solar shingles on home

What are solar roof tiles? Comparing solar panels to solar shingles

Reading Time: 3 minutes

You don’t have to install solar panels on your roof to go solar – solar roof tiles are an innovative solar technology that can also help property owners save on their energy bills. For those wondering “what are solar shingles exactly?” they’re also referred to as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), solar roof tiles similarly use the sun’s energy to produce electricity for your home.

Find out what solar panels cost in your area in 2021

Solar shingles vs. solar panels

Many homeowners are curious about the difference between solar shingles and traditional solar panels. Solar roof shingles use the same technology as PV panels, and are the same size and shape as a typical asphalt shingle. As with solar panels, solar shingles are paired with inverters and connected to the grid.

Both standard solar panels and solar shingles can increase your property value, and building-integrated PV is often eligible for the same incentives as a traditional solar panel system (like the federal ITC.) In addition, building-integrated PV systems are subject to the same net metering policies as standard solar PV systems.

Are solar roof tiles more expensive than solar panels?

Solar roof tiles and shingles have historically been more expensive than conventional solar panels, although they are becoming more cost-competitive. If you decide you want to use building-integrated PV, it is more cost effective to install the shingles when replacing your roof, because you can simply integrate them in with your conventional asphalt roof shingles.

Many homeowners wonder about the price and general cost comparison of BIPV to typical rooftop solar panels. In addition to solar shingles’ cost being slightly higher, solar roof tiles are also less efficient than traditional solar panels. That being said, these shingles can still generate savings on electric bills: the average homeowner can save anywhere from 40 to 70 percent on their electricity costs by installing solar roof tiles.

One of the downsides of building-integrated PV is that it may be less effective at generating electricity depending on the orientation of your roof. While conventional solar panels can be tilted to catch the maximum amount of sunlight, your roof is static and may not have the best angle for solar roof shingles.

Where can I buy solar panel shingles?

Solar roof shingles have only been around since 2005, and since the technology is relatively new, there isn’t a lot of data to indicate whether they have as long of a lifespan as traditional solar panels. It can also be difficult to find a contractor that installs solar roof shingles – for example, Dow Solar, one of the top manufacturers of building-integrated PV, currently only has certified installers in 18 states.

However, solar roof tiles are becoming increasingly popular for aesthetic reasons. They can be a good option for property owners subject to homeowners’ association (HOA) regulations – because solar shingles are thin and lie flat on the roof, they look more like a standard rooftop, and can be a good alternative if your HOA restricts the use of solar panels.

While some homeowners think that conventional solar panels look bulky, we at EnergySage think that solar panels look cool on homes. Manufacturers are recognizing that homeowners want visually pleasing solar energy systems, and are creating more appealing panels in response (have you seen these gorgeous all-black panels? So sleek!).

Regardless of solar panels or solar roof shingles, the best way to go solar is to compare all of your options in one place. Homeowners should register their property to get multiple quotes for a solar energy system, and then compare the quotes side-by-side to easily understand their pros and cons. When you register on EnergySage, you can specifically note that you’re interested in solar roof shingles! While many of our installers work with traditional PV panels, some may also be able to provide you with quotes for low-cost solar roof shingles, too.

Additional resources:

zip code entry solar calculator
Find out what solar panels cost in your area in 2021
Posted on by .
Categories: Buyer's Guide
Tags: ,

About Kerry Thoubboron

Kerry has worked in solar for more than 5 years, starting out as an Energy Advisor helping customers compare their options and make well-informed solar decisions. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in Environmental Analysis and Policy. Outside of work, you can find Kerry snowboarding, watching The Office, or having passionate debates about which New England state is best (spoiler: it's Vermont).

4 thoughts on “What are solar roof tiles? Comparing solar panels to solar shingles

  1. AvatarRobert Montgomery

    In Mid-Michigan, we can get a lot of snow in the winter time. Would it pay to go solar if the panels are covered in snow 5 to 6 months out of the year or is there a way to work around that? Thanks.


    Robert Montgomery
    Army Retired Veteran

  2. Avatardeborah Beal

    Can solar shingles be put on a surface other than a roof? Can they be used on schools? Our schools have relatively new roofs but we have heard solar shingles are more powerful than solar panels and we would like to take advantage of renewable energy resources.
    Really Interested,
    Debbie Beal
    School Committee Member,
    Nauset Regional Schools,
    Orleans Massachusetts

  3. Pingback: Will Tesla’s Solar Panel Roof Be the Next Solar Shingles? - Solar Lights Sky

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *