Updated 3 weeks ago

Solar shingles: should you go with Tesla or an alternative?

Written by Catherine Lane

Are solar panels or solar shingles right for you?

Image courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

Solar shingles are designed to look like traditional roof shingles but are able to generate electricity like solar panels. They are usually installed flat against your roof, so they aren’t as noticeable as conventional solar panels on your roof. 

While solar shingles are more discrete than panels, they tend to come at a higher price tag and don’t produce energy as efficiently. But solar roof shingles may be the right choice for you if you’re building a new home, need a roof replacement, live in an HOA, or if you just prefer the look of them! 

A few companies make solar shingles, but the most popular are Tesla’s Solar Roof, GAF’s solar shingles, and CertainTeed’s solar shingles. 

Key takeaways

  • Solar shingles are a roofing material containing solar cells that generate solar electricity.

  • Tesla solar shingles are the cheapest solar shingle option, coming in at $1.80 per watt, but they charge quite a bit for the remaining roof replacement.

  • While a solar shingle installation will cost more than a traditional solar panel system and roof replacement, actual costs will vary based on your specific home and energy needs.

  • Some of Tesla’s top solar shingle competitors are GAF Energy, Luma Solar, Suntegra, and CertainTeed.

  • Solar shingles allow you to enjoy all of the benefits of solar without sacrificing your home’s aesthetic, but will come at a higher cost and won’t produce as much electricity as traditional solar panels.

What are solar roof shingles?

Solar shingles are roofing shingles that contain solar cells. They are designed to look and offer the same protection as traditional asphalt shingles while generating solar electricity at the same time. 

Many homeowners are hesitant to install solar power systems on their roof, despite the positive economics, because they don’t like the look of traditional solar panels. Solar roof shingles are the answer to this dilemma - they allow homeowners to still get all of the benefits of solar without having to sacrifice the aesthetic of their home.

What sets Tesla’s solar panel shingles apart from other solar shingles on the market?

Tesla is one of the first solar shingle manufacturers to make a truly cohesive solar shingle product. When you install a Tesla solar roof, you get two kinds of shingles from Tesla: active shingles (that generate electricity) and inactive shingles (that don’t generate electricity). 

Because you get all of the roofing material from Tesla, it makes your roof look entirely uniform - you can’t really tell the difference between the solar portion and the non-solar portion. Most other solar shingle brands only sell the active shingle portion, so they aren’t designed to look identical to the remaining shingles on your roof. 

On the downside, this means that you do have to get an entire roof replacement when you install Tesla solar shingles, while other shingle brands only require you to replace a portion of your roof. The upside, however, is you wind up with a great-looking roof that generates solar energy.

How much do solar shingles cost to install?

The cost to install solar shingles varies, depending on the brand you choose and how you choose to compare the costs. 

If you’re looking strictly at the cost of solar, Tesla is the cheapest at $1.80 per watt before incentives. Other solar shingle brands will cost between $3.80 to $7.00 per watt

However, it’s important to note that Tesla requires you to invest in a total roof replacement when you install their solar shingles. This means that the overall cost of a Tesla solar shingle installation could be much higher than that of other brands, like CertainTeed, that can be installed with your existing roof - especially because Tesla’s roofing materials can get expensive. 

If you purchase solar shingles directly from Tesla, you're required to pair the system with energy storage. The cost of Tesla's Powerwall battery system adds to the total price of your solar roof.

Find out which solar incentives your home could qualify for

Solar shingles cost compared to a conventional roof replacement cost

The cost of a solar roof is going to seem a bit high compared to a traditional roof replacement or a conventional solar installation, but it's important to keep in mind that a solar roof installation includes the value of both a roofing material and a solar panel system. 

When you install a Tesla solar roof, you install both active and inactive shingles. The active shingles convert sunlight into energy for your home, while the inactive shingles just act as regular shingles. 

Based on Tesla’s estimates, the solar shingles come to $1.80 per watt. This is lower than the average cost of traditional solar panels, which is around $3.00 per watt

The cost of the inactive shingles depends on the complexity of your roof, so it will cost between $20 per square foot of total roof space. This is higher than the average for traditional asphalt shingles, which is somewhere between $3.50 to $5.50.

