become more competitive, especially in new construction and reroofing situations where shingles are already being installed.
According to research from the National Geographic, some solar shingle installations cost 10% to 15% less per watt than solar panels. It all depends on the scope of the project, condition of the site and potential need to replace the roof.
The race is tight between solar shingles vs solar panels. To learn more about which type of solar installation will work best on your property, speak with dealers in Rockland and Orange County.