The Cost Of Solar Shingles vs. Solar Panels

Solar panels on top of a building

Solar energy allows businesses and homeowners to reduce their grid reliance and shrink their carbon footprint. But it’s easy to get lost in the abundance of choices — while solar panels are cheaper and easier to install, shingles offer a sleek design.

Check out this comprehensive guide to figure out key differences between solar shingles and panels, estimate the cost of solar shingles vs. solar panels, and decide what option suits your needs best.

Traditional Solar Panels

These pioneers of the green power revolution started revolutionizing clean energy production in the 60s. Currently, it’s one of the most affordable eco-friendly electricity options for residential and commercial usage.

Solar installer carries the solar PV panel

The core of a traditional solar panel lies in the photovoltaic (PV) cells. When sunlight hits the cells, it disrupts electrons, creating a flow of electricity – the photovoltaic effect. There are two types of PV cells used both in panels and solar-powered shingles:


Monocrystalline Silicon (Mono-Si) These panels are made from pure silicon crystals. They offer the highest efficiency in converting sunlight to electricity, from 18% to 22.8%. They are identifiable by their uniform black color.
Polycrystalline Silicon (Poly-Si) They are formed from multiple layers of silicon crystals, making them slightly less efficient (with an average of 16% efficiency) but more cost-effective. You can identify them by a blue hue.


Most residential and commercial systems are roof-mounted. They are secured to a racking system anchored to the roof structure. The racking system allows tilting the panels at an optimal angle to maximize sunlight capture.

Solar Shingles

Solar tiles combine the functionality of traditional roofing with the ability to generate clean power like solar panels. Generally speaking, solar panel shingles are the roof that not only protects your home from rain and snow but also provides you with eco-friendly electricity. It benefits you in many ways, including but not limiting:

  • Enhanced curb appeal: Solar tiles offer a more aesthetically pleasing look compared to traditional solar panels.
  • Durability: Most shingles provide a 25-year warranty, while panels usually have only a 10-year warranty.
  • Integrated system: Shingles eliminate the need for a separate roofing system and solar installation, simplifying the building process.

Like traditional panels, solar tiles convert sunlight into electricity using a photovoltaic effect. It means your roof can generate clean energy to power your home, potentially reducing your reliance on the grid.

Black solar shingles on the roof

Meanwhile, shingles are considered a more expensive option. While an average 6 kW solar panel system costs approximately $15,000-$18,000, the solar shingle cost in Illinois is $25,000. It will also take more roof space to produce the same amount of electricity.

Cost Factors

The initial cost of solar shingles vs. solar panels is high. However, it will pay off relatively fast. According to multiple studies, the average payback period varies from 6 to 10 years. To ease your estimations, let’s break down the key components affecting your shingle solar panels investment.

Firstly, let’s start with a more common option – solar panels. While choosing the perfect one, keep the following info in mind:

  • Panel type: Monocrystalline silicon panels offer higher efficiency but are more expensive than polycrystalline silicon panels.
  • Panel efficiency: Although more efficient panels are more expensive, they may require fewer panels to get the desired output, potentially offsetting some of the cost.
  • Equipment and installation: The racking system, mounting hardware, inverter, and labor contribute to the final price.
  • Permits and inspections: Obtaining necessary permits and inspections can add to the overall project cost.

A solar shingle system, on the other hand, doesn’t require a racking system, but they have different additional costs that contribute to their higher price:

  • Material and manufacturing: Shingles are a relatively new technology, and their production methods can be more complex than traditional panels.
  • System size: You’ll need more shingles to achieve the same capacity, impacting the solar shingle cost.
  • Roof complexity: Your roof’s design and accessibility can impact installation difficulty. Complex roof shapes or features require additional labor or materials, increasing costs.

Another factor that affects the cost is the brand. For example, Certainteed solar shingles cost approximately $7 per watt, which makes them one of the most expensive options on the market. On the other hand, Timberline solar shingles cost $6 per watt on an average roof.

Wondering about solar shingles and panels costs in Chicago? Don’t waste another second—get your free solar quote right away!

We’ve gathered estimated prices of 3 of the most common solar tile manufacturers. Keep in mind that those numbers are just rough estimations.

Product Cost per sq. ft. Cost per watt 6 kW system
CertainTeed Apollo II Shingle $18 – $22 $6.5 – $8.5 $40,000 – $52,000
SunTegra Shingle $16 – $19 $5.7 – $7 $35,000 – $42,000
Tesla Solar Tile $29 – $35 $8-$13 $48,000 – $78,000


Federal and many local governments offer incentives to encourage solar adoption, which can reduce the cost of solar panel shingles. Inspect the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) for additional incentives in your area.

