Elon Musk made solar shingles cool.
While there have been companies doing some versions of solar roof shingles for years, when Tesla got in the game, things got real.
But why would you consider solar panel shingles when solar panels are still a perfectly viable option?
Are there any competitors to Tesla in this space?
Are they even worth it, factoring all of the other options and costs?
Below we’ll dive in and answer each question. Let’s go!
How Do Solar Shingles Work?
They’re basically little solar panels, designed to look exactly like roof tiles or shingles.
So, they work just like solar panels do. You can read more the basics of solar here.
A quick overview is that sun hits the solar shingles, they capture some of that solar energy, and eventually convert it to electricity for use in your home.
Interestingly, a solar roof might not be fully solar.
For example, Tesla only puts as many solar powered shingles on your roof as you’d need to cover 100% of your electricity usage. The rest of the shingles, while looking identical, aren’t actually solar panels.
Many people hook their systems up to a home battery to store the solar power, like the Tesla Powerwall.
The Best Solar Shingle Companies
While Tesla certainly brought about a resurgence of interest, based on Google Trends data (the spike at the end of 2016 came after Elon announced Solar City’s intent to make the product):
…they’re not the only game in town.
In fact, some of the companies listed below have been installing solar roof shingles for years.
We’ll provide data on each one, so you can make the best decision if you’re in the market for a new roof.
Tesla Solar Roof
The sexiest name in tech has been teasing solar shingles for years, but has only just recently started to install them at scale.
They look amazing, and V3 seems to have reduced costs to a point where it almost makes sense compared to traditional solar panels.
While they still can be more expensive to install than a normal roof + solar panel installation, they claim to be 3x stronger than roofing tiles, which you’d hope means that roof maintenance costs would end up being less over the long term, compared to a normal roof that you’d have to replace every 15 years or so.
Like with all things Tesla, they’re continually iterating on their products, and we can only assume that the product will get better and cheaper as time goes on.
For a randomly chosen home in Inglewood, CA, with a $120/month electricity bill, Tesla recommended a 5 kW solar roof, at $20,795.
They also suggested adding 2 Powerwalls for an additional $17,000.
The Tesla Solar Roof seems to be available in all 50 states, and some international locations.
Tesla claims that their solar shingles are 3x stronger than standard roofing tiles.
Their app allows you to track usage and energy production.
The Tile, Power, and Weatherization warranties are all for 25 years.
They work on roofs with a pitch from 2:12 to 20:12.
They have a hail rating up to 1.75″ diameter hail, a wind rating up to 130 mph winds, and the best possible fire rating.
So, solar shingles Elon Musk are synonymous, but there are other amazing brands, some of which have been around for many more years than Tesla. One of those is CertainTeed, a well-trusted brand that helps you not only where to buy solar shingles but help you easily find installation pros in your area – enough to actually choose from, rather than getting stuck with one guy who.
From CertainTeed, you’ll find their new solar shingles are amazing looking. The Apollo II system is an all-in-one option that will change your energy bills.
CertainTeed solar shingles cost isn’t made specifically available on their website, but you can submit information through an easy-to-fill-out form, which will provide you with a clear estimate. You can expect the cost, however, to fall between that of a standard solar system price and a full solar roof price, depending on your roof size and similar specs.
CertainTeed solar shingles are available for installation across both the USA and Canada. You can easily verify their availability in your local by going to their website and checking availability in your area via your zipcode.
The Apollo II system is a slim profile integrated system with 14 high-efficiency mono PERC solar cells.
The mechanical load rating is 250 pounds per square foot.
The system also has a High Velocity Huuricane Zone rating (Vult 194mph).
Plus, one thing that makes this system incredibly accessible and viable for folks is the open space under the modules that allows for built-in wire clips for easy wire management and installation.
Another well-known brand within the industry is SunTegra. The company offers two options for solar installation for homeowners: solar shingles and solar tiles. The two-in-one solutions they offer for homeowners, businesses, and builders come in beautiful, roof-top designs blended smoothly with functionality.
One great benefit for this company is they don’t require any racking.
Like CertainTeed, you’ll need to check out their website and get a specific quote to have a solid idea what the cost will be for SunTegra solar shingles. They have an easy to fill out form, and you’ll get a quick, easy estimate in short order, letting you know exactly what to expect.
SunTegra systems are available in select locations in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including New York, California, New Jersey, and Texas, as well as potentially others. When you go to the webpage, you can seek an estimate and discover if they offer installation in your area.
SunTegra Solar Shingles and Tile Roof Systems allow for easy installation, providing a more aesthetically pleasing look with high-performance solar power.
They’re reliable and easy to install, safe to use, high performance, with a low-profile appearance.
Luma Solar claims that they created the first solar roof in America, “maybe the world.” Whether this is true or not, they did create a fully integrated solar rooftop shingle system that’s upgradeable – which ia unique.
The shingles were also designed to be attractive and less distracting than other shingles might be.
Luma does not make a standard cost available online. Their intent is to personally create a system for each home they install on, starting with a study (that price is available – $300). The closest you’ll get to a general pricing program is listed on the page after you scroll for a while.
“Solar shingles roof-integrated” system starting at $4.50 a watt and the “Edge to Edge Sectional Solar Roof” which prices out at $38 per solar square foot installed. For total roof coverage, you’ll need to contact them and inquire.
Luma solar shingles are available in the USA and Canada, possibly other countries – exact availability information listings are difficult to find. Based on their website, they are available in at least California, Michigan, and Florida, and Canada, and have received Presidential endorsement and international awards.
Luma Solar systems come in eight options. Check out their page and take a look to get an idea of what would potentially be a good fit for your home.
