Solar is more popular than ever, but some homeowners can be concerned about the look of a solar panel installation on the roof of their home. Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), and more specifically, solar shingle and tile technology, are intended to fix that “aesthetic” problem for solar shoppers who are sitting on the fence. RGS Energy, a solar installer that operates in 10 states across the country, is the latest company that’s getting into the solar shingles business.
Solar roof shingles aren’t a new technology – they’ve been around in some way since 2005. In the past several years, they’ve improved in efficiency, and a growing number of companies are looking to offer this as an alternative to traditional solar panels. There are a few companies that offer solar roofing products. CertainTeed offers solar shingles through their Apollo II line. There’s also been a lot of recent buzz around Tesla’s solar roof, and the company had its first customer installation of this technology earlier this month.
Another well-known solar shingles manufacturer is Dow Chemical Company, which discontinued their POWERHOUSE solar shingles line in summer 2016. In March 2018, RGS Energy, one of the original installation companies, announced that they have an exclusive licensing agreement and will begin manufacturing the POWERHOUSE 3.0 solar shingles.
Introducing RGS Energy to the Dow POWERHOUSE solar shingle family
RGS Energy, a reputable installation company with over 40 years of installation experience, has partnered with Dow to become the exclusive licensee for POWERHOUSE 3.0, both domestically and internationally. While not discontinuing their traditional installation efforts, RGS will now be able to service both customers looking for the sleekness of a solar shingle option.
This new generation of shingles is different from the previously discontinued products. They are manufactured using traditional silicon solar cells instead of copper indium gallium selenide cells (CIGS), which is often used in manufacturing thin film solar. CIGS solar cells are typically more expensive to manufacture than silicon solar cells, allowing the third generation solar shingles to be more cost-competitive than the ones previously on the market.
This is also the first time that Dow Chemical Company has exclusively partnered with an experienced solar installation company for sales, installation and distribution of their product. As part of the agreement, RGS is also servicing warranty agreements for the older generation POWERHOUSE installations as well.
How do Dow POWERHOUSE shingles compare with solar panels, or other BIPV options?
The technical specifications of POWERHOUSE 3.0 shingles are outlined in their spec sheet. The shingles are 15.6 to 17.1 percent efficienc, and have an 11 year product warranty and a 24 year performance warranty.
Historically, BIPV technology like Certainteed’s solar shingles have been less efficient and more expensive than standard silicon solar panels, though the costs have come down in recent years. The POWERHOUSE 3.0 shingles, as mentioned before, aren’t made from CIGS like previous generations, so its efficiencies are expected to be closer to that of a traditional solar panel than many BIPV technologies. In regards to pricing, solar shingles are even more competitive against traditional solar if it’s a new construction project or if the property also needs a new roof, since the solar shingle itself is used in lieu of traditional roofing materials.
Available pricing information from RGS indicates that the solar shingles will cost roughly $3.30 per watt for the average new construction project, including the cost of labor, electrical balance-of-system work (such as the inverter, monitoring, and wiring), and the equipment kit. This does not include the cost of the roofing installation, which comes out to roughly another $0.85 per watt of solar shingles installed (for a total of $4.15 per watt of solar power).
Retrofits will likely be more expensive, because of the cost of removing and replacing your existing roof. RGS promotes the affordability of the POWERHOUSE shingles when compared to a Tesla solar roof, which in comparison is estimated to cost closer to $8.14 per watt installed for homebuilders.
Outside of pricing, there are some additional differences between the POWERHOUSE shingles and other solar shingle or tile technologies.
The POWERHOUSE shingles have a similar appearance to other solar shingle options (including Certainteed’s Apollo II). They’re integrated as part of the roof and have a low profile look, and tend to be black and shiny in color (similar to all-black monocrystalline panels).
They are different in appearance from “solar roof” technologies from Tesla and Forward Labs. The Tesla solar tiles offer a variety of different types of tiles depending on the other roofing material (textured, smooth, tuscan and slate) to better help blend in with the roof, and Forward Labs’ roof looks like a standing seam metal roof.
The POWERHOUSE 3.0 solar shingles come with a 11-year product warranty for the solar cells, which is the standard product warranty of most traditional solar panels today. They also offer a 25-year warranty on the roof itself, which is line with many roofing material warranties. The Tesla solar roof, by comparison, offers a 30-year warranty on the power production of their tiles, and a lifetime warranty of the tile itself.
As it stands right now, Tesla is the only installer for the Tesla solar roof. While RGS Energy is licensed to install the POWERHOUSE 3.0 shingles, they are also partnering with certified dealers and roofers to provide installation services of this technology. Certainteed doesn’t have an exclusive installation partner for their Apollo II product, but they do have a certified network of companies that install their product.
Should you choose Dow POWERHOUSE shingles?
As with any solar or home improvement project, there is no “one-type-fits-all” solution, but there are definitely properties that may be better suited for solar shingles than traditional panels.
If you are particularly concerned with aesthetics, solar shingles (POWERHOUSE 3.0 or otherwise) can be a good option to consider. If you live in a neighborhood with a restrictive homeowner’s association (HOA), they may be more amenable to the installation of BIPV than standard solar panels because of the lower-profile look. Homeowners who have new construction or are re-roofing may also want to consider solar shingles.
That being said, traditional solar panel installations are still going to be a suitable option for most instances, and for many properties, preferred. If you have sunny but limited roof space, you’ll want to maximize the efficiency of your photovoltaic system, and high wattage, high efficiency monocrystalline panels will be the way to go. If you have a lot of land, you may also want to consider a ground mount rather than solar shingles – ground mounted solar has the advantage of being positioned and tilted for optimal sun exposure to maximize your solar production.
As with any large purchase, it’s a good idea to look at multiple options and pricing before making a decision. By signing up on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can receive multiple quotes for turnkey solar panel installation to compare with solar shingle options.
Most of our installer network does not offer BIPV (most installation companies only offer traditional panel installation). RGS Energy is an EnergySage-Approved installer, but Dow POWERHOUSE shingles aren’t yet available on the market – they’re expected to start installing them by the end of 2018. If you’re interested in other solar shingle options, it’s worth noting it in your account to see if we work with a contractor that can provide you with a quote through the platform. Alternatively, if you’re looking to start your solar research with a rough estimate of costs and savings of solar installations, try EnergySage’s Solar Calculator.