At first glance, solar shingles look like common asphalt shingles. The only difference is they have a deep-blue tinted surface rather than pastel-colored ones. These cleverly designed solar panels can blend into the roof of any house. Therefore they can integrate into any architectural design easily.
Solar panel shingles are made by integrating a layer of special thin film photovoltaic cell onto pieces of roofing material. These types of solar cells are more durable than the usual photovoltaic materials used on conventional solar panels. Hence they do not need to be protected by a glass covering.
Solar shingles serve the dual function of sheltering the home (from wind and precipitation) and producing solar power for the household. This type of roof can withstand up to 130 mph of wind-driven rain. Needless to say, they are aesthetically pleasing so they make the best materials that a solar powered home can have.
There is, however, a downside to this material. Solar radiation tends to heat them up quickly for roofing materials retains heat pretty well. This threatens the efficiency of the photovoltaic cells to drop. Therefore the roof requires a well-ventilated under-decking to remove excess heat.
When you install these shingles on the roof, you have to interlock them as you lay them out. Heat-activated Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA) is used to keep them together so that they can withstand strong winds without shifting. Each solar shingle is adhered to adjacent ones as the sun heats the roof.
Although they look beautiful, solar panel shingles are more expensive than common photovoltaic panels. Each solar shingle costs about $ 12 per watt. (Each shingle produces between 13 to 17 watts of electricity, depending on the brand.) That means a piece of 13-watt shingle probably cost consumers about $ 156. This is a little above the average household budget.
Fortunately, while we have to pay more for solar shingles, their payback period is only between five to seven years. This is an obvious contrast to normal solar panels that often take more than a decade to payback. In this light, the advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages.
Also, you can expect solar shingles to last for at least 20 years. And manufacturers often provide a 5-year warranty on their product. Therefore owners will possibly have about 13 to 15 years to enjoy the rewards of their investment.
On average, a roof fully installed with solar panel shingles is expected to provide more energy than necessary during the summer. The excess energy flows back to the grid and you may even get paid for your contribution, depending on your state's legislation.
As the demand for solar shingles increase, there will be more competition and this may drive the price down. Pretty soon the average household may be able to put solar shingles on their roof. By then, solar shingles will probably be so common that solar panels will probably be considered old fashion.