Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels & Tiles: How to Pick & Cost per Square Foot

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Solar Panels | April 1, 2024

Neighbors on their roofs debate solar shingles vs solar panels with one roof having solar roof shingles and the other having solar roof tiles and panels, while also wondering how much does solar roof cost and how does tesla solar roof stack up?

When you decide to switch to solar energy power, you’ll likely notice the option to choose between solar shingles vs solar panels.

But, knowing how to pick between the two and how much of the cost per square foot will run can be critical to ensure that you maximize your budget and receive the most for your money.

The significant difference between solar shingles vs solar panels and tiles is their aesthetic features, where panels stand out while shingles fit into the roof, not easily detectable.

This complete guide explains the additional differences based on outstanding features like cost per square foot, output, size, installation, maintenance, and other aspects.

What Are Solar Shingles?

DOW company introduced solar shingles/ solar roof tiles in 2011.

They increased in popularity when Tesla launched them in 2016, and to date, more people are adopting them as an excellent solution to renewable energy use.5

Solar shingles installed on a roof.

(Image: Ben West11)

These shingles consist of thin PV panels that transform the sun’s energy into electricity that powers residential homes.

Manufacturers market it as a unique alternative to solar panels since they blend into your roof’s design.

It takes a keen eye to notice them since they become part of your roof. It works if you want to avoid the PV system sticking out from the top.

The downside of the panels is that they can’t ‘move’ to collect direct sunlight.

Solar panels equipped with tracking systems follow the path of the sun to maximize their output and efficiency.

What Are the Benefits of Solar Roof Shingles?

Not many understand how solar shingles work, but from experience, users hail them for their impressive aesthetics and modern convenience. For one, the shingles blend effortlessly into your roof, remaining inconspicuous to passers-by.

They look like polished asphalt shingles, ideal for homeowners who want solar power minus the sticking put panels. Tesla is also working to produce the shingles in fun colors matching various roof types.

Secondly, many solar roofs have advanced tech, facilitating tracking of energy output, making them more modern, unlike panels. They also increase your home’s value which is an excellent investment if you resell.

Disadvantages of Solar Roof Tiles

While solar roofs have incredible qualities, you should also watch out for some downsides as a first-time buyer. Since they are relatively new to the market, unlike panels, it is more challenging to find installers, and it can take a while to set them up.

The price tag is one of the deciding factors in the solar shingles vs. solar panels war. Solar roof tiles are comparatively pricier than panels, given their features, and many find them worth it only when they need to replace their roofs.6

Another disadvantage is that shingles fit into the roof’s angle. Therefore, you cannot adjust them according to the sunlight.

Roof replaced by solar shingles.

(Image: National Institute of Standards and Technology13)

The power output will be too low if the spot doesn’t receive sufficient rays.

Moving houses also becomes challenging because you may have to leave them intact for the next buyer to avoid tampering with the roof.

Lastly, note that there are more shingles for every panel in the same square foot, increasing the points of failure due to several electrical connections.3

What Are Solar Panels?

The use of solar power dates back to over 100 years ago when people used it for locomotion in steam production.

Only later did Edmond Becquerel discover the Photovoltaic effect of the sun’s rays, leading to the invention of the first solar cell.

Solar panels installed on a roof.

(Image: Richard Foulon12)

Solar panels developed from this, harnessing the sun’s photons and using them to disrupt electrons in the photovoltaic (PV) cells, which generates a direct electrical current (DC).

Today there are various types of solar panels for all your household and commercial needs, efficiently powering appliances and equipment.

Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels: How Do They Work?

Solar shingles and panels have the same working principle, transforming the sun’s rays into energy and electricity. The rays hit the shingles or the PV cells, and the system absorbs the light and does the rest.

The PV cells between the silicon materials and other semiconductors convert the sunlight into energy thanks to the electric field.

The shingles and panels working with the inverters transform the direct current to alternating current (AC) that powers all your home, vehicle, or appliances.

Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels: Cost and Other Comparisons

Solar shingles vs solar panels are a dilemma for first-timers, causing the need to know how to pick the better version as per their needs.

They work the same but have distinct concepts, including design, efficiency, installation mode, and price points.

Graphics of solar shingles vs solar panels showing the pros and cons of using solar shingles as opposed to solar panels.

The following are the significant differences.


One of the most impressive features of solar shingles is how they enhance a building’s aesthetics.7 They go unnoticed thanks to how effortlessly they integrate with your roof; you can install them in place of new roofs if you have renovation plans, saving money for new roofing systems.

They are trendy, attractive, sleek, and lightweight. In contrast, you will always spot solar panels since you install them on your roof.

They are more massive and seem bulkier, which is unsuitable for a subtle look.


Solar roof tiles are similar to standard shingles, measuring 12 by 86 inches and less than an inch thick. They weigh 13 pounds a square foot, making them lighter and more flexible than typical panels.

They don’t apply excessive pressure on your house; you don’t need to install brackets and mounts. However, the size of standard solar panel differs since they measure 39 by 65 inches and weigh 40 pounds.2

It explains why installers insist that your roof should be in excellent condition before set up; otherwise, it won’t survive the panels’ weight.


Solar shingles and panels are long-serving, maintaining their efficiency for 25-30 years. Thanks to advanced tech and improved performance, they can withstand the harsh elements and stay effective for over two decades, after which their output declines.


Solar panels have circulated in the market for longer than solar shingles. They are available in most areas and are the go-to for many wanting to install solar power in their homes and businesses.

