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Solar Panels vs. Solar Shingles: What’s Best for Homeowners?

Solar panels or solar shingles? Find out which solar power system you should install for your home.
Solar Panels
8 minutes
Written by:
Joey Cheek
Updated on:
March 27, 2023

Are you debating between solar panels vs solar shingles to see which option best meets your needs? Solar shingles are usually less effective than regular solar panels and cost a lot more to install, about the same as a new roof. Solar shingles, on the other hand, have a clean appearance and are extremely durable. Both options will significantly reduce your utility bill and increase your energy efficiency, but the best solar solution will depend on your budget and how you want your roof to look. Before choosing between solar shingles and solar panels, it's important to think about the differences, like costs, availability, overall efficiency, and the condition of the roof. 

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What Are Solar Panels?

Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic (PV) panels, are rectangular devices that convert sunlight into usable electricity. Most solar panels are installed on top of an existing roof, but they can also be installed on the ground in an array. Solar panels are connected to inverters, which direct electricity to the property or store it in batteries. Solar panels are becoming more popular as a renewable energy source due to their efficiency and ability to reduce energy bills.


  • More efficient than solar shingles
  • Less expensive to install 
  • Can mount to any existing roof 
  • Significant energy bill savings and lower carbon footprint


  • Efficiency depends on sunlight exposure and conditions
  • Requires lots of space and storage 

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels contain silicon, which absorbs solar energy and converts it into an electric current. The solar panel cells are linked to form a solar array, the size of which is determined by the property's electricity consumption. This system converts direct current (DC) energy into alternating current (AC) power for use in homes or businesses. Solar panel energy is renewable, which means it is better for the environment and produces fewer carbon emissions.

What Are Solar Shingles?

What if you want to avoid installing solar panels on your roof? Consider solar shingles, which work like any other type of roofing shingle in that they lay over the top of your roof structure. This is an innovative solar technology, and it may help you save on your energy bills. They can save you money on electricity costs, just like traditional solar panels. However, there are differences between them and the use of conventional solar panels that you must keep in mind.


  • Aesthetically pleasing design that looks like a normal roof
  • More space efficient than traditional solar panels
  • Dual-purpose installation for those who need a new roof
  • Low-maintenance and durable 


  • Higher installation cost than solar panels
  • Lower energy output
  • May have a shorter lifespan depending on the brand

How do solar shingles work?

Solar tiles, solar roofs, and solar shingles, all of which describe the same primary product (with brands like Tesla Solar), are all a form of renewable energy. These solar roof tiles have tiny photovoltaic panels on them. They look like a traditional roofing system, though, as if you have asphalt shingles on your home. However, unlike conventional roofing materials, solar shingles produce electricity that is generated from the sun’s radiation.

Solar roof shingles like this work in the same way that traditional solar panels do. They are the same overall technology but are smaller, and they have the shape of a roof shingle rather than a large solar array.

What Do Solar Panels and Solar Shingles Have in Common? 

Solar panels and shingles have their differences, but both technologies have similar components and benefits. Here are some of the similarities between solar panels and solar shingles: 

Photovoltaic technology

Solar shingles vs. solar panels will show you that both products contain the same type of photovoltaic technology. That means that solar shingles and panels will collect the sun’s UV rays and turn that into electrical currents. They both have solar inverters connecting to a power grid, such as your home.

Both of these systems collect solar energy, making them capable of producing clean energy for you to manage your home or use for your business. That means you can generate renewable energy using solar panels and shingles, helping you reduce your dependence on fossil fuels and reduce your carbon footprint.

Net metering use

Like solar panels, solar roof tiles may qualify for net metering. This is the process in which you can send excess energy produced by your system to the grid for your utility company to power other people’s homes and needs. This applies to all building-integrated photovoltaic systems. That includes solar shingles and tiles (there are differences in the actual shape here).

Tax breaks are available

You can tap into federal tax breaks for solar using both methods. If you install solar shingles on your home and you will own the solar shingles, you may be able to deduct up to 30% of the cost of solar panels or solar shingles from your federal taxes. That means you are working on getting energy-efficient solar panels or solar energy that will reduce your energy bills and save you money through solar incentives.