Based on these quotes, a traditional roof replacement would cost around $9,350 for a 1,700 square foot roof and a conventional 10 kW solar system would be $30,000, before incentives. That brings you a grand total of $39,350. The entire Tesla solar roof for the same home, assuming it has a simple roof complexity, would come out to around $52,000 not including roof tear off costs. 

That’s not too much higher than a conventional roof replacement and solar panel system, but that’s assuming the lowest price Tesla will give you for roofing materials. 

Tesla solar roof tiles vs. competitors

While it does seem like Tesla is the only solar shingle manufacturing company out there, they actually aren’t. Believe it or not, there are quite a few other companies that manufacture solar shingles, including Luma Solar, CertainTeed, and Suntegra.

GAF Energy

Man installing GAF solar shingles on a home

Image source: GAF Energy

One of the newest solar shingle products available is GAF’s Timberline Solar Energy Shingles. If GAF sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because they’re one of the most well-known names in roofing. In fact, there’s a good chance GAF is already on your roof.

GAF Energy’s solar shingles are designed with roofers in mind - the top portion of shingles are made of asphalt, so they can be nailed into the roof just like regular shingles. 

There are no official specifications posted on GAF’s website, but some product data sheets online state that each shingle has a power rating of 45 watts. There is also no indication on the official pricing of GAF’s shingles, aside from some installation totals quoted by their president that suggest a total roof replacement and the solar shingles would cost about $30,000, including incentives. 

Luma Solar 

A home with Luma solar shingles installed

Image source: Luma Solar

Luma Solar developed the first fully-integrated solar roof system in the U.S., referring to their solar shingles as a ‘luxury product’ that can be upgraded in the future in order to meet future needs. 

Luma Solar is probably the closest you can get to Tesla’s solar roof in terms of aesthetics, because they too have inactive shingles that help the solar panels blend in. 

Luma’s shingles have a power rating of 80 watts each, and come with a 25-year production warranty and a 5-year limited product warranty. Their shingles are also rated to withstand 200+ mile per hour winds, and have received the Category 5 Miami-Dade Hurricane Rating Classification, so you can trust they’ll stay on even in the windiest conditions. 

There is no official pricing listed on Luma’s website, but pricing started at $4.50 per watt for an older iteration of their shingles that had a slightly lower power rating than the current version. So, it’s likely the current shingles could cost a little bit more. The price can also vary based on roof complexity and the system design.

CertainTeed Apollo II 

A home with Certainteed solar shingles installed

Image source: CertainTeed

CertainTeed, a leading brand of traditional roofing shingles, began offering solar products in the late 2000s. Currently, they have two solar shingle products to choose from: the Apollo II shingles and the Apollo II tiles. 

Both are 70 watts with monocrystalline solar cells. The Apollo tiles have a slightly higher efficiency, a lower profile, and we can assume are slightly more expensive than the Apollo shingles, but CertainTeed does not list pricing on their website. 

CertainTeed solar shingles don’t require you to replace your entire roof, and they can even be installed on top of existing asphalt shingles. This likely makes a CertainTeed solar shingle installation cheaper overall than other types of solar shingle installations, because you don’t have to pay for a total roof replacement. 

Unfortunately, this does make CertainTeed solar shingles stand out a little more from the rest of the shingles on your roof. 

Suntegra 

Closeup of a roof with Suntegra solar shingles

Image source: Suntegra 

Suntegra is another popular brand manufacturing solar shingles. Like Certainteed, Suntegra offers a solar shingle and solar roof tile so you can choose which integrates better with your roofing material. The solar tiles are designed to integrate with concrete roofing materials. 

The low-profile monocrystalline solar shingles are attached directly to the roofing to blend in with traditional asphalt shingles. Suntegra shingles come in three different wattages: 105 watts, 110 watts, and 114 watts. The cost varies from $3.80 to $4.25 per watt, depending on which wattage shingle you choose.

Suntegra’s solar tiles have slightly lower power ratings, ranging from 64 to 70 watts, and a higher price. Suntegra’s solar tiles will cost between $6.16 per watt and $6.57 per watt. 

How much will it cost to install solar panels on your specific roof?

How do solar shingles compare to conventional solar panels?

