Homeowners across the country have their eye on Elon Musk’s Tesla solar roof, a much-heralded innovation for the solar energy industry. However, there are already roof-integrated solar panels available on the market, also known as solar shingles. SunTegra is one of two major companies producing and installing solar shingles in the United States.
What are SunTegra solar shingles, and how do they work?
Solar shingles, also known as “building integrated photovoltaics” (BIPV), are roof-shingle sized solar panels. SunTegra’s solar roofing product is made of the same solar technology as traditional solar panels – monocrystalline solar photovoltaic cells.
There is one key difference between SunTegra shingles and traditional solar panel systems. While a standard solar panel system is attached to the roof with the use of a racking system affixed atop your roof, SunTegra’s solar shingles are installed as an integrated part of your existing roof – meaning they replace your existing shingles or tiles. The result is a low profile, unobtrusive solar energy system that sits flush with your existing roof.
SunTegra offers two solar shingle options: the SunTegra Tile system and the SunTegra Shingle system. The Shingle system is designed to integrate with asphalt shingle roofs, while the Tile is designed to suit roofs with concrete tiles.
Each SunTegra Tile has 24 solar cells and offers 95 to 105 Watts of power output. (The company is also releasing a 110 Watt Tile in late summer 2017.) SunTegra Shingles contain 16 solar cells each and offer 64 to 67 Watts of power output.
How SunTegra solar shingles compare to other solar options
Solar shingles offer a sleek, low profile solar option for many homes, but they may or may not be the perfect fit for your home. Here’s how they compare to traditional solar panels, other solar shingles like CertainTeed, and new solar roofing options like Tesla and Forward Labs’ solar roofing options.
SunTegra solar shingles are based on the same fundamental solar technology as both standard solar PV panels and other solar roofing options: silicon solar photovoltaic cells. However, because of how solar shingles are designed and installed, they will usually produce less electricity than a similarly sized roof-mounted solar panel system.
According to SunTegra’s product specifications, the Tile system has a conversion efficiency of 13.9% to 14.5%, and the Shingle system has a conversion efficiency of 14.4% to 15.9%. These statistics are on the low end for standard solar panels, which can offer efficiency ratings upwards of 19%. However, they are comparable to other solar shingles on the market: CertainTeed solar shingles have efficiency ratings of 14.7% to 15.3%.
Solar shingles’ lower efficiency is due to the fact that building-integrated solar panels don’t have air circulating underneath the solar cells to cool them. Like other electronic equipment, solar panels can overheat. While this style of installation does create a low-profile look, it also comes with lower electricity production.
It’s worth noting that both Forward Labs and Tesla’s solar roof products likely have similar efficiency losses because of how they are installed. However, neither company has released detailed efficiency information.
A traditional solar panel installation can be completed in a matter of hours. (In fact, you can watch a full installation happen over the course of a few hours in EnergySage’s time-lapse video Solar Panel Installation in Less Than A Minute.) The process is simple: workers install the brackets and mounting system for the solar panels, and then connect the solar panels to the framework.
SunTegra claims that their installation process is simple as well, and highlights that their system requires “50% fewer parts than conventional rack-mounted systems.” This places them at an advantage over Tesla and Forward Labs’ solar roofing options. Because SunTegra’s solar shingles are designed to work with your existing roof, they don’t require a full roof replacement like Tesla – saving you both time and money.
If your primary concern is finding a hidden solar power installation, Tesla and Forward Labs are the only companies that offer a true “solar roof” with solar cells that are invisible from ground level. However, because SunTegra solar shingles are integrated into the roof, rather than installed on top of it, they offer a much lower profile than a standard solar panel installation. Depending on your roof angle and height, it is possible that their lower profile will result in practically “invisible” solar tiles from the ground level.
In the world of home solar, the lowest cost option – and the one that offers the greatest long-term savings – will almost certainly be a standard solar panel system. The average cost of solar in 2017 is $3.16/Watt, and the average EnergySage customer can cover over 90 percent of their electric bill with their solar panel system.
By comparison, EnergySage analyzed Forward Labs solar roofing data and found that their product cost approximately $4.90/Watt, including the cost of non-solar roofing materials needed to complete the installation. The same analysis found that Tesla solar roof pricing is close to $6.40/Watt. The innovative Smartflower ground-mounted solar array comes in at around $4.23/Watt.
SunTegra doesn’t make specific pricing information available on their site. However, press coverage about SunTegra shingles states that they cost about 15 percent more than a conventional system, which would put their price in the neighborhood of $3.65/Watt. In addition, because they are less efficient at converting electricity, their long-term savings may be lower than a standard solar panel system.
According to SunTegra’s website, their Tile and Shingle products both come a 10-year product warranty and a 25-year power output warranty.
These warranties are comparable to warranties for standard solar panel options, but are below average when compared to other solar roofing options:
- CertainTeed also offers a 15-year installation and workmanship warranty, as well as a 10-year wind warranty. (SunTegra’s workmanship warranty likely varies depending on the installer you choose for your system.)
- Forward Labs and Tesla both offer 30-year warranties for power production and weatherization. Tesla also offers an “infinite” warranty that applies to their physical roof tiles.
SunTegra’s availability in the U.S. gives it an advantage over Tesla and Forward Labs solar roofing options. SunTegra solar roof options are available “in selected regions of the United States, Canada and Mexico,” including but not limited to California and New Jersey.
By comparison, Tesla’s solar roof and Forward Labs’ product offering are only available in certain “test markets” in California, with no indication of when they will be rolled out to other parts of the country.
Start the solar shopping process today with solar panel quotes on EnergySage
Solar shingles offer a nice compromise between the aesthetically pleasing, costly solar roof and a standard solar panel system. However, the aesthetic benefits of a SunTegra installation come with some definite compromises on electricity production and cost. In many cases, a standard solar panel system is a much more cost-effective option for your home. The average EnergySage customer with a solar panel system breaks even on their solar investment in just seven years.
If you’re considering a solar roof, solar shingles, or standard rooftop panels, comparing all of your options can help you determine the relative costs and benefits of going solar. Join the EnergySage Solar Marketplace to solicit competitive quotes for rooftop solar PV systems from installers local to you. Whether your top priority is aesthetics, long-term savings, or initial investment, reviewing offers from multiple providers is the best way to find the right option for your home.