Solar Roof 101: Main Types, Installation and the Quality Standards to Expect

a mix of regular tiles and solar roof tiles

Not so long ago, solar energy was too expensive to be considered by most families and businesses as a viable option. Today, impulsed by new technological advancements, that has changed completely. Cheaper materials have been paired with more efficient construction procedures to make solar power a real alternative for regular people. Accordingly, new types of solar energy roofs have been recently developed, completely revolutionizing the solar energy market. While solar roof panels remain relevant, innovations like solar tiles have changed the game. In order to understand the solar landscape a bit more, here is a brief guide regarding types, installation and quality standards.

What Is a Solar Roof?

Put simply, it is a roof that has solar roof tiles built into it. These tiles absorb solar energy, converting it to clean electricity. They consist of photovoltaic sheets that simultaneously function like regular shingles. In order to do this, they function like solar panels. Although they do so on a smaller scale, their efficiency has given them great popularity.

Even though a single tile does not produce much energy, a group of them can definitely produce a significant amount. A standard installation of solar roof tiles consists of about 350 units. They are usually about 12 inches wide by 86 inches long, weighing about 13 pounds per square foot. Most of them contain copper indium gallium selenide as their main component, a flexible semiconductor that allows tiles to be very thin. Boasting one of the highest conversion efficiency rates, this material is ideal for solar roof shingles. Although the amount of power they are capable of producing varies according to the brand, it is usually around 13 and 63 watts. It’s worth noting that this system requires an energy inverter kit in order to serve its purpose.

Pros and Cons of Solar Roofs

a roof with integrated solar panels


• Aesthetic Value: Unlike solar panels, solar tiles are thin and sleek. Without a doubt, they can add a modern touch to any home. Because they are designed to simultaneously function as regular tiles, they won’t distractingly stand out from the roof. Conveniently, you can even place solar tiles strategically around a vent or behind a chimney.

• Easy Installation: More technologically advanced, solar shingles are easier to install than solar panels. Any experienced roofing expert can do it quickly and efficiently. With the proper knowledge, it’s even possible to do it oneself.

• Energy Efficiency: Without a doubt, the biggest advantage of using solar power is the amount of grid electricity that you will spare. Besides producing big money savings, this is directly beneficial to the environment. As reported by Scientific American, these roofs could lower electricity bills by 50% in regular homes. One can also use them to provide supplemental energy to specific devices such as solar roof vents and solar roof fans. Additionally, they are quite cheap compared to solar panels, making them perfect for an energy efficient home or office.


• No Aesthetic Versatility: Although they don’t stand out as much as solar roof panels, solar tiles and shingles can still be noticeable. Because of their metallic look, they are particularly noticeable whenever they are installed on a more traditionally-styled roof. They can also create a harsh contrast when you install them on light and pastel-colored roofs.

• Higher Installation Costs: Even though they are often cheaper to buy than panels, tiles and shingles can be more expensive to install. This is particularly true for large installations, easily costing anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 dollars. Unfortunately, there will also be additional costs pertaining to the electrical aspects of the installation.

• Lower Efficiency: As previously stated, solar shingles and tiles are often less efficient than panels. As a matter of fact, solar tiles and shingles need up to 50% more installation area to produce the same results. For that reason, one will need a larger amount of them in order to produce the same quantity of energy. This is particularly true when using thin-film cells. One of the reasons panels are more efficient is that installation specialists can orient them for the best sunlight exposure.

What to Expect From a Solar Roof

Despite the fact that solar tiles can be more expensive to install than solar panels, they constitute a good investment. This is particularly true when building a new house or fitting a new roof. A strategic, appropriately sized installation can start reducing electricity bills immediately. However, the period of time that it takes to recuperate the investment and start actively saving money depends on many factors. Among these factors, the most important ones are the size of the installation, the type of electric connection and the amount of sunlight received during the day.

Besides direct saving from reducing consumption of grid-generated electricity, installing these tiles can provide other financial advantages in the form of governmental rebates and incentives. Covering both residential and commercial buildings, these rebates and incentives can be federal, statal and local. In some states, these subsidies can really pay off, making it worthwhile to check all options available.

In order for everything to function properly, it’s important to leave installation to a certified professional. Besides experience, they have the right tools for the job. They are also capable of mounting solar roof hooks and other helpful additaments, making the installation more stable.

Summing It Up

Summarizing, we can say that alternative energy is quickly becoming an important part of our lives. Technology is moving forward at an incredible rate, constantly developing new and advantageous systems designed to harness this form of renewable energy. Although installing solar panels on roof shingles is still perfectly relevant, there are other options like solar roof tiles and shingles. Without a doubt, these roof installations constitute a natural extension of alternative energy development. Even though they are not cheap, they constitute an amazing investment in the long run. Undoubtedly, the future clearly holds much bigger and better things for solar power.

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