Solar Shingles (also called solar roof tiles) are simply small rectangular solar panels made to look like asphalt roof tiles. They’re typically small, flexible units that are strung together (like normal roof tiles), and the term ‘solar shingles’ encompasses newer thin-film solar technology.
While the idea of solar shingles is attractive for the aesthetic, low-profile appearance, the real-world implementation has been slow. Solar shingles have (so far) been less efficient and more expensive than traditional solar panels.
According to roofing experts, solar shingles are quite difficult to install. Each individual shingle must be connected to the other units in series. Since the units are too small to conceal wiring, each shingle must have holes pre-drilled for wiring that all ends up in the attic space. You can imagine how many holes the roof pictured above would put into your roof! If your solar installer does a good job it’s possible to overlap each shingle to avoid water penetration (and leaks).
At the time of this writing, it doesn’t really make sense to go with solar shingles vs solar panels from a pure cost perspective. If you’re worried about aesthetics, you might consider upgrading from the standard solar panel to all-black panels that have a sleeker, sexier look. In the end (see high efficiency solar panels), solar panels are really about saving money and reducing the use of polluting sources of electricity, so get what suits you because any solar is better than none.
If you’re still on the fence, see the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy.