Innovative solar roof tiles and shingles are taking market share from traditional panels because they combine good efficiency with better aesthetics.
These products are called building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) systems because they are part of the roof rather than installed above the roofing material. Solar shingles and tiles contain crystalline solar cells. They are wired together and the entire field is then connected to the home’s electrical panel. Storage batteries are optional but recommended to make use of extra power generation.
While traditional panels cost about $2.70 to $3.60 per watt, solar tiles cost in the range of $3.80 to $6.70 per watt for most systems. Tesla’s solar roof costs even more, with most estimates in the $8.00 range. Depending on climate and home size, most homes require a 4kW to 8kW system with 6kW (6,000 watts) being average.
Note: These costs factor the current 30% federal tax credit for solar. The credits drops to 26% for 2020 and 22% for 2021. It’s anybody’s guess whether they’ll be renewed for 2022 and beyond.
This table shows the top solar tiles, their cost and whether or when they’ll be available. Details about each product plus BIPV solar tile pros and cons are below.
Cost per kW
Average 6kW cost
|Traditional solar panels||$3000||$18,000||Any roofing||Yes|
|Dow PowerHouse tiles||$4300||$25,800||Asphalt||In 2019|
|SunTegra shingles||$4000||$24,000||Low-profile shingles/shakes||Yes|
|SunTegra tiles||$6250||$37,500||Flat concrete tiles||Yes|
|CertainTeed Apollo II shingles||$4500||$27,000||Asphalt||Yes|
|CertainTeed Apollo II tiles||$6550||$39,300||Flat concrete tiles||Yes|
|3 in 1 solar tiles*||$7250||$43,500||N/A||In 2019|
|Tesla Solar tiles*||$8000||$48,000||N/A||Limited|
* 3 in 1 and Tesla roofing tiles cover the entire roof. See Roof Cost details below for the cost of a complete roof covered in these materials.
All the systems can be financed with PACE loans. These are Property Assessed Clean Energy Program loans backed by the Department of Energy. These are zero-down loans with payments based on the energy cost savings anticipated from the roof.
Of course, the purpose of solar roofing is to reduce or eliminate the need to purchase electricity. EnergySage used the national average cost of $.13 per kWh in November 2017 to determine the average home uses $1,430 in electricity per year, so that is the annual payback for most homes.
In homes with net metering, the homeowner can be compensated if excess energy produced by the solar roof is pushed onto the electrical grid.
Like solar panels, most solar shingles and tiles cover only part of the roof. Tesla and 3 in 1 tiles cover the entire roof.
This table shows installed roofing costs for materials that can be used with solar tiles and shingles plus costs for Tesla and 3 in 1 roof tiles.
|Flat wood shingles/shakes||$6.15-$9.85|
|Flat concrete shingles||$12.50-$14.00|
|3 in 1 tiles||$18.00-$21.00|
Further Reading: Asphalt Shingles Vs Metal Roof
Here is an overview of the products listed in the cost table. Advantages and disadvantages for each are given. Note that solar panels cost less and offer solar conversion of 15 to 20%. It’s slightly lower for most BIPV, but the trade-off is a more attractive roof.
This is a Dow design licensed to RGS Energy for production. The shingles each produce 60 watts of power. They are fastened directly to the deck, as are CertainTeed. The disadvantage of this installation method is a lack of airflow beneath the shingles which can allow heat to build. Hot solar shingles lose conversion efficiency. Since the Powerhouse hasn’t been released yet, conversion data isn’t available. Shingles are black.
This BIPV offers good conversion efficiency of 15.9% for shingles and 15% for tiles. Black and stylish, the SunTegra shingles and tiles have a 10-year materials warranty and 25-year power generation coverage. The wind rating is 130mph.
SunTegra’s patented TegraVent is built-in ventilation for each shingle and tile. This allows airflow that prevents heating that could reduce conversion efficiency. The slight downside to the vent is that it raises the profile significantly above asphalt shingles. They blend well with concrete tile, but that’s a pricier roofing material than asphalt.
Apollo II roofing contains 14 cells per shingle or tile with 60-watt output. CertainTeed shingles (15.5%) and tiles (16%) offer comparable conversion to other BIPV products.
The solar output is guaranteed for 25 years. The standard warranty for materials is 10 years and 15 years for workmanship. The latter can be lengthened up to 25 years when using an installer certified by CertainTeed, though cost will probably be higher too. The wind warranty is 110mph, the same as the standard warranty for most asphalt shingles. Both products are offered in black only.
These are hardened glass tiles in four styles of solar and non-solar roofing. Depending on your climate and whether your home is a single-story or multi-story, from 30% to 70% solar tiles will be required. The tile as a roof material has a Lifetime warranty. Power generation is guaranteed for 30 years.
Tesla tiles – traditional, textured, smooth and slate styles – are the most attractive of the group. They create a roof without visual seams between solar and non-solar roofing. The higher cost, as seen in the comparison table, makes a Tesla roof prohibitive for many. Energy savings won’t be enough to cover the higher cost of the roof during its lifetime.
As with Tesla tiles, a percentage of 3 in 1 tiles are fitted with 6” square PV cells to generate power. Two tile styles, shakes and slate looks are offered in 12 colors.
The other products offer roof protection and solar generation. The 3 in 1 tiles have a foam insulation core with an R16 rating, hence three benefits in one roof. The company suggests that its roof will reduce a home’s energy requirements for heating and cooling by 20% to 40%, so the roof will require a smaller solar energy system compared to other products.
The production of residential solar power is up tenfold in the last decade, and the cost of generating power continues to drop. California has mandated solar on most new residential construction. These facts highlight that solar power is becoming an option any homeowner should consider when installing a new roof.