Do we recommend DecoTech, GAF’s roof-integrated solar system?

Updated

gaf's decotech solar panels on a slanted shingled roof
There is no one better to come up with an alternative to traditional solar panels than a roofing company. Image source: GAF

Most people are in agreement that solar energy is a good thing. However, there are some reservations homeowners have about making the switch to solar - a big one being the look of solar panels on their roof. Many companies have taken a shot at finding a solution to this, most notably Tesla, with its Solar Roof. 

GAF, the largest roofing manufacturer in North America, released the current version of their roof-integrated solar system, DecoTech, in 2019. DecoTech was designed by a roofing manufacturer for roofers, so homeowners could call certified GAF roofing contractors for both a new roof and a low-profile DecoTech solar roofing system in a single shot. 

But is the improved aesthetic worth the cost? And is DecoTech the best way to power your home with clean energy while lowering your electricity bill?

GAF DecoTech at a glance

  • DecoTech is a solar panel system that is installed directly onto your roofing deck instead of on traditional solar panel racking.
  • Because DecoTech panels are installed directly on the roof, they have a lower profile, making them more aesthetically pleasing than conventional solar installations.
  • GAF uses Solaria 360 PowerXT panels for their DecoTech systems.
  • Prices floating around online suggest that DecoTech systems can cost double what a traditional solar installation would.
  • Because of the way they are installed on your roof, DecoTech solar panels will get hotter than traditional panels, which will hinder performance and efficiency.
  • If you’re concerned about the aesthetics of solar, you may be better off going with GAF’s solar shingle option, since the pricing seems to be lower than DecoTech.

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    What is DecoTech?

    DecoTech, also referred to as the ‘GAF solar energy system’, is roofing giant GAF’s flagship solar energy offering. GAF markets it as a “roof-integrated” solar system, which might make it seem like DecoTech is a solar shingle option, similar to the Tesla Solar Roof. After all, both Tesla and GAF are aiming to make solar panels a little easier on the eyes. 

    But don’t be fooled - DecoTech is not a solar shingle! DecoTech systems use regular solar panels that are installed horizontally as opposed to vertically, and are attached directly to your roof decking instead of on a set of mounting racks. With that said, GAF does offer solar shingles - it’s just a completely separate product. You can check out our in-depth review here.

    The panel orientation and direct-to-deck installation give the panels a low profile and make the solar panels blend in a bit better with the surrounding shingles. 

    There are no shingles beneath the panels, so they’re serving double duty as both an energy source and a protective roofing material. Image source: GAF

    Not only is DecoTech supposed to improve the aesthetics of solar - it’s also designed to make going solar easier by coupling the installation with a roof replacement. By choosing GAF, you can get both installations completed at once by the same company, minimizing the number of warranties you have and the number of days you have people getting up on your roof.

    Make sure your roof qualifies!  Because DecoTech systems are attached right to the roof deck, it’s not an ideal solar solution for flat roofs; they can only be installed on roofs with a slope that falls between 4:12 and 12:12. You can learn how to calculate your roof pitch here. Additionally, DecoTech can only be installed on asphalt shingle roofs.

    How much does a GAF DecoTech system cost?

    GAF does not provide any official pricing for the DecoTech system. However, some posts online suggest that prices fall somewhere between $4.00 per watt and $5.00 per watt. Based on the average-sized solar system, that’s a total cost of $24,000 to $30,000. 

    That’s much more expensive than the cost to install conventional panels for the same size system, which is usually between $16,000 and $18,000 before the federal solar tax credit. It’s not totally clear why the DecoTech system is so much more expensive, considering it uses regular solar panels and no racking. 

    The price difference could have to do with the layers of protective underlayment needed beneath the panels, the different pieces of flashing equipment, or just the overall installation process. There may also be some roof replacement-related charges rolled in there that are difficult to differentiate from the solar-only costs. 

    Does GAF’s solar energy system qualify for the solar tax credit? 

