Solar shingles are, essentially, small photovoltaic panels constructed to look and function like conventional roof tiles.
These roof tiles are designed to blend in with the rest of your roof, boosting your curb appeal while at the same time providing you with a free source of energy. What’s not to like?
As great as they sound, solar roof tiles have several disadvantages. Consequently, they aren’t the best choice for most homeowners.
Solar shingles are installed the same as the rest of your roofing tiles. So if your roof doesn’t face south or west and the slope is not ideal, they won’t be oriented for maximum photovoltaic output.
Photovoltaic panels, on the other hand, can be mounted on a tilted racking system or on trackers to harness more of the sun’s power.
If your roof is unsuitable for photovoltaic panel installation, you’re better off opting for a ground-mounted photovoltaic array than solar shingles.
Conventional photovoltaic panels, whether mounted on a rooftop or on the ground, are more efficient than solar roof tiles — and it isn’t only due to orientation. Shingles lay directly on the roof, with no air circulation underneath. As a result, they get much hotter than panels do, and hot solar cells are significantly less efficient at producing electricity.
Each solar roof tile or shingle must be wired individually into the array. This creates dozens (or hundreds) of vulnerable points for failure.
But more concerning to solar experts is the idea of incorporating an expensive power generation system into a roofing material that isn’t designed to last as long as the solar cell. The reason that traditional photovoltaic panel systems make sense is that they last for decades, through as many re-roofing projects as your home needs.
When the roof shingle or tile itself fails, you’re forced to dispose of it – and the solar cell along with it.
If you’re in the market for a new roof and you can angle the installation for the maximum amount of photovoltaic output, solar roof tiles could be an option. However, they will cost much more than a traditional photovoltaic panel installation.
Why are they so expensive? Installing solar roof tiles requires different training. Essentially, your contractor has to act as both a photovoltaic installer and a roofer. Plus, for warranty coverage, it may be necessary to have a roofer on-site during the photovoltaic installation. That can significantly add to the cost.
If you don’t already need a new roof, solar roof tiles probably aren’t the right choice for you. They may be more aesthetically pleasing, but that isn’t usually a worthwhile tradeoff for the increase in cost and decrease in efficiency.
Finally, these products may not be available much longer, at least not through mass production processes. Despite making a grand entrance into the renewable energy market in 2010, Dow Chemical announced in July of this year that it had ceased production of its Powerhouse Solar Shingle roofing products.
At Intermountain Wind & Solar, our expert team can provide the information you need to determine what type of photovoltaic power system would be the best fit for you. We serve both residential and commercial clients throughout the Intermountain West.
Contact us today to learn more about the photovoltaic energy alternatives to solar shingles.
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