The appeal of solar shingles is simply that they look better than conventional solar panels. Some are installed as their own roofing material, while others can be installed on top of your existing shingles, but have an extremely low profile which allows them to blend in more with your existing roof. 

Most solar shingles have a higher cost per watt than the average cost of solar, so if you have a tight budget, solar shingles might not be right for you. 

In terms of performance, the solar shingles on the market today tend to have pretty decent specifications. Their power output seems low when compared to traditional solar panels side by side, but that’s because they are substantially smaller than solar panels. 

Pros and cons of solar shingles

Pros

Cons

Reduce carbon footprint

High cost

Electric bill savings

Limited styles

Tax credits and rebates

Dependent on roof orientation

Aesthetically pleasing

Requires entire roof replacement

What are the advantages of solar roof shingles?

Solar roof tiles are great for the environment, your home, and your utility bills:

  • Reduce carbon footprint: Leverage a clean and natural source of energy that reduces your family’s carbon footprint and runs your home on renewable energy

  • Save on energy bills: Solar shingles reduce annual energy costs, often by 40% to 60%

  • Tax credits and rebates: Eligible homeowners who install solar shingles will qualify for the 30% federal solar tax credit until the end of 2032, and you also may be eligible for other incentives

  • Aesthetics: Solar shingles are less noticeable than traditional solar panels because they are integrated into your roof

What are the disadvantages of solar roof shingles? 

Solar shingles do have a few drawbacks:

  • Solar shingle roof cost: The total costs of installing solar roof tiles are about three times the cost of conventional roofing materials and most brands of solar shingles cost more than the average cost of solar panels in the U.S.

  • Limited styles available: Solar shingles aren’t offered in as many styles as conventional roofing, so if you really love the look of your Spanish-style roof, you’re going to be disappointed by your limited solar shingle choices

  • Orientation: Solar shingle production is subject to roof orientation; rack-mounted rooftop solar panels can be installed at angles to capture maximum sunlight, but solar shingles are limited to the natural direction of your roof, so they tend to produce less energy

  • Could require entire roof replacement: You can’t just replace half your roof with Tesla solar shingles, you have to replace all of your roof material; other solar shingles might not require this, but then you’ll have an aesthetic problem similar to the one that exists with regular solar panels

Who can install Tesla solar shingles?

Solar shingles are usually installed by certified solar companies that partner with the solar shingle manufacturers. 

So, if you get a Tesla solar roof, Tesla won’t be the one installing them. One of their solar roof installer partners, either a solar installer or roofing company, will be the ones putting the solar roof on your home.

What do SolarReviews experts recommend when it comes to solar roof shingles vs. conventional solar panels?

Our advice depends on your circumstances: 

If you’re building a new house, solar photovoltaic shingles are worth considering. They are a functional roof, a way to reduce electric bills, and can be a beautifully sleek architectural feature. They can also be a good investment if you’re in need of a roof replacement. 

In terms of which brand to choose, it depends on what you’re looking for. When it comes to aesthetics, Tesla and Luma are clear winners with their sleek designs. If you’re more concerned about the price, then Tesla and GAF Energy might be the way to go. Keep in mind, it’s best to get quotes from a few different companies and see what kind of services they offer before you make your final decision. 

Aside from new construction and being in need of a full roof replacement, solar shingles probably don’t make that much sense. Conventional solar panels will be substantially cheaper than most of the BIPV options. Not to mention, solar panels can produce more electricity than shingles, so you stand to have better savings. 

Whether you choose to install solar shingles or get solar panels, the sooner you go solar, the better. It’s always best to make a financial investment as early as you can.

Plus, net metering, the law that allows you to export excess solar energy back to the grid, is at risk in many states where it’s currently offered - further indicating that securing your solar panel system now is more important than ever. 

Find out how much you can save annually by switching to solar
Written by Catherine Lane Solar Industry Expert

Catherine is the Written Content Manager at SolarReviews, where she has been at the forefront of researching and reporting on the solar industry for five years. She leads a dynamic team in producing informative and engaging content on residential solar to help homeowners make informed decisions about investing in solar panels. Catherine’s expertise has garnered attention from leading industry publications, with her work being featured in Sola...

Learn more about Catherine Lane