Will GAF’s solar shingles finally make the solar roof mainstream?

Updated

gaf solar shingles installed on a residential roof
GAF’s solar shingles aren’t necessarily the most discrete option, but their easy installation could drive down prices and make them competitive with traditional solar panels. Image source: GAF Energy

One of the biggest buzzwords in the solar industry is “solar roof”. Dozens of companies have tried to make the solar shingle work, and very few, if any, have truly succeeded. The most well-known of the bunch, the Tesla solar roof, has gotten pretty significant news attention since it was launched, but in the real world it hasn’t really taken off. Instead, it remains a niche luxury product for homeowners fixated on Tesla. 

The somewhat rocky past of the solar shingle didn’t stop roofing material giant GAF from ringing in the new year with the launch of their newest roofing product: the Timberline Solar Energy Shingles (ES for short).

Seeing as GAF Energy’s solar shingles are getting quite a bit of buzz, will they be the ones to finally make solar shingles a mainstay for homeowners? 

Calculate your monthly electric bill savings by going solar

Key takeaways

  • GAF Energy has released a nailable solar shingle that has the unprecedented capability of being installed by roofers at the same time as a roof replacement.
  • Though no official pricing has been released yet, we believe GAF could potentially offer low prices for their product by combining the roof and solar shingles into one installation. This cuts down on installation time and labor costs.
  • One GAF solar shingle has a power rating of 45 watts, meaning you would need about 133 of them for a 6 kW solar system.
  • If you want to pair battery storage with the solar shingles, look for an AC-coupled battery like the sonnenCore or Tesla Powerwall.
  • GAF Energy’s Timberline solar shingles come with a 25-year warranty.

What you need to know about GAF solar shingles

    What exactly are the GAF solar shingles?

    roofing contractor holding a gaf solar shingle

    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

    GAF’s solar shingle design combines the conventional asphalt roof shingle material they’re known for with the monocrystalline solar cells of a solar panel

    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. 

    Can you install GAF solar shingles without having to get a roof replacement?

    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

    How much do GAF’s solar shingles cost?

    As of January 2022, GAF has not released any official pricing for their solar shingles. 

    However, 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. Once incentives are considered, the price would drop to $30,000. 

    Frankly, these numbers don’t really mean anything because we don’t know the size of DeBono’s roof or solar system. He did compare it to a traditional roof replacement and solar panel installation, which he says would cost about $52,000 before incentives, and $44,000 after. 

    So, according to DeBono’s estimates, getting a roof replacement with GAF solar shingles would be cheaper than getting your roof replaced by a roofing company and a separate solar installation by a solar company. It would also be cheaper than installing a Tesla solar roof, which would cost the average home around $50,000, as well. 

    Would GAF solar shingles really be cheaper than traditional solar panels?

    Again, since we don’t have any official pricing from GAF, we can’t say with 100% certainty that GAF solar shingles would be cheaper. However, it seems likely that GAF will be able to keep their prices pretty low

    There’s two main reasons for this. For one thing, GAF doesn’t really have to worry about customer acquisition costs like most solar installers. GAF is a trusted name brand in the roofing industry, so when homeowners are looking to replace their roof, GAF is already on their radar. A GAF installer can simply mention to homeowners, “Hey, you’re already getting a roof replacement, do you want to try solar shingles?”

    The second reason is that GAF solar shingles are designed to be installed by roofers. Instead of having to deal with two separate companies for a roofing and a solar installation, it can be done by one team. That cuts down on the amount of time and labor needed to complete the project, which brings down the price. 

    See which incentives and rebates you are eligible for to reduce the cost of a solar system installation 

    How do GAF’s Timberline solar shingles perform?

    GAF doesn’t provide any official specifications on their website for their solar shingles. 

    However, some versions of the product’s data sheet have been floating around online, and it seems as though each shingle has a power rating of 45 watts. So, in order to install a 6 kilowatt (kW) GAF solar roof system, you would need around 134 shingles, whereas you would need just 17 traditional 370-watt solar panels

    Learn more: How many solar panels do I need?

    Do solar shingles perform better than regular solar panels?

    A 6 kW solar shingle system will produce less electricity than a conventional 6 kW solar panel system. Why? Because they are installed right against your roof, just like regular shingles. This means they aren’t at the ideal angle for generating electricity, whereas solar panels are mounted on racking equipment that optimizes the tilt and angle of the panels to generate the most electricity possible. 

    Plus, solar shingles tend to get hotter than solar panels because there is no airflow between your roof and the back of the shingle. Believe it or not, the hotter solar cells are, the less electricity they can produce. So, between the installation angle being dictated by the slope of your roof and the higher likelihood of higher surface temperatures, solar shingles will operate less efficiently than solar panels. 

    Can you install a solar battery with GAF solar shingles?

    Yes, you can install a solar battery with GAF solar shingles. 

    You would want to install an AC-coupled battery, like the sonnenCore or Tesla Powerwall after the installation. The battery installation would be separate from the solar roof installation, so you would need to find a battery contractor in your area. 

    Alternatively, you could install a DC battery, like the LG Chem Prime, but we don't really recommend this, seeing as it would probably require some additional equipment and planning with a certified solar storage contractor. That’s because AC-coupled batteries are specially designed to be installed after solar is installed (whether they're solar panels or solar shingles), whereas DC batteries are meant to be installed at the same time.

    You can learn more about the differences between the two battery types here.

    How long will GAF solar shingles last? Are they durable?

    GAF Energy offers a 25-year warranty on their 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. 

    They also include 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.

    Since GAF hasn’t released a specification sheet for these shingles yet, we don’t have all the information we’d like to, such as the hail rating, but we do know they are the first product to receive a UL7103 certification. This safety certification was designed specifically for 'building integrated photovoltaics' (BIPV), or in other words, solar shingles. 

    Does the GAF solar roof require maintenance?

    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. 

    Should you install GAF’s new solar shingles?

    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?

    The good news is that GAF is a reputable company, so you can trust that they’re delivering a quality product. However, with that said, the solar shingles are brand new, making it hard to tell how they will actually hold up in real world conditions atop residential roofs.  

    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. 

    See what local companies are charging for solar system installations
     - 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.

    Related solar news