Few could argue against solar energy being advantageous for everyone: it’s sustainable, environmentally friendly, effective, and increasingly affordable thanks to industry advancements and extended government incentives. The aesthetic, on the other hand, is a matter of opinion. Some people proudly sport the glimmering solar PV cells on their roofs like a badge of honor. Others are a little less enthused about what they consider to be a clunky eyesore. If you fall into the second camp, you may be interested in solar shingles.
Solar shingles are one of many types of building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). These photovoltaic products are manufactured to imitate and take the place of conventional building materials so that they don’t negatively impact a home or building’s visual appeal. Each solar shingle is durable, thin, and flexible and uses sunlight to generate electricity.
So, how much will it cost to switch to solar and preserve your curb appeal?
As with traditional solar, the front-loaded costs can deter many homeowners who are interested in this project. If you are building a new home, you will most likely invest $10,000 in roof installation. Installing solar shingles will bring this cost up to around $30,000 before incentives. This may seem like a steep incline, but if you’re the type to look at the big picture, envision recouping this fee with solar energy savings over time. Solar shingles will also add value to your home.
While $30,000 is a good estimate, you’ll need to consider several factors and call a nearby installer to get a price you can count on. Other factors that influence the cost include:
Roof configuration and area
You’ll need at least 250 square feet of roof area that is not covered by shade. Remember that southern exposure is essential for optimum efficiency. Solar shingles are easier to install on dips and valleys of the roof where regular PV modules wouldn’t work, but regular PV modules can be installed with frames that allow them to face in the optimal direction. Make sure solar shingles are right for your roof and that they will help you generate enough energy to be a better option than regular PV modules.
The solar invest tax credit (ITC) is a huge factor in many homeowners’ decisions to implement solar. The federal government extended the 30 percent tax credit through the end of 2016, which means that as long as you start the project before the end of the year, you will benefit from this 30 percent rebate.
Retrofit or new construction
Installing solar shingles when you’re already re-roofing or installing a new roof is more cost-effective due to the contractor’s ability to install the solar array at the same time that they’re completing the other labor. However, solar shingles function as real shingles, so if you’re installing them on a roof that’s in good condition, you’re not saving on the building materials, and you may even need to pay to have some existing materials removed.
Thankfully, many types of solar shingles are designed to be easily installed by a roofing professional, whom you would need to hire for a re-roofing or new construction anyway.
Wattage of solar cells
Depending on the brand and type, each of your shingles will produce between 13 and 63 watts. If you are purchasing shingles with lower wattage, you will need to purchase more of them and designate a larger area of your roof.
Types of Solar Shingles
Though this is a relatively new technology, you do have options. Thin film solar shingles are the more affordable option, but they are not as efficient as regular PV modules. Silicon solar shingles are similar to regular PV modules in their makeup, which makes them efficient but more expensive than the alternative.
Other Things to Consider
Like conventional roofing materials, solar shingles are made to withstand wind, rain, hail and temperature fluctuations.
Remember that while solar shingles create a more seamless aesthetic, solar panels can be adjusted for maximum exposure to sunlight. Depending on the positioning of your house, it may be more beneficial to place the solar modules on the back side—which may not affect your curb appeal at all. Make sure to do your research before you decide the BIPV are the right fit for your home.