Many of you have expressed interest in solar shingles, the wonder-products that act as both functional solar panels and protective roofing shingles. Most people know that they’re in development, but few know where the technology stands today, or when it’ll be affordable for the average homeowner.
We’ll cover that below, as well as set you up with free solar estimates.
The solar shingle story
Back in 2009, Dow Chemical revealed that they had developed a solar shingle that could be incorporated into asphalt-tiled roofs for residential homes. Dow announced that they contracted with Arizona’s solar company Global Solar to manufacture the solar cells for the solar shingles.
Cobblestone Homes participated in testing the product, and installed solar shingles on new homes in 2010. Pleased with the results, Dow is now building a manufacturing facility in Michigan that will begin production of Dow Powerhouse Solar Shingles in 2012.
The solar shingles work like conventional roof shingles, both in the way that they are installed and in the weather protection that they provide. Jane Palmieri, Managing Director of Dow Solar Solutions, said the residential solar shingles are attached to the roof like any other shingles.
Solar shingles don’t require special treatment, either. Waterproof, glass-free and encased in UV-stabilized polymers, they are virtually indestructible. They can be dropped from a roof, walked on and stacked in pallets like any other roofing shingle.
The new shingles have the potential to revolutionize the solar industry. Roofers may replace solar companies as the primary installers of solar power systems, with an electrician ensuring that the system is connected properly. Rather than using wiring to connect each unit, as in traditional solar panels, the solar shingles plug in to each to form a solar array, simplifying connections.
The thin-film solar technology has not been typically used for home solar power systems, as it is less efficient than solar panels. Solar shingles are 10-percent efficient, compared to an average of about 13 percent for conventional panels. Palmieri said the solar roof shingle systems are expected to cost 10 percent to 15 percent less than traditional solar roof panel systems.
How much will solar shingles cost?
While Dow has kept mum about the price of an individual shingle, some solar shingle manufacturers have been actively marketing the product, hoping to line up potential customers.
Uni-Solar provided information to the “This Old House” team, quoting $50 per square foot pricing and reporting an expected 600 watts output per 100 square feet.
This type of pricing is new to the solar roof system market, too, as conventional solar systems are priced by the power they produce, not by square footage.
Cobblestone Homes co-owner Mark Wahl has fully grasped the implications. “Our company deals with solar panels,” Wahl said, “but we have to bring in an installation firm. Because builders can install these shingles, Dow will be able to easily sell them across America.”
The good news for consumers is that the solar shingle systems qualify for the federal tax credit incentive program that covers up to 30 percent of the costs. After taking advantage of all available incentive programs, the cost for a solar shingle power system for a Michigan resident is estimated to be about $11,200.
The bottom line: although solar shingles are not widely available yet, they will be very soon. Check back with us for more on the subject, or ask a solar contractor if they carry them.
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