    Yes, GAF DecoTech systems qualify for the 26% federal solar tax credit, which helps cover some of the high upfront costs. 

    Using the example from before, you could expect the DecoTech system price to go from $24,000 to $17,760, thanks to the tax credit. However, even with the tax credit, the DecoTech system is more expensive than a traditional solar panel installation. 

    You might be eligible for additional local solar rebates and incentives that could help reduce the cost of a GAF DecoTech system further, but it depends on your location and utility. Your GAF installer will be able to help you find what programs are available in your area. 

    Calculate the cost of going solar after incentives & rebates

    GAF DecoTech key features

    DecoTech systems use 360-watt (W) Solaria PowerXT panels. 

    Solaria is best known for its all-black look, which is probably a key reason GAF chose to partner with them for the seamless DecoTech. It doesn’t hurt that Solaria panels have decent performance specifications, too. 

    Table 1. GAF’S DecoTech solar panel specs
    Specification Solaria PowerXT 360R-PD
    Power rating 360 W
    Efficiency 19.9%
    Power tolerance -0% / +3%
    Temperature coefficient -0.39% / °C

    To sum it up, you’re getting a pretty solid solar panel installed on your roof when you get a DecoTech system through GAF. The performance specifications of these panels fall right in line with industry standards. Most solar panels installed today have a power output between 300 and 370 W and efficiency ratings of at least 17%. 

    The power tolerance and temperature coefficient give insight into how the panels will perform under real world conditions, and these again fit right in line with most other panels on the market. If you want a deeper dive into these specifications and how they impact performance, you can read our complete review of Solaria panels

    But there is a catch. While the panels themselves have good specifications, the way the panels are installed can actually decrease performance. Traditional rack-mounted solar systems allow for air flow beneath the panels, keeping them cool and allowing for higher energy production. 

    A DecoTech system does not allow for that same air flow. This leads to hotter panels that can’t convert sunlight to electricity as efficiently. 

    What warranty comes with the GAF DecoTech system?

    The warranty situation for DecoTech is a bit confusing. On GAF Energy’s website, the company links to its solar shingle warranty, which doesn’t mention anything about DecoTech. 

    It could be using the Solaria warranty for the panels, which has an impressive 25-year Product Warranty (most solar panels only come with a 10 or 12-year product warranty). The panels also come with a Power Output Warranty that falls in line with industry standards. 

    However, we can’t say for sure if that is the warranty you’ll get. Your best bet is to ask your installer about the warranty information. 

    GAF DecoTech vs. a conventional solar installation

    The best part about DecoTech is that you only have to deal with one installation from one company, instead of the potential hassle of getting a separate roof replacement and solar panel installation. This makes your life easier when it comes to things like warranties and maintenance, should there be an issue down the road. 

    Plus, GAF has great roofing materials, and Solaria has high-performing panels, so the product quality will be good all around. Another pro for DecoTech is the low-profile panels. But we’re going to be totally honest, when they’re installed, they don’t look all that different from regular solar panels. 

    So if your primary concern when it comes to solar is the aesthetic of your roof, you’ll be better off with GAF’s solar shingle option, the Timberline Solar Energy Shingles, which does a much better job blending into your roof than the DecoTech system. 

    Aside from bundling installations and low-profile panels, there isn’t much else DecoTech has going for it. You could install the same Solaria panels as part of a regular rack-mounted system on your roof and spend about $6,000 less, and have a system that produces you more electricity because it operates more efficiently. 

    If you ask us, you should at least consider trying traditional solar panels before you sign on for a DecoTech installation, seeing as the look of it isn’t drastically different from that of a regular solar system. Plus, you'll save money. To get started on finding out how much solar can save you, use our solar panel calculator

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     - Author of Solar Reviews

    Catherine Lane

    SolarReviews Blog Author

    Catherine is a researcher and content specialist at SolarReviews. She has strong interests in issues related to climate and sustainability which led her to pursue a degree in environmental science at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

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