Many homeowners are considering adding solar panels to their roofs in order to decrease their electric bills and to utilize a renewable energy source to help reduce negative effects on the environment. Adding solar to your home can add significant value – some suggest as much as $15,000, which would offset much of the cost of installation. Some real estate agents also believe houses with solar sell faster than houses with traditional energy only.
There are several downsides to solar, however, the first being cost. Adding solar panels or solar shingles can be quite expensive, even if the cost can be offset by resale value and savings on your electric bill. Some homeowners take out a loan or use a home equity line of credit to help with the upfront costs. Another option is to lease panels through a power purchase agreement (PPA) with a solar company. In this arrangement, the company owns the solar power, collects the energy, and sells it back to you at a rate lower than your utility rate.
The other drawback to solar energy is that it only works when the sun is shining. Therefore, solar panels are more worthwhile in areas of the country with consistent sunshine than in areas with shorter summers and significant cloud cover. In our Philadelphia area, solar energy can provide savings on your energy bill, depending on the number of peak hours of sun and the current cost of your electricity.
What to do with your current roof
Solar panels can be installed on an existing roof if the roof is in good condition. Not only the top layer – shingles, tiles, metal – but also all the underlayers need to be in good repair – no warping, water damage, or poor installation. Solar panels are heavy and need a strong foundation.
If your asphalt shingles are 10 years old or more, you should probably replace the roof when adding solar panels, which will last about 25-30 years, around which time their energy output will have significantly diminished. Since asphalt tile roofs have a similar lifespan, your roof will begin to deteriorate before the panels and may require replacement before the panels do. This would require the added expense of removing and re-installing the panels, with the risk of some being damaged in the process.
Therefore, it is often more convenient to install a new roof and solar cells at the same time. This also gives you the flexibility to choose the best options for you: solar panels, tiles, or shingles.
Solar materials can be installed over part or all of the roof. Solar panels are raised above the existing roof, while shingles and tiles often replace the roofing materials, in whole or in part. There are many solar panel companies, providing many options of size and style. There are several leaders in the solar shingle/tile industry, especially Tesla, CertainTeed, and SunTegra.
Tesla’s roof tiles are glass-faced with water-transfer printing, which makes the tile look similar to slate, clay, or shingle. These tiles replace asphalt shingles or other roofing material; the tiles are your roof. Tesla calculates your annual power use and only installs up to 100% of your average use, so you may also have some non-photovoltaic tiles that do not collect energy. A Tesla roof is beautiful and energy-efficient, but it is also very expensive.
CertainTeed Apollo II is a roofing system that lies almost flush on top of your existing asphalt shingle roof. It looks sleek and could actually extend the life of the shingles beneath because they are protected from the elements. This option is less expensive than Tesla, but also has a lower watt output per square inch. The product is very sturdy and can hold up against heavy storms.
SunTegra comes in tile or shingle options. The shingles can be applied directly on your asphalt shingles, blending in nicely if the roof is dark. Tiles are meant to replace concrete roof tiles. They have very good watt output and have a 25-year power warranty and 10-year product warranty.
Solar shingles/tiles are considered more attractive and have a higher home value than solar panels, but they are expensive, less efficient than conventional panels, and more difficult to install. Thus, panels continue to be more popular, and come in many more options, as well.
At M&K Roofing and Siding, we have worked with many homeowners to add solar energy cells to their homes. We will walk you through the many alternatives and help you choose the best option for your needs. Contact us today at (610) 353-2895 to get your solar energy project started.