The History and State of Solar Shingles

In Depth Overview of the Solar Shingle and how it has developed over the last twenty years


While panels have been the primary source for solar energy, innovation begged for simplicity. Solar shingles were the answer, arriving to the table in 2005. Here we’ll look at a brief history of solar shingles including the current course for this intriguing solar energy option.

The Birth of the Solar Shingle

The creation of solar shingles began as people wanted to blend solar products into traditional roof construction and home appeal. Because of their similarities in size and shape to asphalt shingles, the solar shingles make a suitable replacement for any home design. Dow was one of the first companies to enter the solar shingle market. However, Green Tech Media reports that their shingles were less efficient hindering their popularity. While this initially led to Dow halting production of shingles, it also seemed to invigorate the science behind the shingles. With Tesla’s solar shingles hitting the market PV Magazine reports Dow is now reviving its solar shingle production again, teaming with RGS Energy. As shingles become more popular, ease of placement and lowered costs benefit customers. Shingles may have had a rocky start, but they are on their way to becoming a solar energy favorite.

Disadvantages of Solar Shingles

While smaller in size, solar shingles are still photovoltaic and hold some of the same problems as the larger photovoltaic panels. IEEE Spectrum reviews the dark side of solar power including issues with the environment and safety of workers. Both panels and shingles are guilty of these concerns. While similar to panels, shingles are smaller and easier to move for recycling and reuse purposes. And in the end, solar's disadvantages remain lower than the costs of fossil-fueled energy. Still, it is essential to continue working on cleaning the solar production process. Another consideration looks at shingle efficiency compared to panels. Panels are more efficient than shingles but like most areas of green energy, efficiency for the smaller component continues to rise.

Cost Comparisons of Shingles Versus Panels

First, it’s vital to compare solar shingles to a regular roof as this is the standard for most homeowners. One of the most common roof materials is the asphalt shingle. According to Consumer Reports, the average cost of the asphalt shingle is $24.50 per square foot. Competition in the solar market requires coming as close as possible to traditional roofing costs. It’s well known that solar will have a higher price than non-solar shingles, but homeowners are willing to pay for the ability to spend less on traditional energy means. Tesla is meeting this demand with new solar shingles costing an estimated $21.85 a square foot. Cost considerations focus on upfront costs and the energy savings over the life of the solar roof. The Tesla solar shingles come with a 30-year warranty. This means the upfront costs must equal the savings of solar compared to non clean energy. Consumer Reports estimated the Tesla solar shingles roof at $73,500 for a 3,000 square foot roof. RoofCal quotes the national average for an asphalt shingles roof of 3,000 square feet at $10,041. The difference is great but solar shingles will also qualify for tax incentives at the national, and sometimes, state levels. Once installed, the homeowner will also be providing their own energy from the sun rather than fossil fueled alternatives.

The Ease of Solar Shingle Installation

One of the benefits of solar shingles are simplicity of installation. Traditional roof construction and current roofing material trends have fed solar shingle development. If damage occurs, shingle removal and replacement is less complicated than panels. SunPower explains, ” Installation is fairly simple and takes an average of 10 hours for a professional to complete.” This shows similarities in solar shingles comparable to asphalt shingle construction. Traditional asphalt shingles take a day for installation. There’s also room for traditional roofers to learn installation working alongside electricians.

Longevity of Solar Shingles

If we base current trends on Tesla’s product, solar shingles can have expected survival of 30 years. Consumer Reports explains that “If Tesla’s math is correct, it seems that in many cases the roof would more than pay for itself in electricity savings over the 30-year life of the warranty.” While some solar panels reach that type of lifespan, most panels hit the 25-year mark. So, in short, shingles last longer.

Solar shingles are in a honeymoon period of newness to the market. With time, efficiency should rise and prices will continue to fall. Ease of use and popularity in their aesthetics support their popularity and will continue leading to new styles and increased use.

By Kyle Pennell

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