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What Is the Difference Between Solar Panels and Solar Shingles?

Photon Brothers CO solar installers

Alternative, clean energy sources are more available to homeowners than ever. Solar panels are becoming a standardized feature for new construction, and many homes are retrofitting to include this clean, self-generated electricity source. With more investment into solar power comes more options. Solar shingles are the latest solar power options for at-home use. But what is the difference between solar panels and solar shingles?

Solar panels are the clear winner, delivering better efficiency, lower-cost installation, and more flexible placements. This blog helps you make decisions about which type of solar array to invest in by exploring the following factors:

Thinking about going solar?

To learn more about the solar array options available to you, including the best home batteries for even greater energy savings, contact Photon Brothers at (720) 370‑3344 (Colorado) or (805) 351‑3371 (California) today. We’ll schedule your FREE custom estimate, including a review of financing options and tax incentives. Our master electricians have a perfect safety record, and we’re proud to offer a 25-year production guarantee!

How Solar Shingles Work

Like solar panels, solar shingles transform sunlight into usable electricity using photovoltaic cells embedded in a glass framework. Solar shingles perform just like traditional roofing tiles but also include energy gathering. You can install solar shingles over your existing roofing materials or as the sole roof on your home. Each tile can gather between 13 – 63 watts of energy, though Tesla’s Solar Roof claims a max of 71 watts. The average cost of solar shingles can create a sticker shock since a complete solar roof costs anywhere between $90,000-$150,000.

How Solar Panels Work

Solar panels work as solar shingles do — harness sunlight to generate electricity. When sunlight activates a solar panel, the photovoltaic cells embedded in the glass panel create an electric current, which is then transferred to an inverter. You can either use the electricity immediately or store it in a battery system for later use. The big difference with solar panels is the cost, which is substantially lower, and the ability to maximize energy output. With solar panels, you can adjust the installation angle to get the most sunlight on each panel. That’s not an option for solar shingles, which are limited to the pitch and direction of your roof.

Which Option to Choose

There’s no wrong choice when it comes to installing solar power. But there are ideal options for your home. Before you decide, it’s important to consider cost factors that may impact how long it takes you to see a return on your solar investment. Let’s explore!

Whether Your Roof Needs Replacing

If your roof needs replacing, it’s often an ideal time to install solar shingles or an entire solar roof. After all, you’re already paying for the roof replacement and there are tax credits that can help offset the installation costs by 30% through 2032. However, even with those offsets, installing solar roofing is still an expensive proposition. A standard roof is likely to cost less than $12,000 for most homes, while solar is more than 5x as expensive.

The Type of Roof You Have

Your roof type and the amount of sun exposure also play a role in determining the value of installing a solar roof versus solar panels. A flat roof may not be compatible with solar shingles at all, while a home that faces the wrong direction might also be a bad candidate. 

Solar panels have more flexibility for installation locations. If your roof doesn’t work, there may be a spot in your yard that will. If you have a flat roof, solar panels can still be an option with the right mounting. In general, both solar panels and solar shingles can be installed on top of a traditional, shingled roof without the need for additional support.

Time and Labor Cost

If you don’t need to replace your roof, installing solar shingles takes a lot longer and requires more labor than installing solar panels. Solar shingles are roofing shingles, which means installation is virtually identical to standard roofing installation. Expect it to take a similar amount of time and require similar expertise, though some manufacturers have even longer installation timelines. 

Solar panels are installed above your roof and often use pre-fabricated mounting solutions to streamline installation. While solar shingles can take up to two weeks just to install, solar panels often take a single day, making the process fast and efficient.

Why Solar Panels Are the Clear Winner

There are only a few situations that might make solar panels a bad fit for your home, and those same issues apply to solar shingles. But, with solar panels, you have the option for ground installation. The substantial cost increase for a solar roof versus the cost of solar panels makes this technology a second-tier choice — at least for now. 

One of the most significant benefits of solar shingles is the projected lifespan. Manufacturers expect solar shingles to continue producing power for up to 40 years at near maximum output. Unfortunately, it’s a new technology, which means it’s untried and untested for long-term use. While shingles should hold up to extreme weather conditions, very few case studies support this. Also, you could wait a long time if you opt for solar shingles. Many solar installers don’t offer them. There aren’t many options, and waitlists to fill orders can take a while.

Ultimately, unless a solar roof is the only option allowed by your HOA, solar panels are the clear winner, delivering better efficiency, lower-cost installation, and more flexible placements.

Have questions about solar panels and your potential energy savings? Call Photon Brothers!

Contact Photon Brothers at (720) 370‑3344 (Colorado) or (805) 351‑3371 (California) and we’ll provide expert answers to all your questions about solar panels, home batteries, financing, warranties, and more! We offer a comprehensive FREE estimate that includes a custom-designed installation plan. Plus, we back up our work with a 25-year production guarantee, and our in-house service department is always available if you need us!

Photon brothers Derek Pomar

Derek Pomar

Denver sky

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