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Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels: Cost, Efficiency, & More

House with solar panels on it

As the world shifts towards sustainable energy solutions, solar power has emerged as a leading contender in the race to combat climate change.

Solar panels and solar shingles are two popular options for harnessing the power of the sun to generate electricity for homes and businesses. In this blog post, we will compare solar panels and solar shingles across various aspects to help you make an informed decision about which solar solution is right for you.

Comparing Solar Shingles vs. Solar Panels: Pros and Cons

Solar Panels

solar panels on a roof at sunset

Solar panels have been around for years, yet many people don’t understand the benefits and downsides. Here are just a few.

✅ Pros:

  • Efficiency: Solar panels are known for their high energy conversion efficiency, typically ranging from 15% to 22%. This means they can generate more electricity for your home.
  • Established Technology: Solar panels have been around for decades and have a proven track record for reliability and performance.
  • Flexible Installation: Solar panels can be mounted on a variety of surfaces, including rooftops and ground-mounted systems.
  • Cost-Effective: Solar panels are generally more cost-effective per watt compared to solar shingles.

❌ Cons:

  • Aesthetic Concerns: Some people find solar panels less aesthetically pleasing, as they are usually mounted on top of existing roofing materials.
  • Installation Complexity: Installation can be more complex and time-consuming, as it involves attaching panels to a racking system and the roof.
  • Space Requirement: Solar panels may require more space compared to solar shingles, making them less suitable for homes with limited roof space.

Solar Shingles

solar shingles on a sunny roof

Solar roof shingles are quickly gaining popularity and it’s not hard to see why! Here are some of the reasons homeowners are considering solar roof tiles.

✅ Pros:

  • Aesthetic Appeal: Solar shingles are designed to blend seamlessly with your roof, offering a more aesthetically pleasing look compared to traditional solar panels.
  • Space Efficiency: Solar shingles integrate with your existing roofing material, so they don’t require additional space.
  • Low Maintenance: Solar shingles are generally lower maintenance than traditional solar panels, as they are protected by roofing material.
  • Easy Installation: Installation is typically easier and quicker than solar panels because they replace existing roofing materials.

❌ Cons:

  • Lower Efficiency: Solar shingles are less efficient, with energy conversion rates typically ranging from 12% to 18%.
  • Cost: Solar shingles are generally more expensive per watt compared to solar panels.
  • Durability: Solar shingles may have a shorter lifespan compared to solar panels due to potential wear and tear from weather exposure.

Comparing Energy Efficiency

When comparing solar panels and solar shingles, one critical aspect to consider is their energy efficiency. Energy efficiency refers to the ability of the system to convert sunlight into usable electricity. Here’s how they stack up:

Solar Panels:

Solar panels are renowned for their high energy conversion efficiency, typically ranging from 15% to 22%. This means that they can convert a significant portion of the sunlight they capture into electricity. Higher efficiency translates to greater energy production, which can be especially advantageous if you have limited roof space and need to maximize power generation.

Solar Shingles:

Solar shingles, while improving in efficiency over the years, generally have a lower energy conversion rate compared to traditional solar panels. Their efficiency typically ranges from 12% to 18%. This means that for the same amount of sunlight, solar shingles will generate less electricity than solar panels. However, their integration into the roof’s design and their ability to blend seamlessly may be worth the slight sacrifice in efficiency for some homeowners.

Cost Differences

The cost of installing solar panels and solar shingles can vary significantly depending on various factors, including your location, energy requirements, and the type of roofing materials. Generally, solar panels are more cost-effective in terms of the cost per watt generated. However, solar shingles can offer long-term savings in other areas, such as reduced maintenance and the potential for increased property value due to their aesthetic appeal.

Solar panels typically cost between $2.50 to $4.00 per watt, while solar shingles can range from $4.00 to $8.00 per watt. It’s essential to consider your budget and long-term financial goals when choosing between the two options.

Solar Roof Lifespan

Solar panels are known for their durability and longevity. Most solar panels come with warranties that extend up to 25 years, and many continue to produce electricity efficiently well beyond that period. Solar shingles, on the other hand, may have a shorter lifespan due to their exposure to weather and potential wear and tear. While some solar shingles offer warranties of up to 25 years, their performance may deteriorate faster compared to solar panels.


Both solar roof shingles and conventional solar panels require specialized installation. Here is what you can expect during the installation process.

Solar Panels

Installing solar panels typically involves the following steps:

  • Roof Assessment: A thorough assessment of your roof’s condition and suitability for solar panel installation is conducted.
  • Racking System Installation: A racking system is mounted on the roof to support the solar panels securely.
  • Panel Mounting: Solar panels are attached to the racking system.
  • Electrical Wiring: Electrical wiring and inverters are installed to connect the solar panels to your home’s electrical system.
  • Inspection and Connection: Local authorities may inspect the installation, and your system is connected to the grid.

Solar Shingles

Installing solar shingles is generally simpler and involves the following steps:

  • Roof Evaluation: Your roof is evaluated to determine if it’s suitable for solar shingle installation.
  • Old Roof Material Removal: If necessary, old roofing materials are removed.
  • Solar Shingle Installation: Solar shingles are installed directly onto the roof, replacing conventional roofing materials.
  • Electrical Wiring: Electrical connections are made to integrate the solar shingles into your home’s electrical system.
  • Inspection and Connection: Similar to solar panels, the installation may require local inspections and grid connection.

Choosing the Right Option for You: 6 Considerations

Choosing between solar panels and solar shingles depends on your specific needs and priorities. Here are some factors to consider:

1) Aesthetic Preferences:

If maintaining the aesthetic appeal of your home is a top priority, solar shingles may be the better choice due to their seamless integration with your roof.

2) Space Constraints:

If you have limited roof space, solar shingles may be a more space-efficient option since they replace your existing roofing materials.

3) Budget:

If you are more concerned about the upfront cost, traditional solar panels are generally more cost-effective in terms of the cost per watt generated.

4) Efficiency:

If you have ample roof space and want to maximize energy production, solar panels offer higher energy conversion efficiency.

5) Long-Term Savings:

Consider the long-term savings, including reduced maintenance and potential property value increase, when evaluating the cost-effectiveness of solar shingles.

6) Environmental Impact:

Both solar panels and solar shingles contribute to reducing your carbon footprint, so consider your environmental goals when making a choice.

Let Us Help You Choose a Solar Energy System

In the ongoing quest for sustainable energy solutions, solar power stands out as a viable option for homeowners and businesses. Solar panels and solar shingles each offer unique advantages and drawbacks. The choice between the two ultimately depends on your individual preferences, budget, and specific circumstances. Whether you opt for the efficiency of solar panels or the aesthetics of solar shingles, both options contribute to a greener and more sustainable future. At O’Donnell Roofing, we are here to help you create a more energy-efficient home. Contact us today to get started on your journey!

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