Solar shingles, sometimes called building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), are a relatively new technology (created in 2005) designed to look like ordinary asphalt shingles. They protect your roof and have the same durability and flexibility as regular shingles, while harnessing the sun’s energy to generate power for your home. Each shingle will produce between 13 and 63 watts, depending on the brand of shingle. Investing in solar shingles can significantly decrease your monthly utility bills, while also helping you to decrease your carbon footprint. Some homeowners also appreciate their sleek aesthetic as opposed to larger solar panels. Solar shingles are lightweight and easy to install and just like ordinary shingles, they are designed to withstand rain, wind, and hail.
Thin-film solar shingles are the latest solar shingles. These shingles use CIGS technology (copper indium gallium diselenide), which is laminated in thin films over the shingles, making them as flexible and durable as ordinary shingles. Thin-film cells are currently less energy efficient than traditional silicon technology, but they are also less expensive to make.
Silicon-based solar shingles are made with silicon, the material used in most solar panels. These are more efficient than the thin-film shingles. Silicon-based solar shingles convert up to 22% of available sunlight into electricity.
Solar shingles work like traditional solar panels. They use the sun as a power source to create electricity. Each of the solar shingles is comprised of photovoltaic cells. Each of the cells on solar shingles contains a type of material called a semiconductor. A semiconductor is a solid substance that has a conductivity between an insulator and most metals, either due to the addition of an impurity or because of temperature effects. Devices made of semiconductors, notably silicon, are essential components of most electronic circuits. When light hits solar shingles it is captured within the silicon semiconductor. The semiconductor now contains energy that flows freely. This energy is harnessed by the photovoltaic cells to flow in one common direction. This creates a current that can be used for electrical power.
The number of solar shingles it would take to power your entire home depends upon the size of your house and your typical energy usage, but even installing a few can help out. It is not necessary to replace your entire roof as you can integrate these shingles into your existing roof. If your roof is in need of an overhaul anyway though, replacing your roof is not a bed investment. According to the most recent Cost vs. Value report, replacing the roof on your home can have an an ROI of 71.6%. Additionally, recent Department of Energy backed studies have demonstrated that homebuyers are willing to pay a premium for homes with solar features–up to $15,000.
Solar panels are still preferable in terms of performance and price when compared to solar shingles. Solar shingles don’t work with every type of roof. Your roof needs to be angled correctly to receive sunlight. You also need to have a roofing substrate that can handle getting hot, and the correct air circulation. If you’re interested in solar shingles, you’ll need to have an installer check out your roof to see if it’s a possibility. Solar panels, in contrast, can be angled to receive maximum sunlight even if the roof itself isn’t quite at the right slope or if it’s facing the wrong direction. They can be moved and relocated if necessary, without replacing the roof. They’re also less expensive.
Solar panels are more efficient, so you don’t need to use as much roof space to bring down your electric bill. Solar shingles also may not last as long. They haven’t been on the market long enough to provide any true indicators of their potential for longevity. Additionally, very few solar installers use solar shingles so it can be difficult to find an installer.