Luma offers their solar shingles in a variety of ways, including as a stand alone product, a mix-in (meaning you can combine solar and non-solar shingles easily), or as an entire roof replacement.
Forward Solar Roofing
Forward Solar Roofing is a startup that found its birth in a Kickstarter campaign. The system is intended to be a whole roof system, like Tesla or Luma, with both PV and non-PV components to give that seamless appearance.
The solar shingles they offer look like steel roofing available in 8 different colors.
Pricing for Forward is not available publicly – you’ll need to get an estimate to have an idea on the kind of price you’re looking at.
They are currently available in California, but they are taking reservations around the United States. Technically, people outside of the USA can reserve a roof as well, but this choice is unadvisable at this time.
Based on their FAQs page, they are an extremely client-oriented company, with an emphasis on flexibility and personalization.
Not to be confused with Forward Solar, Solar Forward is a well-respected company that offers solar shingles, solar roofs, and other solar products that can help any home more efficiently use solar energy for electrical needs.
The average cost per watt for Forward Solar Shingles is $2.70.
For a generic install in their area, an installation estimate for an average sized home is projected to cost between $9,161 and $11,197.
Solar Forward is available in California.
Solar Forward are some of the best solar shingles with even “complaints” praising the company for their professionalism and unique approach to solar and business in general.
If you reserve a roof but change your mind, you will receive a full refund of your deposit.
This once popular brand announced that they would cease making solar shingles in 2016 and ceased production soon thereafter. You may be able to find used options from this brand. If you do, we highly recommend you use a professional installer for this older technology to guarantee they are installed properly.
Solar Shingle Cost
Solar shingles are still pretty new, so pricing is a bit uncertain – and varies greatly from company to company.
A lot of times, you won’t have a concept of the kind of cost you’re looking at until you go through a process. This may be because companies are looking for clients who are committed to greening up their homes rather than just following fads or finding the latest thing kind of cool.
At any rate, the average solar shingles cost is going to vary a load. Tesla is one of the most expensive options out there, with an average cost of $21.85 per square foot.
Less expensive companies (that receive great ratings) are more like $2.70-$10.00 per square foot.
So, on the low end, if you have a 2,000 square foot roof, you’re looking at something between $5400 and $20,000 for a roof fully covered in solar panel roof tiles.
Tesla and other higher-priced companies could run you up to about $44,000 for the fully shingled roof.
Many folks, however, do a blend instead of every shingle being solar. Depending on your budget, this may be a better option – and may well make solar shingles an affordable choice for folks. And since average roofing costs between $3.50 and $5.50 per square foot, the lower costing solar shingles are a bargain anyway.
Pros and Cons of Solar Shingles
Considering solar shingles, you also need to be aware of some of the pros and cons.
Pros of Solar Shingles
- Solar shingles are more aesthetically pleasing that traditional solar panels
- Solar shingles can be removed and reinstalled if you move
- If you’re building a new home or replacing a roof, solar shingles can actually be more cost effective than standard roofing options
Cons of Solar Shingles
- You have to find a specific roofing company familiar with solar shingle installation
- Not every roof works for all types of available solar shingles. As you shop, you may discover your roof pitch doesn’t work with the solar shingles you prefer
- If you do choose an option like the advanced systems, you’ll probably have to build a new roof rather than just use the solar shingles to give your current roof an upgrade
Solar Shingles vs. Solar Panels
If you want to consider replacing roof with solar panels, you’ve got two basic options for your home. You can install solar panels or go solar shingle. So, having a clue on the differences is a good idea.
Because solar shingles are the new thing, they’re more popular right now. That may or may not mean a thing for you, though. Some roofing situations or financial circumstances won’t allow for the more popular shingles right now.
While solar panels are “hideous” by any stretch – well, to some! – solar shingles are a far more attractive option, especially with shingles offered by companies like Forward Solar. Many times, visually, you can’t tell the difference between a solar shingle and a standard shingle.
Ease of Installation
While solar shingles are pretty darn awesome, they’re newer technology and less easy to find in your area, unless you live in the hub of solar shingles (California). They’re also a lot more familiar to most contractors than these newer shingles, so solar panels tend to be easier to have installed. However, there are many installers who are gaining more knowledge in how to install solar shingles and may well be in your area already.
Solar panels are significantly less expensive to install than solar shingles. However, you should note:
Solar panels are for finished roofs, so if you’re replacing a roof or building a new one, solar shingles are actually less expensive
Solar shingles first became publicly available in 2011. That’s been a while – and they’re not as expensive now as they once were. So, in a few short years, this price variance may not be as significant as the technology continues to evolve.
Solar panels are currently considered most efficient than solar shingles because – they are installed on brackets on top of an existing roof, which means they are unaffected by base roofing materials and because they can be adjusted to face the sun as needed when seasons change.
Solar panels are a more stable technology, so most companies offer something like a 20 to 25 year warranty. Solar shingles are newer and haven’t stood the same kind of test of time, so they typically come with a shorter warranty – however, top-end brands may come with a 30-year warranty, so it really depends on the company.
Are Solar Panel Shingles Worth It?
So, ultimately the question comes down to this: are solar shingles worth it for you?
Ideally, solar shingles are best for new roofs when the owner is set on going green. They’re also advisable for properties like historical buildings where restrictions apply. Solar shingles can look like many of the traditional/standard roofing options, whereas solar panels do not.
Beyond these situations, it’s really up to you. Do you want to invest in the roofing cost? Can you do the alternating solar shingle/standard shingle and meet your production needs?
We highly recommend consulting a professional in your area if you’re on the fence.