As the trend towards shifting towards renewable power sources continues to surge, advances in solar power roofing technology have allowed manufacturers and homeowners to shift away from bulky solar panels, towards aesthetically pleasing, fully integrated solar shingles. These components are a kind of building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) technology, which serve both a structural and solar-gathering purpose.
Solar Powered Shingles & Tiles
Solar powered shingles/tiles, also known as photovoltaic shingles/tiles, are solar panels that mimic the appearance and function of conventional roofing materials, while also generating electricity. Today’s solar shingles have come a long way in aesthetics, durability, and efficiency. Their looks vary from textured tiles that blend in with your building, to large layered sheets, all the way to futuristic glass panels. The composition varies depending on the brand, with a mix of traditional solar technology, thin-film solar cells made from copper indium gallium selenide, and monocrystalline silicon or quartz-based solar cell technology.
Solar shingles are UL rated as an acceptable roofing material and perform like conventional shingles. They are installed similarly to asphalt shingles, nailed directly onto the roof’s sheathing using standard deck screws. Solar tiles are also UL rated as an acceptable roofing material and are engineered to be installed with a new or existing concrete tile roof. They are also installed directly into the roof’s sheathing or battens, the same way concrete tiles are installed. Neither product needs any additional structural support, they are both water repellant, and are made to withstand high winds and hail. Both products are lightweight, the tiles substantially less than traditional concrete tiles. Currently, though the installation is similar to traditional roof installation, the manufacturers require you to have the system installed by the brand-specific certified installer in order to validate their warranties.
The Extra Step: Harnessing the Power
What differs from a traditional roof installation is the second step: hiring an electrician to route and connect your shingles/tiles. After the installation, an electrician must drill holes under the roof to pull through the electrical wires. These wires will be bundled and routed to a main box that can either connect to the grid and/or be stored as electricity in a battery. Depending on the type and configuration of the shingles, the complexity and duration of this process can vary.
The greatest benefit of solar shingles is that they create electricity during daylight hours. As a result, roofing starts paying for itself from the day it is installed and over the entire lifetime of the system. It’s the only roofing material that offers a financial return on your investment. Though it can be difficult to navigate the initial costs and ROI for solar roofs as a whole, since installation costs, type of installation (full replacement vs. partial addition), and solar energy output vary between manufacturers, minimal long-term expenses can make up for the upfront costs as most systems don’t require much maintenance and are designed to last for 20 years or more with little change to the amount of electricity produced.
2021’s Leaders in Solar Roof Systems
Tesla, the most obvious of players, came out with an entire Solar Roof system in 2016, with tiles powered by Tesla Solar Inverter. A Tesla solar roof contains both active photovoltaic solar tiles and inactive tiles all made of tempered glass integrated together to provide a uniform look. The system comes with an app that allows you to control and monitor your energy production in real-time. Engineered for all-weather protection, Tesla touts that their roof tiles are 3x stronger than standard roofing tiles, however, they come with the same standard 25-year warranty. For those of us here in Colorado concerned with hail damage, the tiles are rated ANSI FM 4473 Class 3 (with 1 being the lowest and 4 being the highest).
Lunar Solar offers the only upgradeable solar shingle system. They have 3 options solar shingles that are integrated with your roof, edge-to-edge sectional solar roofs, and complete custom solar roofs.
SunTegra offers two products, solar shingles that come in a panel and are mounted on top of your existing asphalt shingles, and tiles which replace existing concrete or slate tiles. Both products integrate alongside conventional roofing shingles or tiles and SunTegra boasts that they have, “50% fewer parts than a conventional rack-mounted solar system with locking connectors, integrated wiring design, and welded junction box connections for electrical ease and safety.”
CertainTeed offers a mix of solar options, including traditional solar panels, solar shingles, and solar tiles. They also offer a 25-year warranty, and tout that their, “manufacturing process is flexible enough to integrate new cell technologies as they offer better customer value.”
GAF Energy has a solar system that integrates into your new or replacement roof by attaching directly to the roof deck. GAF Energy’s DecoTech system installs full-sized solar panels without traditional racking in the middle of a roof, while normal asphalt shingles are still used along the perimeter. The GAF Energy system offers this low-profile aesthetics with a more traditional solar power output.
Ready to Make the Switch to Solar?
At Kapella Roofing, our GAF certified professionals are ready to help you make the move to solar! Check out Google’s new Project Sunroof to see how much you can save by installing solar tiles/shingles or panels on your home’s roof. You can search for your home address and get a personalized solar plan backed by an analysis of your roof shape and local weather patterns based on Google Earth imagery. Once your ready to start saving with solar, give us a call for your free roof inspection!