Despite their ability to bring remarkable cost savings, the appearance of solar panels still doesn’t entice a lot of people. However, an innovative concept born in the last decade has piqued interest worldwide – solar shingles. The technology might be relatively new, but it is advancing rapidly – with more variety, better efficiency, and dropping prices.
Solar shingles haven’t yet reached the level of solar panels in terms of production scale or pricing. And yet, they have garnered a lot of interest. The decisive factor, however, is their price, or more importantly – the difference in price between solar shingles and panels. Read further to learn more about the same.
Price of Solar Shingles in Canada
Multiple manufacturers in Canada have started to offer solar shingles, a.k.a solar roof tiles. The average price of solar roof tiles ranges from $30,000 to $50,000. The popular Tesla shingles, however, could cost anywhere between $50,000 and $70,000, along with a lengthy installation period.
On the other hand, a typical solar power system of equivalent size costs only about $15,000 to $30,000. In many cases, this could be half the price of a solar roof for a similar power rating.
Interestingly, when the first solar shingles were installed, way back in 2011, the price was double that of now. As compared to solar panels, a higher price for shingles is justified. This is because solar shingles have the dual responsibility of power generation and sheltering your home. The shingles, therefore, require more materials and complex manufacturing.
Understanding Solar Shingles
Solar shingles are an innovative product, combining roof shingles and solar cells. Although it may sound simple, these tiles are subject to all kinds of hostile weather for multiple decades. This demands both durability and efficiency.
Each solar shingle will produce between 13 and 63 watts of energy, depending on the brand of solar roof shingles. Many steps in designing a solar power system are common between solar panels and shingles. The load calculation based on your appliances and their usage is the same. Even some of the components of the system can be the same, such as a battery bank.
When installing solar shingles, often only a portion of the roof needs to have solar shingles. For example, suppose you have a large roof, and only 60% of it can generate enough solar power from shingles. In such a case, you can install them on only 60% of your roof. The rest of the roof can have regular asphalt shingles.
When this happens, the installer will choose to install the solar tiles in areas of maximum sunshine. This includes the south-facing side while avoiding the northern parts of the roof. Be sure to also avoid parts that are susceptible to shadings, such as those adjacent to chimneys or trees.
While solar tiles boast the greatest advantage of sleeker aesthetics, they still come with a few drawbacks. Let’s take a look at all the advantages and limitations of solar shingles.
Advantages of Solar Shingles
1. Shingles that pay for themselves
Few or no components of your house pay for themselves. If anything, you have to put in more money for maintenance, upgrades, etc. – whether it is a garden, the walls, or the roof. Solar shingles are a powerful technology that defies this.
Just like solar panels, the power generated by solar shingles cuts your monthly energy bills. The cumulative effect is that at one point, the shingles have paid for themselves. And even after that, they keep saving money on power bills.
2. Sleek, Almost Invisible Looks
This is the key feature of solar tiles – their trump card over traditional solar panels. Despite incredible money-saving potential, most people still don’t consider solar panels pretty. In fact, some housing associations even ban their residents from installing solar panels.
Most solar shingles come with a stealthy look – they are not easy to spot. Even when they are visible easily, they have a much sleeker look than solar panels. They eliminate the seemingly unpleasant-looking aluminum frame and the underpass that makes them immediately visible.
Some companies even offer shingles in varying designs and colors that complement your home color or style.
3. Improved Home Value
A common one between panels and shingles – solar power on a house increases the property value by a noticeable margin. Several studies have been done comparing prices of equivalent homes with and without solar, and every study shows that having solar on the house fetches a higher price.
One of the highlights of solar tiles that Tesla advertises is its 3x strength as compared to regular shingles. And while all the offerings in the market might not be as strong, solar tiles, in general, are significantly stronger than traditional ones.
Limitations of Solar Shingles
1. More Expensive
The most apparent limitation of solar tiles – they are significantly costlier than a regular roof, as well as solar panels. As such, this means that solar shingles are not for every house. Financially, it makes sense to install them in only a few cases, which we will cover in another section ahead.
2. Difficult to Disassemble and Relocate
Solar panels are mounted on easy-to-clamp racks, which can be dismantled and installed in another location with relative ease. Solar shingles, on the other hand, are difficult to remove and reinstall on another house.
Being smaller, the number of shingles required for a system is also higher compared to panels. They hence require more work in both installation and disassembly.
3. Still A New Tech With Few Sellers
The total number of solar panel manufacturers and installers worldwide is somewhere in the thousands. In the case of solar shingles, however, it would be a much, much smaller list. This means a lower variety to choose from and also fewer installers in your area who offer solar shingle installations.
4. Lower Efficiency
The biggest advantage of solar shingles brings with it a drawback that cannot be ignored. Since they perform as your roof, you cannot always have solar shingles in the optimum position for maximum power generation. Solar panels, on the other hand, can be installed facing the sun rays using specialized racking.
In the Northern hemisphere, maximum solar power generation occurs when the solar cells are facing south. Unfortunately, all houses don’t necessarily have a south-facing, large sloping roof.
Additionally, the structure of the shingles also means they have a lower space-to-power ratio. This means lower efficiency in general even when they are directly facing the sun. In other words, solar panels can produce more power in a smaller area than shingles.
Should I Install Solar Shingles?
Finally, we come to the main question – all advantages and limitations aside, do solar shingles make sense for you? The answer, once again, is not an unconditional yes or no. Solar shingles make financial sense in only one, or perhaps two different scenarios.
Firstly, note that solar shingles are two different commodities combined into one. If you need only one of these at a point, then you probably shouldn’t spend money on both. In simple words, if you have a good roof with plenty of life remaining, installing solar shingles would not classify as a smart financial decision.
But if your roof is old and you also want to go solar, then solar shingles make an excellent case. The reason is that the cost of solar shingles is lower than the combined cost of a new roof and solar panels.
In either case, however, solar shingles last really long, saving enough money over their lifespan to make them cheaper than most other roof types (given that you are not replacing an existing good roof). Tesla, the iconic company and one of the pioneers in solar shingles, has created a perfect chart illustrating the above fact.
You can see that over its lifespan, considering the energy savings into the net lifetime cost, solar tiles turn out to be the cheapest.
The second scenario is where the cost and payback is not much of a concern to you, and you want to go solar in an aesthetically pleasing way. In this case, your solar shingle payback might not be attractive, but you will own the latest, most attractive tech in clean energy. If you can purchase it, we think it’s still a way better choice than, say, another car – which doesn’t pay anything back!