Homeowners across the country have their eye on Elon Musk’s Tesla solar roof, a much-heralded innovation for the solar energy industry. However, Tesla is just one company offering a roof-integrated solar option for homeowners and businesses. Roofing company GAF’s solar solution, DecoTech, hit the market in early 2017 and promises to be “the beautiful affordable alternative to typical rack-mounted solar systems.” Here’s EnergySage’s complete review of everything you need to know about DecoTech solar, from performance to price to warranties.
How does GAF DecoTech solar roofing work?
GAF’s roof-integrated solar product, DecoTech, is a low-profile solar energy system with standard solar panels that are installed as part of your roof. In a typical solar panel system, the brackets and mounting are affixed on top of the roof. By contrast, the DecoTech system is installed when you are already replacing your roof, which makes it easier to integrate the two products.
DecoTech’s use of standard-sized solar panels in its roof-integrated solar system distinguishes it from other “solar roofing options.”
There are a few different types of products in the “solar roofing” category. The first is solar shingles. Also known as “building integrated photovoltaics” (BIPV), are roof-shingle sized solar panels. SunTegra and CertainTeed both offer these roof-integrated panels.
The second option, which was developed more recently, is the “solar roof.” Solar roof products feature solar cells that are integrated into the roofing material itself. Unlike solar shingles, solar roofs are designed to completely hide the solar photovoltaic cell from view. Tesla and Forward Labs are two companies with solar roof products.
Unlike solar shingles or solar roof tiles, DecoTech uses standard 60-cell solar panels, which are the same size and shape as the panels that are typically used in solar systems. Their innovation comes during system installation. GAF is a roofing company first, and they have designed their product so that its installation is part of the re-roofing process. This makes it easy to set the system at a lower profile, making it less noticeable and hiding the racking and other wiring necessary to the installation.
How DecoTech compare to other solar options
GAF’s solar roofing product offers a sleek, low profile solar option for many homes, but it may or may not be the perfect fit for your home. Here’s how it compares to traditional solar panels, other solar shingles like SunTegra and CertainTeed, and new solar roofing options like Tesla and Forward Labs’ solar roofing options.
DecoTech solar panels use the same solar technology as other solar panels: silicon solar photovoltaic (PV) cells. According to the company’s product specifications, they offer 17% efficiency, which is in line with standard solar panels.
DecoTech’s panels offer higher efficiency than solar shingle options. SunTegra’s products have an efficiency of anywhere from 13.9% to 15.9%, and CertainTeed shingles have efficiency ratings of 14.7% to 15.3%. However, it is worth mentioning that this isn’t necessarily the result of a lower-quality product. 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 seamless 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.
The installation process for GAF’s DecoTech solar roofing product is a little different. The company is primarily a roofing company, and expects to be installing their solar systems alongside a new roof. This has its benefits: the installation of the roof and the solar panel system is streamlined. However, the process will necessarily be more complicated than a standard rooftop system.
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. The DecoTech solar roof option is closer to a standard solar panel system, but much lower profile.
In the world of home solar, the lowest cost option – and the one that offers the greatest long-term savings – will most 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.
GAF’s pricing information for their DecoTech option isn’t publicly available. However, press coverage about their solar roofing states that they expect the first installations to come at about a 10 to 15 percent premium over the cost of a new roof and a standard 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 warranty for your DecoTech Solar-Integrated Roofing System comes with a few different components.
The first is for the roof itself. GAF offers different warranties depending on the type of roofing materials you use, ranging from 20 years to lifetime. The second is for the solar materials used in the roof. This portion of the warranty, which lasts for 25 years, protects you against manufacturing defects. It also guarantees that the power output of your panels won’t drop by more than 0.7% annually after their first year – a standard warranty for the solar industry. Homeowners also have an ability to buy an additional lifetime guarantee, which additionally offers coverage for labor.
Here’s how DecoTech warranties compare to other solar roofing companies:
- SunTegra offers a 10-year product warranty and a 25-year power output warranty, comparable to other solar panel manufacturers. Their workmanship warranty varies depending on the installer you choose for your system
- CertainTeed also offers a 15-year installation and workmanship warranty, as well as a 10 year wind warranty.
- 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.
As the largest roofing manufacturer in North America, GAF has a network of installers spread across the country. While not all of the company’s installers can install DecoTech systems, this still puts GAF at an advantage over other solar roofing options.
For example, 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. Tesla’s solar roof and Forward Labs’ product offering are only available in select test markets in California, with no indication of when they will be rolled out in other parts of the country.
Start the solar shopping process today with solar panel quotes on EnergySage
DecoTech’s solar roofing option can offer a nice compromise between the aesthetically pleasing, costly solar roof and a standard solar panel system if you’re looking to replace your roof. However, these benefits come at a price premium, and 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.