Solar Roof Shingles Compared

Solar roof shingles can offer an alternative to installing solar panels on the roof, but are they practical? Photovoltaic (PV) shingles are made with flexible thin film solar cells, and they're not only lighter than most rooftop PV panels, but they can generate similar solar electricity for homes.

This article offers information on solar power roof shingles that will help you to decide whether you would want to buy them and install them yourself or hire a qualified contractor to do it the work for you.

PV Shingles vs PV Panels: Which Is Best?

Solar Roof ShinglesOne Example of the Solar Roof Shingles Available
(Source: Don Bell)

For someone who doesn't want a heavy PV panel array installed on the roof and doesn't have the yard area for a ground mount system, solar power shingles are worth considering. And, if you're handy with a hammer and a tape measure and can shingle a roof, then you might even be able to do some of the installation work yourself.

Solar Shingles and Roof Design

Your building's roof design will influence how easy or difficult or expensive your PV installation will be. A large gable roof offers the easiest installation. This type of roof features large areas of flat surface, and the PV shingles can be easily integrated into the current composition shingles, depending on your power requirements.

The surface area of some photovoltaic shingles is textured and colored to blend in with the conventional roofing material. At a glance, few people would ever notice that you have a solar roof. However, they can appear shiny depending on the sun's position and your vantage point.

Keep in mind that photovoltaic shingles do well to generate about half the wattage of standard PV panels covering the same surface area. So, your estimates should allow using almost "twice the roof area" that a normal PV panel array would occupy.

You will need to determine if the roof that's covered with thin film solar roofing is large enough to supply the electricity requirements for your household.

Installing Solar Roof Shingles

The installation of PV shingles is somewhat similar to installing traditional asphalt roofing, and you can even use roofing nails. However, photovoltaic roof shingles are nothing like conventional shingles. They contain complex wiring that transfers the electricity produced by the thin film solar cells into your PV power system.

Watch the brief YouTube video below as solar shingles are installed on a typical residential roof.

For each solar shingle module, you'll need to drill a hole through the roof deck, insert an electrical wire from the shingle, and then connect that wire to the rest of the array from beneath the roof. Since each hole and wire must be precisely placed, it makes for painstaking, tedious work, especially if you're covering a large roof area, and your attic is hot, stuffy, and difficult to access.

Because installation needs to be precise, it's important that you plan ahead and know exactly where you will install the PV shingles. Also realize that they cannot be cut like traditional roofing materials because of their PV cells and encapsulated wiring, so there's little room for error during the installation process. Mistakes can get very expensive.

Solar Roof Shingles Pros and Cons

PV shingles are weather resistant, and many are about the same size and appearance as the traditional asphalt variety. Since they fit together like traditional shingles, you can install a combination of asphalt and photovoltaic if you cannot justify the expense of covering an entire roof in PV shingles.

Be aware that thin film solar cells are less effective than crystalline silicon cells in bright sunlight, but tend to be more effective in overcast conditions and at dawn and dusk since their semiconductor materials offer more sensitivity to the solar spectrum.

The fact that solar roof shingles cost significantly higher (both to purchase and install) and have a lower overall efficiency has kept them less popular with homeowners than the more common PV power panels.

Also, their efficiency tends to drop after 10 years whereas the best quality PV panels tend not to lose more than 10% of their efficiency over 20 to 25 years. Like traditional roofing, most photovoltaic shingles have a 20 year lifespan.

If you have the patience, the necessary skills, the time (and the money), solar roof shingles can offer a roof that delivers green and renewable electricity to your household. However, for the present, high efficiency solar panels are more affordable and offer the better choice for most of us.

Be sure to watch the YouTube video below for additional pros and cons concerning the installation of solar shingles.

The Future of Solar Roof Shingles

Prepare for the quality and performance of solar shingles to improve significantly within the coming months, as the YouTube below reveals.

Tesla is one of the solar industry leaders, and their latest solar roof product is not only attractive, but its cutting-edge technology offers significant possibilities and benefits. Check your local solar energy installer for availability.

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