Solar technology is changing and evolving every day to create new ways to produce clean energy. Money goes into the research and trial processes, and many processes take lots of time and money before they are commonly available for a reasonable price. Panels took a little while to come into common use, but they have grown in usage by 25% each year for the last five years, and it has been the fastest growing renewable energy resource for years. They are becoming more common as they go down in price and up in efficiency, but with all of the new research and discoveries that have come with the evolution of panels, new technology has surfaced that has the capability to change the face of solar installation as we move ahead into the future.
Solar panels are a viable and practical option, but something new that has recently come to the stage is a roof made of solar tiles instead of panels installed onto a roof. This new technology has the potential to take off and completely change not only the solar industry, but also the construction and roofing industries, so it is definitely worth taking time to explore if solar energy is in your line of sight. Let’s get into the details of why and how, and the practicality of it becoming widespread and commonplace.
About a decade ago, Luma Solar announced a new product: a roof that harnesses the power of the sun to power your home rather than the panels that are installed on top of existing roofs. They started a small revolution, and CertainTeed, Suntegra, and other companies caught the wave. By 2017, several companies had either integrated solar roofing or started up in solar roofing. In 2021, Tesla is a leader in the tiles and is on its third version of the tiles. Installations are becoming more possible and more common. The roofs are made of non-solar and solar-enabled glass tiles that some companies can customize aesthetically to a homeowner’s liking, and it replaces an existing roof or is built as part of new construction projects. As of right now, they are not quite as practical financially or environmentally as panels, though they were originally designed to be more affordable than panels, and that is still the goal for many companies.
The solar roof cost is different based on the home’s design. Tesla, for example, discovered this the hard way in April 2021, increasing prices for people who had already signed contracts because the company underestimated the complexity of some of the roofs that they needed to work with. Complexity of the roof can have different criteria for cost, like levels, obstructions, and how crowded the mounting plane is. The prices of roofing also change depending on the material of the tile, and for a bigger, complex roof with the best possible tiles, it can get pretty costly. Hopefully, the technology will become more accessible as time passes and it becomes easier to manufacture the tiles.
Of course, at Blue Raven Solar, we understand that a larger upfront cost can be worth it if the investment is giving a good return financially and energetically. So, if the solar roofs are going to give you the return that you are looking for, then maybe the roof tiles are for you! However, let’s talk about the efficiency and other costs and benefits so you can know if they really are worth your investment at this time in their development.
Efficiency of Roof Tiles
After testing outdoors, the solar panel roof tiles are ranging between 14-18% efficiency, depending on the technology and the makeup of the tiles, whereas solar panels are around 18-22% efficiency. There is still a possibility that your roof is better suited for tiles, so the efficiencies might even out with the shape of your roof or the amount of sunlight you get. However, the tiles have shown 23% efficiency in lab settings, so it is highly possible that the environment can affect it as well, and it most likely would change based on where your home is located and the sunlight it gets. Just as panels have improved over the years, the tiles are likely to see improvement with further development and discovery.
The tiles are not the heaviest option on your roof; they are heavier than typical roofing shingles but lighter than the panels. Older roofs or roofs with damage might be better candidates for tiles for that reason alone, as panels can be an extra 2-4 pounds per square foot of surface area. Consider the number of panels you will need on your home, and understand that they can get pretty heavy, and some roofs simply can’t handle the extra weight. If you’re curious about what your roof would look like with solar, our design team can create a mockup for you or you can get an auto-rendered picture of your roof. Get in touch with our team here.
Other Costs and Benefits to Consider
With solar panels, you are eligible for a federal tax credit of 26% and different benefits on state taxes depending on where you live. This benefit is based on the efficiency and the IRS’s determinants of qualifications, so with the roof tiles, it is still debated if the entire roof is included on the tax credit. If it is, that would be a fantastic credit to get on taxes, but the tax credit has lessened over the years and is planned to be completely phased out by 2024. So, by the time that the tiles are affordable and practical enough to be worth investing in, there may be no credit available at all and that possibility would be nullified. The current costs of the solar tiles are not likely to go down any time soon as the technology is still so new, so if you are in the solar game for the tax credit, it might be a good idea to rethink that specific aspect of the process. The return would not be quite as big as you would expect without that tax credit.
If you are not in the market for a new roof, solar panels are probably more your line of interest, because installing an entirely new roof can be around double the cost of just the panels, especially if it is a solar roof. However, if your roof is in need of repairs or replacement, it might be worth it to get it all in one giant sweep, although it would still likely be more expensive than getting a new roof and separate solar panels. There are ways to finance the roof and solar panels that might work for you and your budget. Both options are financially viable if you are prepared to spend a large amount of money, you just need to be aware of the potential differences in efficiency, cost, and how worthwhile the installation is. To watch a video of a professional solar panel installation, click here.
Like solar panels, there is a warranty on solar roofs. Most panels are warrantied for 25 years and the panels usually last much longer and continue to produce energy efficiently. However, because the roof tiles are such a new technology, no one is sure exactly how long the tiles will last. Some reports say that tiles are more durable than solar panels, and while that is another aspect we cannot necessarily predict, the main issue lies in the potential replacement needs. After a few decades of use, a solar panel or some of its parts might need to be replaced because of less efficiency or wear and tear, and that is a pretty quick and simple process. But if a tile or set of tiles are needing to be replaced, that can pose a larger issue because it is part of your roof. Any changes or fixes to a solar roof are likely going to be very expensive and invasive, which leaves room for a roofing disaster. Most solar panels also come with a warranty and customer support available. When researching solar panels for longevity, make sure the installer provides a warranty and will be able to support you and your solar needs over time.
Solar tiles, like with any developing technology, have challenges that they have to overcome, but they still have issues that are ongoing, upcoming, and unforeseeable. Regardless, developers and researchers are not shying away from conquering these obstacles to create a product that is competitive and can hold its own in the solar industry. As with most new products, there is lots of room for growth. With the leaps and bounds that solar has made over the last decade, people working in the industry and solar customers are confident in the future of this innovation!
Lastly, the simple aesthetic of a solar roof is extremely attractive to some. It has got a nice look that is flat and unobstructive with nothing changing the look of the roof like panels might. Although the solar roof is an innovative way to have sleek and renewable power, some solar companies, like Blue Raven Solar, will offer panels that match the color of your roof. There are also mounting options for panels that give a flatter, seamless look. Check out more information about low-profile panels here. If you have money to spend while going solar, then the solar roof might be the way to go for you. Certain solar panels may also fit your needs. Either way, you will have a new, sleek system powering your home and you will be going green. We at Blue Raven Solar absolutely encourage you to get that roofing if that is the way you choose to go solar!
The Blue Raven Promise
Blue Raven Solar is excited about everyone’s participation in changing the world and helping the environment, no matter how that might be. If panels are more cost-conscious for you because the roofs are too much and/or the return is not what you want, Blue Raven Solar is happy to help guide you to the best system possible. You can estimate your savings on utilities on our website and ask any questions you might have. We have a team of excellently trained employees that are ready to give you the best service and guidance possible. Our mission is to make homeowner’s lives better by reducing their energy bills, increasing their reliance on clean and abundant renewable energy, and by providing a world class customer experience through a reliable sales process and a speedy, high-quality installation.
If you have decided to go solar, let us help you along the way. You can become part of the change, and we are so excited for you to join us. Get a free solar estimate here.