Do you recommend solar shingles? Is the technology advanced enough for durability and problem-free installation?

Asked by Leigh
Poquoson, VA

We are designing a new house and would like to incorporate solar without the ugly rooftop panels.


Randy Potter

Answered by Randy Potter

Alameda, CA

June 10, 2010

Photovoltaic (PV) technology can be integrated into building materials such as roof tiles.

  • This is known as Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV).
  • BIPV has traditionally been done as an after-market add-on, so there are a lot of products out there, some of which you must be careful of due to manufacturing inconsistencies.

We have always been a bit leery of most of the roof tile products in that there are simply too many connections and individual small panels to be a reliable trouble-free system over time. Another reason that we have not traditionally used them is that older solar shingle designs were more expensive to install than traditional PV panels, but new, more efficient designs such as thin-film copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) cells could change that aspect.

We will be watching this and other BIPV systems to see if they become more feasible to install on homes.

For now, we still recommend panels.

  • They make nice low-profile panels now that are much more visually appealing; however, you need to change your paradigm of beauty.
  • There's nothing more beautiful to me than a large array of solar panels on a home's roof indicating that another family is doing their part to live a carbon-neutral existence.


For more information:

You should also read Cynthia Phakos's Ask A Pro Q&A, "I want to convert my home to solar energy. Should I install panels on the roof or build a trellis?"

Tagged In: solar panels

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