This post was updated as of August, 2016 with new information.
Combining solar technology with standard roofing materials, solar shingles are one of the hottest building-integrated photovoltaic (PV) products on the market today. Integrating seamlessly into a roof, solar shingles are ideal for homeowners who want to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy but don’t like the look of conventional solar panel arrays.
A Solar Roof
Solar shingles are exactly what they sound like: roof shingles that are made out of solar panel material and have the same power producing abilities as solar panels.
Solar roofing products must meet strict standards to certify them as both a roofing and solar product. The best have a Class A fire rating, an outstanding snow load capacity, and are certified to withstand hail, wind and rain. Depending on which solar roofing product you choose, you’re likely to enjoy a 20-year warranty that will cover the expected life of the roof.
Solar shingles have the potential to cut a homeowner’s electricity bill by about two thirds every month, and most systems pay for themselves in less than 10 years. After your investment is recovered, you’ll enjoy many years of free electricity.
Additional Savings Through Incentive Programs
While solar shingles essentially give homeowners a power-generating roof, potentially saving them thousands of dollars a year in utility costs, there are still a few deterrents – such as the upfront costs of the solar shingles.
As a residential PV system, solar roofing installations are eligible for generous tax credits and rebates offered at the federal, state and local level. The federal incentive program alone can cut the upfront cost of a solar roof installation by as much as 30%.
Public utilities are mandated to invest in renewable energy, and most utilities partially meet these mandates by offering rebates to customers who install solar products, by crediting customers for any surplus energy that the system produces or by purchasing the extra electricity outright.
While these solar shingles may now be fairly expensive to buy, manufacturers are working hard to continue to improve the product, and bring down the upfront installation costs involved.
In fact, some solar shingle manufactures have received grants to help them with their efforts to improve not only the product itself, but also the costs associated with it.
Where Have Solar Shingles Been?
Although solar panels have been on the market for some time, there have been many hurdles that have prevented manufacturers from producing lightweight and efficient solar shingles.
One of the main hurdles that solar shingle manufacturers encountered was the logistics of making an acceptable product. They ran into roadblocks when trying to find a suitable material for production of the shingles – one that would protect the shingles, while still being simple to install, and have the necessary physical qualities required for a roofing material.
Manufacturers also ran into problems while working to create a solar shingle that would have the ability to hide the wires that connected the shingles to each other. Because these shingles essentially replace the roof on a home, manufacturers needed to find an aesthetically pleasing way to install the shingle, while still keeping the needed functionalities.
Luckily, manufacturers have been able to overcome the majority of these hurdles, and we are now seeing solar shingles becoming available to homeowners.
As solar installations are modular in nature, you can choose to offset as much conventional electricity as you like. The larger the system, the more that you’ll save over the long term through reductions in monthly energy bills.
Each system comes with an inverter to convert the direct current (DC) that solar cells generate into the alternating current (AC) that homes use. Some systems come with monitoring systems that allow you to track your energy usage and savings.
Over 75% of homes in America have roofs that are great candidates for solar shingle technology. The Energy Information Administration predicts that worldwide energy consumption will double by 2035.
While there are a number of solar roofing options for residential installation, if your home is in need of a new roof or will need a new roof in the next few years, solar shingle technology is the most cost-effective home photovoltaic (PV) solution available today. For new constructions, a solar roof is a no-brainer. You’ll save 15% or more by installing solar roofing from the outset than if you install a new roof and PV system separately.
Residential PV systems offer insurance against rising conventional energy costs. With solar shingle technology, you can transform a roof from a deprecating asset into one that continues to save you money for many years to come.
Photo by Ben West