Recently, Tesla announced that orders would begin to be accepted for the long anticipated solar shingles Elon Musk has been promising. Despite the hype, our analysts have concluded that solar roof shingles are not presently an efficient or cost-effective way for homeowners to go solar. This article will explain why.
Starting later this summer limited test systems will be installed in California and new territories will be added through the end of the year. Referred to as “Building-Integrated Photovoltaics” or BIPVs in the construction industry, solar shingles promise to turn rooftop sunlight into savings with a more pleasing aesthetic for homeowners than solar panels by integrating seamlessly with conventional asphalt shingles. They are wireless, snap together and are installed with hammer and nails. However, just like solar panels, they are grid-tied and need an electrician to install the inverter box and tie into the home’s electrical system.
The renewable energy tax incentives are the same for both products, but the price of shingles is much higher than panels even when you factor in the cost of a traditional roof. According to an article in GreenTech Media a solar shingle system that is purchased will take 8 – 11 years to pay back as opposed to the 5 – 7 years a regular solar system will take to pay back the homeowner if they are purchasing their solar system.
It’s actually a longer payback for Maryland-based homeowners. The Tesla solar shingle calculator from their website (example below) shows that in Maryland the system will not pay for itself for 20-25 years and sometimes only save a few thousand dollars even after 30 years!
SOLAR PANELS ARE STILL A BETTER INVESTMENT FOR HOMEOWNERS
These extra costs can make the benefits of shingles less attractive than panels for the budget-minded consumer. This may be the main reason that Dow Chemical killed Power House Shingles, last year and why it appears the recent announcements from Tesla are beginning to generate criticism. A Forbes article declared “Tesla is misleading the public by comparing their Solar Roof to tile and slate roofs, rather than to solar energy in its many forms.”
These and other sources have revealed solar shingles are also less reliable than panels and tend to have a hard time meeting safety requirements such as rapid shutdown compliance and mandatory rooftop fire lanes.
BIPVs have traditionally suffered from costing more and operating less efficiently than conventional PV. So although Tesla has announced it will be producing a consumer solar shingle that rivals the efficiency and cost of traditional panels, there are no specific details on the product, its production per shingle or on the connection between cells. None of this has been released yet so there are still a lot of unanswered questions.
WHAT SHOULD A HOMEOWNER DO?
If you have been thinking about going solar, does this mean you should wait until solar shingles are available in your area? NO!
Switching to solar power now is a no-brainer because with a solar PPA, you can pay zero to get solar panels and installation and lock in an electricity rate that is at least 20% lower than what your utility is charging you. Or you can purchase a solar system instead and save up to 100% on your electricity costs.
The truth is you will spend more money by doing nothing than if you made the switch to solar now.
For example, if you spend $200 a month on your electricity with a yearly increase of 4.5%, in 10 years you will have sent $35,667 to your utility company with no return on your dollars. A solar system would have saved you $23,000 or more on utility costs in less than seven years.
By Sharon Derby