Solar Tribune

Solar Roof Shingles vs. Panels

More varied and aesthetically-pleasing rooftop solar solutions are being introduced to the residential market.

From traditional rack-mounted solar panels, to solar shingles like Tesla’s acclaimed solar tiles, to roof-integrated solar panels that combine features of each, there are plenty of options for households looking to make their rooftops more solar-friendly.

Weighing Your Options

Here’s a quick guide to determine which option works best for your situation.

Consider Solar Tiles or Roof-Integrated Panels If…

  • You want to maintain or improve the visual apperance of your roof.
  • You are in the market for a new roof or are in the process of building your home.
  • You want to eliminate the threat of nesting animals and/or the accumulation of tree debris, which can be a chronic problem for users of rack-mounted panels.

Consider Rack-Mounted Solar Panels If…

  • You are looking for the most affordable rooftop solar solution.
  • You have no near-term need to replace your roof.

Solar Tiles

Tesla’s tempered glass rooftop solar tiles are the latest iteration of solar shingles, which are perhaps the most recognizable form of building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). Demand for Tesla’s solar tiles has far exceeded the company’s expectations, with rooftop solar tile orders already having sold out for 2018.

The array of tile types offered by Tesla are virtually indistinguishable from their non-solar shingle equivalent.

Photo Source: Construction Junkie

The cost of this newfangled solar technology is such that it really isn’t financially feasible for your average American household, unless already planning to replace your roof anyway. Even then, the sticker shock can still be a deterrent. Tesla has a solar calculator to help estimate the upfront costs and long-term savings of their solar tiles, but generally speaking, upfront costs of $60,000+ can be expected for a project that covers between 50% and 70% of the surface area on a 3,000-square foot roof before tax credits.

For those who don’t want to wait, there are plenty of other companies like SunTegra, CertainTeed, Forward Labs, RGS Energy’s PowerHouse, and others operating in the solar shingle industry. Their products are more affordable than the much-heralded Tesla solar tile, albeit less visually stunning.

Roof-Integrated Solar Panels

Roof-integrated solar panels are essentially a hybrid between solar tiles and rack-mounted solar panels.

Like solar tiles, they have a sleek, modern look that is in stark contrast to the comparatively clunky looking rack-mounted solar panels. They are generally price competitive with rack-mounted solar panels, but still, it would be most economical to pursue roof-integrated solar panels if you’re already in the market for a new roof.

Photo Source: GAF Materials Corp.

People may bemoan the visual appearance of traditional rack-mounted solar panels, but they remain the most affordable and efficient rooftop solar energy system on the market. Still, the increasing level of competition among providers of rooftop solar products is good for consumers seeking more options and more price competitiveness. Be sure to evaluate your options, and choose what’s right for you.