Solar Shingles: What are they?
For those who want solar power without looking like they have solar power, solar shingles are an option. Designed to look like ordinary asphalt shingles, they also protect your roof, and are meant to be as durable and flexible as regular shingles. They’re also lightweight and easy to install. A few different types of solar shingles are available. You may also see them called building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV).
Thin-film solar shingles
These are the latest solar shingles. Dow has a new line of thin-film shingles that will be available next year; they use CIGS technology (copper indium gallium diselenide), which is laminated in thin films– hence the name– over the shingles. They match the flexibility of ordinary shingles. Thin-film cells are currently less efficient than traditional silicon technology, but they are also less expensive to make. Dow estimates that a set of their solar shingles can be installed in about ten hours, which is about half the time that the first solar shingles required for installation.
Silicon-based solar shingles
Other solar shingles are made with silicon, the material used in most solar panels. These are more efficient than the thin-film shingles. The solar shingles made by SunPower convert up to 22% of available sunlight into electricity.* Note that the first silicon solar shingles were released in 2005, so the whole industry is new.
How much power do solar shingles produce?
Each shingle will produce between 13 and 63 watts, depending on the brand of shingle. If you use the shingles that produce 13 watts, you’d need 77 tiles to cover 100 square feet of roof, for a kilowatt of potential energy.**
Can they withstand the weather?
Just like ordinary shingles, solar shingles are designed to withstand rain, wind, and hail. However, because they’re new to the market, there isn’t a lot of real-life data on how long solar shingles can last (more: How long do solar panels last).
Solar shingles vs. solar panels
Photovoltaic roof tiles aren’t a good match for all roofs. You need to have a roof that’s correctly angled to receive sunlight. You also need to have a roofing substrate that can handle getting hot, and the correct air circulation. If you’re interested in solar shingles, you’ll need to have an installer check out your roof to see if it’s a possibility.
Solar panels, on the other hand, can be angled to receive maximum sunlight even if the roof itself isn’t quite at the right slope or if it’s facing the wrong direction. They can be moved and relocated if necessary, without replacing the roof. They’re also less expensive. Solar panels are more efficient, so you don’t need to use as much roof space to bring down your electric bill. Solar shingles also may not last as long. Right now, very few solar installers use solar shingles.