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Differences Between Solar Panels and Shingles

As you consider which one of these products you may wish to use for your home, remember that differences can play a role in determining which option is best suited for your needs. Here’s a look at some of those.

There are cost differences

A wide range of companies produce solar panels, which has helped bring the cost of solar panel systems down. Solar panels are typically cheaper than the cost of solar shingles. With fewer solar shingle brands and a more complex manufacturing process, they can be expensive to install. That could change in the future.

The complexity of your residential or commercial roof could also play a role in the cost of these systems. The more complex the roof or, the larger it is, the more solar roof tiles you may need. That increases the overall cost. You will likely only cover some of your roof with solar shingles (most will have some areas of standard roofing material and some areas of a solar roof). The amount of solar shingles will play a role in the overall costs.

There are differences in efficiency

Solar efficiency is still a limited feature. Today’s solar panels tend to be around 15 to 20% efficient, which is relatively low. Technology is improving to work on this, but it isn’t there just yet.

By comparison, solar shingles tend to be less energy efficient than solar panels. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that less air moves under solar shingles than under traditional solar panels mounted on racks. That makes it harder for solar shingles to cool down, making them more likely to be less efficient overall.

Flexibility of the system

The cost of solar shingles aside, one of the key factors that play a role in which type to use is the system's flexibility. Most of the time, a solar panel system can be installed on any roof using a roof mounting system. However, with solar shingles, you may need a total roof replacement to add solar roofing. It is possible to have solar roofing applied over the top of the current standard asphalt shingles on your home, or it can replace the existing system.

Should You Consider Solar Shingles?

As you consider the options for solar roof shingles and solar panels, know that both can be excellent ways to move towards energy efficiency. Often, you can place either option on an existing roof, and when it comes to shingles vs solar panels, you can count on both possibilities providing you with readily available energy to use to power your home. There are some differences to consider beyond that.

Solar tiles, including the Tesla solar roof tiles, tend to be more durable than solar panels. Some of the manufacturers of these products share that solar shingles can be stronger and better at combating more extreme weather conditions. They are also fire-resistant. Also notable is that these tend to be lighter than conventional solar panels, which means they do not put as much weight on the roof as traditional solar cells do.

Another benefit of this type of solar energy system is its appearance. Solar roofing shingles look a lot like a traditional roof, meaning you can count on them to add value to your home in terms of aesthetics.

Considering costs

Many people have yet to consider the benefits of installing solar shingles because of the cost difference between these products. There are a few things to remember:

  • If you need a roof replacement, you can install solar shingles for around the same cost as a total replacement per square foot. That means this could be a viable option for those needing a new roof.

Overall, the cost of solar panels compared to solar shingles is a big difference. Prices on solar shingles remain high and are often less accessible to consumers. That is partly due to the limited number of solar systems and solar installers for these products.

Joey Cheek

Not Where to Get Started?

Unlike traditional solar panels, it can be hard to find solar tiles, making them less accessible to many people. Still, if you are considering solar panel installation, find out if you can install solar panels or solar tiles. Both options can be viable ways to transform your home’s efficiency.

Generating renewable energy is worth it, especially when energy production can meet your needs and help you eliminate high electric bills. Solar roofs of all types are generally better for the environment, too.

To find out which option is best suited for you, contact our team. Let us talk to you about all the possibilities in solar installation and how you can take advantage of the solar energy industry even as it grows and flexes. 

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Meet the author:

Joey Cheek

Joey Cheek spent 10 years on the US National Speedskating Team where he competed in two Olympic Games, winning gold, silver, and bronze medals. He attended Princeton before diving into the startup and tech world. In 2011 he launched a livestreaming platform for sports before leading a team of engineers building next-gen news and content apps for Fortune 100 companies. He is the CEO and co-founder of, whose mission is to move the earth to cheap, abundant, carbon-free energy.

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