However, solar roof tiles are scarce due to less supply in the market. Only a few brands are currently manufacturing them, contributing to the long waiting time when you want to install them.


Solar roofing shingles cost more than twice the price of standard solar panels, ranging between $40,000- $60,000 before tax credit based on the manufacturer, type of roof, and how you want it installed.

Generally, it costs $15-$25 per square foot.

Solar installation is usually costly, but panels are relatively friendlier, costing $15,000- $26,000.8

If you are worried about how much do solar panels cost, you will find them the cheaper alternative, costing $4-$10 a square foot.


If you are in a hurry to set up solar power, the best way to go is to install solar panels because the process takes only a day, and you can DIY to save on extra costs. The only rule is that your roof must be in excellent condition.

However, solar shingles installation takes longer, averaging a week or two, depending on the nature of your roof and the design you want. It is more skill intensive and tasking to DIY, and you may have to leave it to the professionals.


Another critical deciding factor to consider when comparing solar shingles and solar panels is their output levels.4 Since you can adjust panels and point them directly beneath the sun’s rays, you can significantly improve their performance.

They usually produce 250-400W, which is higher than the performance of shingles. Solar roofs are less effective because you cannot adjust them, and they don’t allow for proper airflow beneath them.

Most produce only 13- 63W, lower than panel performance.

Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels: Pros and Cons

Solar panels and roof tiles are fantastic ways to reduce your family or business’s carbon footprint.

They work the same but are two different technologies, and the following breakdown may help you pick your favorite.

Solar Shingles

Pros Cons
Solar roof tiles are aesthetic, sleek, attractive, and modern. They are more expensive.
They don’t stick out and can go undetected while on the roof. They have a low power output, unlike panels.
They help increase your property’s value. Their failure rate is higher.
They feature more advanced tech. They are scarce in the market since they are new products.

Solar Panels

Pros Cons
They are more affordable They are bulkier and stick out more while on the roof.
They are more readily available in the market. Your roof must be intact before installation.
They are more efficient; have a high power outpu They need more room on the roof since they are larger.
They are less likely to fail.
Installation is simple and takes a short time; you can DIY and customize it.

Solar Shingles Can Be Nailed In

A striking difference between solar panels and shingles is their installation methods. However, manufacturers like GAF Energy have introduced a new solar tile concept where you nail the sheets onto your roof.

The best aspect of this design is that installation takes a day or two, unlike conventional shingles, which need more than a week.

Additionally, the shingles that you nail down are usually cheaper.

When To Use Tesla Solar Roof vs Solar Panels

The Tesla solar roof, courtesy of Tesla energy, is an impressive design gradually gaining traction in the market.9 Like other products from the company, it is high-tech and sleek and stands out from other designs from various manufacturers.

You can go for it if the budget is not an issue, although it is usually a deal breaker for many first-timers. It costs almost thrice the price of standard solar panels, but you get your money’s worth if going for the aesthetic appeal.

If panels stick out too much for you, subtle solar roof tiles are better options. They are also lighter and slimmer; you don’t need extra support or harnesses to keep them up.

Are Solar Shingles Right For You?

One of the first questions from homeowners is, are solar shingles worth it? They are new to the scene, highly innovative, and have an impeccable design, but with some downsides.

They are more expensive and less efficient than solar panels.

Solar shingles laid out on the roof.

(Image: National Renewable Energy Laboratory14)

However, improving your house’s value and wanting an inconspicuous look is worth the investment. It often goes unnoticed and integrates effortlessly with your roof.

It is also long-lasting, like panels, and can serve you for over 20 years.1

Solar panels and shingles are viable solutions to help reduce your utility bills while being kind to the environment.10 Solar roof tiles win in aesthetics thanks to their sleek, lightweight, and modern design.

The only challenge is that they cost more per square foot and are less efficient than panels.

On the contrary, solar panels are cheaper, more effective, and readily available. The problem is that they are heavier, which can be a detriment on an older roof installation.

The solar shingles vs solar panels comparison is close because each has a fair share of ups and downsides, and the solution narrows down to personal preference.

Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels

Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels, Which Is More Expensive?

Given the advanced sleek design, solar shingles are more expensive than panels. They retail at and cost $40,000- $60,000 before tax credit.

In contrast, solar panels are significantly cheaper, at $4-$10 a square foot, and usually cost $15,000- $26,000, making them ideal if you are on a budget.

How Much Does Solar Roof Cost?

A solar roof is the most expensive in the market, and it can set you back $40 000- $60 000 based on factors like the brand and installation method.

It is usually $15-$25 per square foot, hence only affordable for some homeowners. However, the sleek, lightweight look is worth every penny if your budget is flexible.

What Are Solar Shingles Cost Per Square Foot?

Solar roof tiles are the pricier option of other designs, considering that it is a new tech and careful construction that fits into roofs. They usually cost $15-$25 per square foot, the most expensive rate in the solar power market.

Are There Solar Panels That Look Like Shingles?

Since there are many solar panel manufacturers in the market, tight competition leads to designing slimmer and lightweight panels. You can check your local stores for brands that produce the sleekest design.

They may not precisely look or work like solar roof tiles but may come close in design and tech advancements. The installation method will also be the same as any other panel, but the different look makes it stand out.

Read More About Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels


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13Photo by National Institute of Standards and Technology. US Department of Commerce. Retrieved from <>

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