GAF Timberline solar shingles review: do they make the solar roof mainstream?
Individual panel prices
Prices of DIY kits
Installed system prices
The GAF Timberline Solar roofing system consists of solar shingles with 45 watts of output each that are installed alongside non-solar shingles that perfectly align with their solar counterparts. The result is a roof that’s built like a traditional shingle roof and also generates solar power.
As the world’s first nailable solar shingle, Timberline solar shingles are attached directly to the roof deck like ordinary shingles, making them easy for roofers to install and wire together. Because of the way the Timberline Solar roofing system is built, GAF offers some pretty great warranties for it (more on that later).
So the GAF Timberline solar shingles seem pretty cool, keeping all the advantages of a regular roof while also generating power. But there are some drawbacks:
Given all the information above, we’d only recommend the GAF Timberline solar system if you truly love how it looks and you don’t mind getting less power generation from your roof.
For those who are curious, let’s dig a little deeper into GAF Timberline solar shingles.
Leading roofing manufacturer GAF’s nailable solar shingles are designed with roofers top-of-mind in order to make installation a breeze. Image source: News Atlas
The top portion of the shingle is made of asphalt, which means it can be nailed right to the roof like regular shingles - no racking or extra mounting equipment necessary. This makes it incredibly easy for roofing contractors to install them.
The bottom portion of the solar shingle is what will generate the electricity. When installed, that portion will overlap the asphalt material of the solar shingle before it. The shingles lay flush against your roof, staying right in line with the regular asphalt shingles covering the remainder of the surface of the roof.
All of the wiring is located on the side of the shingle, where they can be easily connected together to create a functioning solar electric system.
No, you can’t get GAF solar shingles installed without an accompanying roof replacement.
GAF solar shingles must be installed by a GAF-certified contractor at the same time as a roof replacement, or during the construction of a new roof. So, if you just got your roof replaced and are looking to go solar, you’ll probably want to stick with regular rooftop solar panels.
GAF has not released any official pricing for their solar shingles, but it did mention the cost of its systems in a recall filing with the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In that filing, GAF said the approximately 2,100 recalled systems were sold for between $40,000 and $100,000.
Compared to the $25,000 national average cost of a roof replacement, these systems were sold for substantially more. Even when considering the pre-incentives $18,000 average cost of solar panels, the cost of GAF Timberline installations seem quite high.
GAF Energy President Martin DeBono told the Washington Post that a full roof replacement and GAF solar shingle installation would cost $42,000 for his home, and claimed that once incentives are considered, the price would drop to $30,000. That said, DeBono didn’t mention the size of his roof or the power generating capacity of the solar portion. Frankly, these numbers don’t really mean anything because we don’t know the size of DeBono’s roof or solar system.
Based on what we know, it seems like it would still be cheaper to get a regular roof replacement and a conventional solar installation. However, if you’re dead set on solar shingles, GAF’s solution might be a bit cheaper than installing a Tesla solar roof, which tends to go for closer to $60,000.
GAF Energy’s official datasheet for the Timberline Solar ES shingles provides some good data about how well they generate power. It says that a single 7.56-by-60-inch portion of solar shingles can put out 45W of power under ideal conditions.
Doing the math shows that’s about 14.29 watts of output per square foot, and a standard 6-kW solar installation would require about 420 square feet on the roof.
For comparison, a 6-kW solar installation made with the 410-watt Qcells ML-G10+—one of the most popular solar panels on the market—would take up just 309 square feet. That means you can fit more solar on the same sized roof with traditional panels.
Learn more: How many solar panels do I need?
In addition to the extra surface area required for solar shingles, the GAF TImberline system will produce less electricity than a conventional solar panel system on a per-watt basis. Why? Because they are installed right against your roof, just like regular shingles. This means they can’t take advantage of convective cooling like solar panels mounted on racks above the surface of a roof.
For this reason, solar shingles tend to get hotter than solar panels. Believe it or not, the hotter solar cells are, the less electricity they can produce. So the GAF shingles produce less power under the same conditions.
Yes, you can install a solar battery with GAF solar shingles. The shingles themselves transmit DC power from the roof to a solar inverter. GAF uses SolarEdge inverters in its Timberline Solar installations, and SolarEdge makes inverters designed to pair with DC-coupled batteries.
