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Solar Shingles

Learn Everything About Solar Shingles

Posted on July 4, 2019 by Sanghamitra Sinha Chowdhury

What are Solar Shingles or BIPV? (Building Integrated Photovoltaics)

Ever since November 2016, when Tesla CEO Elon Musk held the public conference for addressing his future envision of “solar roof", power-producing Solar Shingles are highly in the news. But what exactly are these materials? What are they made up of? What are they used for? If you have been wondering about these questions, then this post is for you.

Solar shingles also called photovoltaic shingles or building-integrated photovoltaics are solar panels designed in such a way that resembles conventional roofing materials both in physique and function.  The concept of an integrated solar glass shingle was on everyone’s mind since long through integrating solar technology into the structure of the roof. But the actual use of solar roof shingles came via Tesla Solar Roof, introduced by Tesla Energy that have forged ahead with what they refer to as ‘beautiful solar’ for your home. Rather than installing solar panels on top of your existing roof, they want you to replace your entire roof with their tiles that have solar technology built in. They have been designed to ‘complement your home’s architecture’ rather than detract from it.

Solar Shingles vs. Solar Panels

Although solar shingles and solar panels have similarity, they tend to differ on many folds:

Solar shingles came into use in 2011 in the State of Colorado.

Solar panels have been in use for much longer and in fact, were primarily used first in space for satellites.

The installation procedure of a solar shingle is similar to that of a regular asphalt shingle. These shingles having more advantages (as energy producers) over the regular asphalt ones and thus engulfing the former market at a rapid pace.

On the other hand, the solar panels on roofs have to be mounted above the shingles, during an installation which makes the total installation process extremely lengthy and a bit difficult.

Dow's Powerhouse solar shingles (RGS) and CertainTeed's Apollo solar shingles are, as of now the most well known solar shingle producers in the US apart from Tesla.

With a sundry of solar panel manufacturers and companies, the two main companies are Suntech (a China-based company) and First Solar (a U.S. based company).

Solar shingles have a quicker installation time. In fact, in most instances, it is almost 2/3 faster to install solar shingles onto a new roof than solar panels.

Solar panels take longer to install onto a shingle roof.

In terms of looks, solar shingles are much more aesthetically appealing because they are flat like a shingle and are not bulky.

Solar panels being heavy is one of the major drawbacks that many homeowners admit.

Earlier solar shingles were considered to be inferior to solar panels in terms of efficiency. The thin -film solar cells could barely rise above the 10 percent efficiency -mark before 2008. But in 2008, there was a breakthrough with (CIGS) copper indium gallium selenide solar cells, that allowed the thin-film solar cells to reach a conversion efficiency of 19.9% which was a new world record for this type of solar cell.

Like already mentioned, before 2008 solar panels were superior to solar shingles in terms of both performance and longevity. Silicone solar cells could reach 20.3% rate of conversion efficiency making them the obvious choice for solar power. Now obviously the thin-film solar cells conversion rates are almost identical to solar panels, hence outdating their usage.

Solar shingles are scalable, allowing their installation on various types of roofs.

Solar panels are also adaptable to the environment where you want them to be installed. Solar panels can be used for street signs, traffic lights, cars, houses, commercial buildings, etc.

Major Players in the Market

Solar shingles have been manufactured by several companies around the world. The three main manufacturers of solar roof shingles are SolarCity (Tesla), RGS Energy and CertainTeed. Some of the other companies in the US include SunTegra Solar Roof Systems and Atlantis Energy Systems (asphalt and slate systems).

Tesla Solar Roofs

The latter half of 2018 saw rapid solar innovation via Tesla’s shareholder meetings, where Elon Musk announced Tesla’s work on the 3rd version of the Solar Roof.

“I am very excited about version 3 of solar roof,” he added. “We have a shot at being equal to a comp shingle roof plus someone’s utility cost or being lower than that. That’s one of the cheapest roofs available. So you can have a great roof with better economics than a normal fairly cheap roof and your utility bill.” -  Elon Musk.

The giant automobile corporation is now steadily ramping towards solar roof production and are also toiling on the product design and production process, learning from their early factory production and field installations. In October 2016, Tesla amalgamated with SolarCity to commence the solar shingle space in a joint venture.

