What are Solar Shingles?

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Green Living

Solar shingles are a type of photovoltaic (PV) building product that generates electricity from sunlight. Although they look like ordinary roof shingles from a distance, they are made with specific materials that undergo an electronic process in the presence of sunlight. They serve a dual purpose – generating electricity and acting as shingles – which makes them less expensive than traditional solar panels in the long run. Some models can even convert the electricity to heat. Solar shingles are made of the same materials as those used in regular solar panels, including wire, a photosensitive waterproof product for protection from outdoor elements, and material that can generate an electric current in sunlight.

Solar Shingles 101

Photons, or particles of sunlight, strike a solar shingle coated with a special surface that naturally knocks off an electron. The freed electron travels through an electrical circuit to an area where other electrons are stored. This collection of electrons is then harvested to generate a current. Solar shingles can produce up to 100% of a building’s electricity usage depending on factors such as the demand of the building, the amount of sunlight it receives, current utility rates, and roof space. They can even work in gray-weather places, as they can use diffused, scattered sunshine on overcast or rainy days. The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) states that all 50 states in the US get better sunlight than Germany, which is the country with the most buildings that use PV devices.

Solar shingles can produce too much power in sunny areas, which is a good thing as the excess energy is sent to the electric grid and the homeowner will receive a check from the electric company or a credit on their next utility bill. It’s important to check with the electric company to find out how this process works in your area as jurisdictions differ. Homeowners can also receive tax incentives for installing solar shingles, including a $2,000 tax deduction from the U.S. federal government and additional incentives from some states and local jurisdictions. Installing solar shingles is more labor-intensive than solar panels as more shingles are needed to complete the job. Homeowners should always hire a professional certified by a reputable certifying group. A photovoltaic installation costs between $9 and $11 per watt, with an average system ranging from $15,000 to $30,000 after incentives. Homeowners cannot attempt installation on their own and will have to wait for more sophisticated infrastructure to be in place before they can safely and easily “plug and play.” The next page offers more information on taking your roof solar and making your home energy efficient. The page also includes related articles on How Log Cabin Kits Work, How to Insulate Windows, How to Clean a Furnace, How to Make a Workbench, How to Install a Fountain, and Can Installing a Green Roof Save You Money?.

The following sources were used for this information: an interview with Brad Collins, Executive Director of the American Solar Energy Society on April 30, 2009; the book “Going Solar: Understanding and Using the Warmth in Sunlight” by Tomm Stanley published in 2004; and the websites of the American Solar Energy Society and the Solar Energy Industries Association visited on April 30, 2009 and May 2, 2009. The sources are listed in an unordered list using HTML tags.


1. What are solar shingles?

Solar shingles, also known as photovoltaic shingles or solar tiles, are roofing materials that are designed to resemble traditional asphalt shingles but with the added benefit of converting sunlight into electricity. They are made up of thin-film solar cells that are integrated into the shingle itself, allowing the roof to generate electricity without the need for bulky solar panels. This technology is becoming increasingly popular as homeowners look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and save money on their energy bills.

2. How do solar shingles work?

Solar shingles work by capturing sunlight and converting it into electricity through the use of photovoltaic cells. These cells are made up of layers of silicon and other materials that create an electric field when exposed to sunlight. As the sun’s rays hit the shingles, the cells generate direct current (DC) electricity, which is then converted into alternating current (AC) electricity by an inverter. This AC electricity can be used to power your home or sent back to the grid for others to use.

3. What are the benefits of using solar shingles?

There are several benefits to using solar shingles. First and foremost, they allow you to generate your own electricity, which can significantly reduce your energy bills. Additionally, they are a more aesthetically pleasing option than traditional solar panels, as they blend in seamlessly with your roof. They are also more durable than traditional asphalt shingles, with a lifespan of up to 25 years, and can increase the value of your home.

4. How much do solar shingles cost?

The cost of solar shingles can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the size of your roof, the amount of electricity you need, and the brand of shingles you choose. On average, you can expect to pay between $21,000 and $34,000 for a solar shingle system, which includes installation. While this may seem like a high upfront cost, it is important to consider the long-term savings you will see on your energy bills.

5. Are solar shingles a good investment?

Yes, solar shingles can be a good investment for homeowners who are looking to save money on their energy bills and reduce their carbon footprint. While the upfront cost may be high, the long-term savings can be significant, and the added value to your home can make it a worthwhile investment. Additionally, many states offer incentives and tax credits to homeowners who install solar shingles, further reducing the cost.

6. Can solar shingles be installed on any roof?

Solar shingles can be installed on most roofs that are in good condition, including asphalt, metal, and flat roofs. However, it is important to have a professional assess your roof to ensure that it is structurally sound and can support the weight of the shingles. Additionally, if your roof is in need of repair or replacement, it is best to do so before installing solar shingles to avoid any damage to the system.

7. How long do solar shingles last?

Solar shingles have a lifespan of up to 25 years, which is comparable to traditional asphalt shingles. However, it is important to note that the warranty for solar shingles typically only covers the power output of the system, and not the roofing material itself. Therefore, it is important to choose a reputable brand with a strong warranty to ensure that you are protected in the event of any issues.

8. How do I maintain my solar shingles?

Maintaining your solar shingles is relatively simple. You should have them inspected by a professional every few years to ensure that they are functioning properly and to address any issues that may arise. Additionally, you should keep the shingles clean and free of debris to ensure maximum efficiency. Finally, you should avoid walking on the shingles to prevent damage to the cells.

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