If you’d prefer to get a battery after the initial installation of your GAF solar roof, you could purchase an AC-coupled battery, like the sonnenCore or Tesla Powerwall. Many solar installers and electricians can install AC-coupled energy storage systems.
The GAF solar roof doesn’t require any serious maintenance.
The solar shingles may collect dust and debris over time, but your typical rain shower will wash this away. If you haven’t had any rain and notice that your solar shingles need a rinse, you can do so yourself with a garden hose. You could hire a professional if you want, but that’s probably not necessary.
Keep in mind that snow can prevent the solar shingles from generating electricity. If you don’t want to wait for the snow to melt, you can brush it off your GAF Energy shingles with a soft bristled brush.
GAF Energy offers a 25-year warranty on its solar shingles. According to the warranty, GAF covers their shingles for 25 years against manufacturing defects that cause roof leaks, and offers a 15-year wind coverage warranty for wind speeds up to 130 miles per hour.
The company also includes a 25-year solar production output warranty that states the shingles will operate at 84.8% of their original rated output at the end of 25 years. Most solar panels will operate closer to 86% of their original rated output, meaning they would generate a little more electricity over time than the solar shingles, but not by much.
If your Timberline Solar system is installed by a GAF Certified or Master Elite Contractor at the same time as a Qualifying GAF Roofing System, you can purchase additional coverage called the “Solar Max addendum” that provides 25 years of solar power generation coverage.
Here’s the gist of the legalese on that warranty: if, after each 5-year period after installation, the Timberline shingles have failed to generate as much energy as GAF estimated at the beginning of the system’s life, and if that failure is determined to be due to “a manufacturing defect in or misapplication of the Timberline Solar System,” GAF will pay you the cost to repair or replace the malfunctioning parts of the system.
Will GAF honor those warranties? GAF is known for its excellent warranty coverage, and it's been put to the test at least once already, as GAF issued a recall for around 2,100 Timberline Solar roofs in 2023.
On July 27, 2023, a recall was issued for components of GAF’s Timberline Solar Energy Shingle system installed between November 2021 and April 2023.
The recall was put into effect after GAF received one report of a fire and five reports of “thermal incidents” that resulted in property damages. GAF found an issue with two components of the system:
GAF is contacting homeowners who have installed the product to complete testing and repairs, but homeowners can also call GAF directly to schedule a testing appointment.
If you have a GAF solar roof, it won’t be operable until GAF has completed the necessary servicing - the company is powering down systems that fall within the recall period. Homeowners impacted by the system shut-off will receive compensation for the lost energy production from GAF, based on system size and location.
Obviously, a fire recall isn’t great! GAF has started manufacturing their jumper modules under different specifications, so the problems impacting those previously installed theoretically shouldn’t be an issue. It’s still unclear how or if the diode issue within the shingles is being handled from a manufacturing standpoint.
We already recommend considering traditional rooftop solar panels instead of solar shingles for reasons ranging from cost to performance. So, maybe hold off on the GAF solar roof, or be sure to ask your installer what concerns they have regarding the recall and what they recommend from their experience.
We’re going to be totally honest - we’re not crazy about how the GAF solar shingles look, which pretty much defeats the purpose of installing them. Because GAF’s shingles stick out like a sore thumb on your roof, why wouldn’t you just get regular solar panels that will be able to produce more electricity? Plus, we’re not exactly feeling great about them after a recall for thermal incidents.
The good news is that GAF is a reputable company, so you can trust that they’ll be around to handle any issues that may arise with the system. Although the recall situation isn’t great for the reputation of the product, the way GAF has been handling the situation is what you could hope for - contacting system owners directly, turning off systems to prevent further safety incidents, and providing payment to make up for the solar production lost is something you could only get from a well-established company.
What GAF’s solar shingles really have going for them is their potentially low price and easy, streamlined roof-plus-solar-shingle installation. So even though the solar shingles produce less electricity and they aren’t the greatest looking thing you can put on your roof, if the price is right, it could still be worth it.
If GAF can really make their solar shingle installations fast, easy, and cheap, this might be the product that finally makes solar shingles a mainstream choice for homeowners looking to go solar. But for now, we’re still going to recommend at least getting quotes from local solar installers in your area before you jump right into installing GAF's rooftop solar shingles.