Key points to remember

  1. In matters of visual appeal, Tesla roof tiles look absolutely great for your home.
  2. When you need a rooftop solution, Tesla rooftop tiles can be cost-effective as compared to others.
  3. Tesla solar shingles come with unlimited warranty.

Certainteed Solar Roofs

The Apollo II system of solar shingles is built in a seamless, low profile look. They integrate with an existing roof and lie flat when installed in your house. A CertainTeed solar roof despite being a prominent body is far less eye-catching than a conventional solar panel being attached to roofs with racks. CertainTeed has a reputation in solar installation and workmanship of 15 years and a power output warranty of 25 years. The Apollo II solar tiles, since they do not have air circulating under them to provide cooling, does deliver lower electricity production. Since 1988, CertainTeed has also been part of the French multinational corporation Saint-Gobain, which has been in business since 1655. Qualified installers are a bit harder to find, but installing an Apollo II roof is way much easier than lining up a Tesla installation.

Dow Chemical Co.

In 2009, Dow Chemical Company estimated their entry into the solar shingle market to generate 5 billion dollars revenue by 2015 and 10 billion dollars by 2020. Dow solar shingles, known as the POWERHOUSE Solar System, first became available in Colorado, in October 2011. This POWERHOUSE Solar System continues to live on in its 3rd generation iteration and has exclusively been licensed to RGS Energy for commercialization. According to the Dow Chemical Company, a typical residential install consisting of 350 solar shingles can cost at least $20,000; however, federal and state incentives depending on the location might significantly bring down the expenses.

How Much Do Solar Shingles Cost?

A typical asphalt shingle roof cost starts at $5 per square foot. While solar shingles are typically more expensive to install than traditional solar panels, some companies in recent years have contributed their parts to reduce solar shingle installing costs. The average roofing installation price for a solar shingle roof costs anywhere between 60,000 to 75,000 dollars depending on the slope, pitch, and size of your roof. You can expect to pay 21 to 25 dollars per sq. foot or 2100 to 2500 dollars per square installed on a standard sized single story home. The pricing strategy depends and varies with respect to the local solar roof contractors pricing.

Why the BIPV Market is Poised for Growth in the Years Ahead?

  1. You will have both a protective and complete roof and the capacity to generate solar energy, but without installing solar panels.
  2. The thin-film solar cells used here does produce energy with less efficiency than solar panels using crystalline silicon cells. But this criticism is just the contrary to all BIPV products.
  3. Structural limitations are made in a way that traditional solar panels would have compromised the integrity of the roof while lightweight solar shingles do not.
  4. Building integrated photovoltaic/thermal systems provide very good potential for integration into the building to supply both electrical and thermal loads.
  5. Improvements on system efficiency by ventilation, hence obtain a higher yield with lowering the panel temperature.
  6. New thin-film technologies are well suited for building integration.
  7. Save time and money, using a single installation crew and a single product for roofing and solar energy production.
  8. High-efficiency solar shingles can produce about as much energy as conventional, roof-mounted solar.
  9. As the cost of solar installation continues to fall downwards, and local homeowners grow more accustomed towards owning PV systems instead of using third-party financing, differentiated solar products like solar shingles will thus have an opportunity to gain maximum market share now.

Disadvantages of Solar Power Shingles

  1. The cost of solar shingles is more than for conventional solar panels.
  2. The roof needs to be south facing and have an optimum pitch to maximize electricity production for when the sun is at its highest in the sky. This angle is dependent upon your location.
  3. Solar panels need to be clear of dust and debris but a roof installation will make access more difficult. Solar power shingles are durable but cannot withstand human weight.
  4. These shingles are susceptible to hail and damage from strong winds. Home insurance may be higher.
  5. This is not something which you can perform acting alone, a professional installer is needed and finding a qualified one in your area might prove to be a herculean task. The shingle manufacturer may be able to recommend one to you.


Solar shingles are one of the newest ways to introduce your home to the path of renewable energy. According to the Solar Energy Industry Associationthe U.S. reached a cumulative 53.3 gigawatts of solar energy capacity in 2017, enough to power over 10 million solar homes. And if you're reading this, you're most likely interested to upgrade your home while the 30% solar tax credit remains. For any kind of further assistance, we are here to help you out!