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Solar Roof Versus Solar Panels – Integrated Solar Systems on The Rise


Solar panels have outperformed solar roofs for decades, but new technology is about to make that change. Solar roofs promise to maximize solar energy gains for residential customers.

Are you wondering if you should consider solar shingles over solar panels? Keep reading to see the latest and greatest in solar technology!

We’ll evaluate the specific features of both solar roofs and solar panels. In this article, we will also highlight the newest solar shingles on the market.

What’s Better: a Solar Roof or Solar Panels?

The Solar Roof will outperform solar panels. While some critics may disagree, we will explain the benefits and downsides of both approaches to solar energy to back up our conclusion.

What’s a Solar Roof?

A solar roof is a solar system where the solar power cells are attached directly to the roof deck and integrated into the roof itself. On the other hand, traditional solar panels are mounted onto a roof using racks.

Currently, there are three major integrated solar systems on the market.

We researched each option to give customers a brief summary that sets each integrated system apart from the others.

Tesla Solar Tiles

Tesla Solar Tiles were launched in 2016. They are sleek tiles that seamlessly blend into the other roof tiles. They’re capable of generating 13.58 watts per square foot.

These tiles are installed by Tesla’s in-house team. The cost of Tesla’s Solar Roof has nearly doubled in recent years. While Tesla’s Solar Roof is equipped with great technology, the roof remains unaffordable for most customers.

GAF Energy DecoTech

GAF Energy’s DecoTech solar panels are attached directly to the roof deck and waterproofed like a skylight. GAF partners with roofing contractors to make replacing an old roof with a new solar one easy.

Thousands of these systems have already been installed!

GAF’s Timberline Solar™ Shingles

Timberline Solar™ Shingles are asphalt shingles with solar cells built into the shingle itself. Timberline Solar ™ Shingles are lighter than Tesla’s solar tiles and are installed by roofing contractors.

GAF Energy says the solar shingles produce 5.96 watts of energy per square foot.

The Advantages of Solar Panels

Traditional solar panels have some advantages over integrated roof systems. While many of these benefits make panels look better than solar roofs, we’ll explain how solar roofs more than compensate.

Racks Allow Adjustment

The rack-mounted solar panels can be adjusted so that they are angled to maximize sunlight. Since solar roofs are mounted to the roof deck, they are limited to the angle of the existing roof.

Solar Panels Produce More

Traditional solar panels are capable of producing 17 watts per square foot. That’s higher than Tesla’s 13.58 watts/sqft and GAF’s 5.96 watts/sqft.

Solar Panel Efficiency

High temperatures reduce the efficiency of solar cells, and solar panels stay cooler than solar roofs. This is because there is space between the panel and the roof deck.

Solar Panels Don’t Require Roof Replacement

Solar Roofs require the entire roof to be replaced, but solar panels don’t. Solar panels will be cheaper if the house isn’t ready for replacement.

The Advantages of Solar Roofs

The benefits of solar roofs help them pull ahead in the comparison. The following perks of solar roofs make them the best solar system.

Waterproofing Superiority of Solar Roofs

Since Solar roofs are integrated into the roof design, they are waterproof like the other features of the roof.

On the other hand, solar panel racks require holes to be drilled into the roof deck. In many cases, this voids any warranty on the roof.

Smaller Design Maximizes Sunny Roof Areas

Even though solar roof tiles and shingles produce less energy per square foot than solar panels, their smaller footprint allows them to be installed on a greater area of the roof. The smaller size allows the shingles to work around obstacles like chimneys and vents.

This maximizes the amount of the house’s roof producing energy. It also makes it easier to ensure the sunniest spots will have solar cells harvesting energy.

New Technology Improving Efficiency

Technology for the newest solar shingles on the market is improving the efficiency of solar cells to negate the losses of efficiency to heat.

For example, GAF’s new Timberline Solar™ Shingles use smaller and more efficient Mono PERC cells instead of the traditional but less efficient monocrystalline cells within panels. This will compensate for the higher temperatures of being directly attached to the roof.

Installation Costs for New Solar Roof Save Money

GAF’s integrated solar roof products may save money for customers needing to replace their roofs.

This is because the customer can combine the cost of installing a new roof and installing new solar panels into one project with a single GAF-certified contractor.

The Bottom Line: Solar Roofs Versus Solar Panels

For many customers, the bottom line comes down to money. The installation by roofing contractors and the ability to maximize the rooftop area for solar power generation means that solar shingles may produce more power overall for less money than solar panels.

While Solar panels have typically been cheaper than solar roofs, the newest technology in solar shingles is maximizing solar gains and lowering the cost of solar power.

Solar companies spend as much as 23% of the cost on advertising and gaining new customers. Since GAF Energy has partnered with roofing contractors to offer solar to existing customers, its products’ marketing expenses are reduced.

GAF Energy is also in the process of expanding its solar shingle offerings beyond its Timberline Solar™  Shingle. Soon, GAF plans to offer more options for solar shingles than asphalt shingles.