Initial Installation Costs

Solar shingles cost vs panel prices are drastically different. Traditional solar panels usually cost $2.40 to $3.60 per watt, including installation, while solar roof costs begin at $6 per watt. The cost of traditional solar panels reflects the price of the panels themselves, the racking system, and installation labor. If your roof is in excellent condition, there’s no additional expense for roof replacement.

Meanwhile, solar shingle cost is impacted by the complexity of your roof design. Intricate roof shapes or features require additional work, inflating the overall price.

Maintenance and Repair Costs

Both solar panels and tiles are easy to maintain. Just gently clean them with a damp cloth once a few months and remove debris and grime after a storm. Book a professional cleaning every one to two years. It will cost between $300 and $600 per cleaning.

Skilled cleaners are trained to inspect your panels during the cleaning process. They can identify problems like cracks, loose wiring, or hotspots that might go unnoticed. Addressing these issues can prevent costly repairs or replacements down the line.

Differences between solar shingles and panels

Source: ArchitecturalDigest

Many shingle manufacturers provide comprehensive warranties that cover repairs for defects in materials or workmanship for 10+ years. If a guarantee covers your problem, the repair will be free. After the warranty expires, all repairs become your responsibility.

Wondering about solar shingles and panels costs in Chicago? Don’t waste another second—get your free solar quote right away!

Energy Savings and Return on Investment (ROI)

Although solar shingles and panels costs are initially high, these solutions are great investments for homeowners and businesses. As we said earlier, the number of shingles and panels directly impacts the amount of produced electricity. A larger system will naturally produce more power and more significant energy savings.

Ensure your solar panels and solar shingles face south and align with your latitude. In Chicago, it’s approximately 40°. This trick lets you achieve maximum solar exposure and increase energy savings.

According to Forbes, the average ROI of solar panels is about 10%, with a payback period of 8 to 13 years. Unfortunately, there is no data for solar roofs, but considering their higher score, they have slightly lower ROI and a longer payback period.

Federal and state tax credits, rebates, or other government incentives can significantly reduce upfront costs, improving ROI. The federal solar tax credit (ITC) suggests a 30% credit, significantly reducing federal tax bills. On a local level, the SREC program and net metering can help you save more.

Also, remember that electricity prices are projected to rise over time. It can shorten your payback period as the cost savings from solar energy generation become more substantial.

Solar Shingles vs. Solar Panels: What Is Better?

The battle between shingles and traditional panels boils down to a war of aesthetics versus affordability. While both options harness the power of the Sun, they cater to different priorities.

Traditional solar panels offer a clear winner in terms of upfront costs. Lower prices and the ability to achieve faster ROI make them a more budget-friendly choice.

Shingles steal the show with their sleek, integrated design. They boast potential long-term benefits like eliminating the need for a separate roof replacement and capturing more sunlight due to their full roof coverage. However, their higher upfront cost and potentially slower ROI demand a more long-term perspective.

Wondering about solar shingles and panels costs in Chicago? Don’t waste another second—get your free solar quote right away!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are solar shingles?

It’s a roofing material that combines the functionality of traditional tiles with solar panels’ ability to generate electricity from sunlight. Unlike solar panels mounted on the roof, shingles are designed to merge in with your existing roof, offering a more aesthetic house’s look for your home.

How much do solar shingles cost?

The solar shingles cost per square foot depends on the chosen system, roof complexity, and brand. Powerful panels will cost more per square foot. Less potent options will be cheaper “per foot”, but you’ll need to place more shingles to meet the same capacity. Complex roof shapes or features might require additional labor or materials, driving up the cost.

Which option typically offers a lower upfront cost: shingles or traditional panels?

Classic solar panels are times cheaper. Traditional panels typically offer a lower upfront of approximately $3.30 per watt. Meanwhile, the average solar panel shingles cost is $6.5 per watt. It translates to significant cost differences even for average households with 5kW needs.

How much do solar shingles cost to install?

Unlike traditional solar panels mounted on your existing roof, shingles become an integrated part of the roof itself. So, the installation price will consider the roof’s complexity and labor. These craftsmanship expenses may add $10,000-15,000.

Are solar shingles worth it?

Yes, if you’re looking for a sleek green power production tool that won’t affect your house’s exterior, modern solar roof shingles come in many forms, and many are indistinguishable from classic roof tiles.