Pros and Cons of Solar Roofs


Energy costs continue to rise, as does the fear of climate change caused by the use of traditional energy sources. For this reason, many people have begun to investigate the usage of solar power to help offset personal energy costs. As solar batteries continue to become better and costs begin to fall, it’s becoming more common for homeowners considering new roofs to consider solar or photovoltaic roofing shingles to do the job.

What Are Photovoltaic Roofs?

Previously, the most common way to get solar power to your home was through the use of large solar panels. These panels were commonly mounted on the roof, although they could also be positioned some distance from the home or building if the roof itself was in shade for a large portion of the day.

Solar panels are still a viable option as an alternative energy source for homes, but new photovoltaic shingles are also available at a lower cost, and as a more versatile and attractive option. These shingles include solar cells in their surface makeup, and are connected to storage batteries where they can help to offset your total energy costs. They look more like traditional roofing shingles, however, giving your roof a lower profile and preserving your home’s curb appeal.

Photovoltaic shingles can be installed over the entirety of the roof, but often are placed in strategic areas where they can best make use of the sun’s energy. You can install a few shingles to run a specific amount of your utilities, such as the tools in a work room, or you can install enough shingles to run all the electrical appliances and lights in your home.

Costs of Solar Shingles

When solar roofs were first introduced in 2005, they were much more costly than the larger solar panels, but as improvements in technology continue to be made, the cost of the shingles is falling. Currently, it’s recommended that a bundle of approximately 350 shingles be installed on the roof. This amount of shingles is enough to lower your current energy bills by up to 70%, saving over $1,000 a year. The shingles cost around $24.50 a square foot, and prices can fluctuate depending on the manufacturer, the area of the roof you are having them installed on, and the number of shingles you are installing.

Keep in mind that most people will combine solar shingles with another type of roofing material for the adjacent sections of the roof, which will further impact the total cost of your new roof. It’s estimated that a home with solar shingles installed, with an annual savings of $1,000 or more will gain approximately $20,000 in value immediately after installation. This is an ROI of anywhere from 70% to more than 100% depending on the type of solar roof you have installed.

Longevity of Solar Roofs

Most roofs installed today are considered disposable. Asphalt shingles have an estimated lifetime of between 25 and 35 years before they need to be replaced. Solar shingles are technically too new to determine if they will outperform traditional roofs, but solar panels, which use a similar technology, have been around for much longer. That said, most solar shingles are warrantied to last approximately 30 to 40 years, and some companies may have warranties for longer amounts of time.

Solar panels are often guaranteed to last a minimum of 25 years at a minimum of 80% efficiency. However, panels that were installed 50 and even 60 years ago, are still preforming just as well as they did as the day they were installed, which means that they outlast many traditional roofing materials.

Solar shingles are designed to hook together, forming a series of seamless arrays on your roof, surrounded by more traditional roofing materials. In part this means that your total roof will be as good as the roofing material you install with the solar shingles. Architectural shingles, for example, are often rated for use up to 50 years; installed with solar shingles, your roof could not only potentially last that long, but eventually pay for itself through the lowering of your energy bills.

Energy Savings from Solar Roofs

The more photovoltaic shingles or panels you install on your roof, the greater your energy savings is going to be. Most shingles are installed in groups of approximately 24 tiles pieced together into an array, with most homes ending up with approximately 350 shingles when the installation is complete, but your home may require more or fewer shingles. Each shingle can produce between 13 and 63 watts of energy over the course of the day. Manufacturer differences, as well as size of the shingle, and placement on the roof can all have an effect on how well your roof will ultimately perform.

It’s estimated that most homes installing either solar shingle roofs or solar panels will see a reduction in energy bills of at least 60% to 70% within the first year of use. As batteries are introduced that can store more energy for longer amounts of time, it is possible that solar roofs could one day become more versatile and lower energy bills even more.

Net Benefits

There are several benefits to be obtained through the installation of a solar roof. The first is the energy savings, with more solar roofs paying for themselves within the first 10 years of use. The second largest benefit is the return on investment, which is currently around 100% with homes that have solar roofs installed, and which have an average savings of $1,000, gaining approximately $20,000 in value.

Solar roofs have other benefits as well. In many states and areas, there are tax credits and rebates available to offset the cost of a solar roof. This can help lower the cost of the roof, maximizing your return on investment and ensuring that the roof pays for itself even faster.

In addition, homes with newer solar roofs made of photovoltaic shingles can maintain their curb appeal while gaining these other benefits. This is particularly important for homes with multiple roof lines that would be difficult to maintain with the use of larger solar panels.

Maintenance of a Solar Roof

Photovoltaic roofs are surprisingly maintenance free. This is because regardless of whether you choose solar panels or solar shingles, there are no moving parts that require frequent care or repair. In most cases, the solar roof is attached so firmly that not even severe weather will have an effect on it. It’s often said that a solar roof is as good as the roof it is installed on. Therefore, more contractors and installers will take the time to make sure that the underlying roof deck is stable, and that there are no issues with the shingles or installation.

Solar roofs perform well in all areas, including those that see snow, rain, and hurricane force winds. One of the biggest problems that solar roofs face is often in urban areas that see a lot of smog or dust, which could cover the surface of the panels or roof and block some of the sun’s energy from getting through.

If this were to happen, the roof could be easily cleaned with soapy water to remove the dust and get it back to optimum working conditions again. Never use a pressure washing system on your solar roof, but a garden hose and soapy water will often do the trick.

The other biggest problem is during the winter months when snow may cover the roof. A light dusting of snow should pose little to no problem; the dark color of the solar roof combined with the sun’s warmth will melt the snow off the roof without issue. A heavier amount of snow, however, could block the roof from absorbing the sun’s energy. Therefore, it may be necessary to shovel or otherwise remove the snow from the roof to keep the solar panels or shingles clear and able to continue working properly.

Keep in mind that during the winter months, there is less sunlight during the day than at other times of year, which can also affect the efficiency of the solar roof. For this reason, long-term storage batteries are being developed, which may help offset this issue in the future.

Finally, some types of solar roofs may become damaged due to heavy or sharp impacts. Large – softball or larger – hailstones or a stray baseball landing on the roof may crack or damage the surface of the panel or shingles. If this happens, the damaged the section should be disconnected from the rest until it can be repaired or replaced. Solar shingles are much more flexible and able to withstand this type of damage than more traditional solar panels, however, which helps to minimize the risk of this happening.

In the event that one solar shingle does become damaged, it will likely stop the entire array it is part of from working until it is fixed. If you notice a sudden drop in performance, this could be the cause; a technician should be able to pinpoint the damaged shingle and replace it to get the array working again quickly.

Consider a Solar Roof

Energy costs continue to fluctuate and rise, and as they do so, more people will continue to search for alternative energy sources that can help offset these rising costs. Photovoltaic roofs are one proven, viable option that is becoming more accessible and easier to find than before. As technology continues to advance, it’s likely that solar roofs will become the norm for many homeowners looking to install new roofs on their homes. Consider a solar roof for your property to reap the many benefits that come with this technology.

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2 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Solar Roofs

  1. I think solar shingles are going to become very popular in future with the fall in the prices. Still it is conveniently priced as the benefits it gives far overshadows the cost, reduced your energy bill and surprisingly does not have major maintenance issues and lasts much longer as compared to many other roofing material currently available.

  2. Completely enjoyed the article! Just waiting for the solar shingles to become more affordable and with the recent announcement by Tesla on introducing much cheaper solar roof with a life time warranty, definitely future looks great.

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