The past five years have seen the solar industry shine. With the green revolution in high gear, homeowners see the wisdom of using renewable power to generate electricity. Gas prices are also rising steadily, granting renewables well-warranted attention over fossil fuels purchased at the mercy of oil-rich countries. There’s also a new wave of aesthetics, enabling solar power systems to become architecturally as well as environmentally savvy.
Solar shingles, for instance, are a proven solar option that utilizes the same photovoltaic (PV) technology as solar panels. These building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPVs) blend into traditional roofing materials for a more seamless look than that afforded by bulky, mounted panels. A single shingle only produces enough electricity to power an electric fan, but several feet of them together garner the energy to power an entire house.
Thing is, solar shingles are currently manufactured by just a handful of companies. Three of these are Dow, Premier Power, and Atlantis Energy.
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You can stack them, walk on them and even drop them from a roof. The Dow Solar Powerhouse solar shingles hit the market this winter, but it will be some time yet before they’re widely available. The Powerhouse shingles are made in the United States and have been approved by Underwriters Laboratory. They are certified to withstand wind, rain and hail, and carry a 20-year warranty.
Dow debuted the Powerhouse product in new homes by builder DR Horton in Arvada, Colorado. The company is planning to roll out the product slowly. Dow says the Powehouse will come to California this year. The Powerhouse shingles are intended to be installed by roofing contractors in either new or existing construction. Dow estimates that the shingles will provide between 40 and 80% of the average home’s electrical needs.
Premier Power’s version of the solar shingle are actually solar panels fashioned to look like shingles. They basically replace sections of a roof to present a flush and nearly seamless look. The company’s solar roof tiles are available in a dark blue that blends best with dark roof shingles. Premier offers a 25 year warranty, but the company says their product should last over 30 years. Premier Power specializes in “turnkey” installations, handling the PV installation process from start to finish.
Atlantis Energy is responsible for Sunslates, which cover 300 square feet of roofing in a typical system. Each shingle produces about 13 watts of electricity and is designed to withstand rain and wind of up to 80 mph. The Sunslates are a roofing product that must be installed using electrical or certified roofing subs. Each tile is connected to the adjacent tile, which locks and secures them within the circuit. Designed to last decades, each Sunslate begins as an Eternit roofing slate, popular roofing in Europe. Sunslates are available in multiple shades of gray and blue, and from several dealers across the United States and by a few in Europe as well. Both the solar power generation and the material integrity are guaranteed for 25 years.
More on Efficiency and Costs
A single solar shingle may produce from 50 to 200 watts. Their efficiency is less than a solar panel, with an efficiency rate of about 10%. Most solar panels can rate anywhere from 12 to 17%. But the cost of installing solar roofing is about 15% less than installing a photovoltaic (PV) solar system and new roof separately. Solar roofing is eligible for the federal solar rebate program that can cut your installation costs by as much as 30%. However, settling on a product is only the first step. To ensure that solar is installed for optimum results, don’t settle for less than a qualified solar contractor. Our free service connects you with quotes from the best solar installers in the industry.
Editor’s note: this post has been updated to reflect changes in today’s solar shingle manufacturing. SunPower, which once made building-integrated SunTiles for residential use, now only manufactures them for business application. Uni-Solar also stopped making shingles after they lost their UL rating.