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What are Solar Shingles?

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  • Written By: C. Ausbrooks
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2016
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Solar shingles, also known as photovoltaic (PV) shingles, are small solar panels designed to look like common shingles. Photovoltaic refers to devices that convert the heat from sunlight into electricity. There are many different types of solar shingles, including solid panels that take the place of several normal shingles in a strip, and conventional sized semi-rigid shingles that contain silicon solar cells. The newest varieties use film solar cells and are equal to normal shingles in both flexibility and size.

Solar shingles are typically 12 inches (30 cm) wide with 5 inches (13 cm) of exposed surface to absorb sunlight, and 86 inches (218 cm) long. Most types are attached to the roof with staples. Roof tiles eliminate shading by higher shingles, optimizing the productivity of the cells. They are also smaller than most other solar shingles, allowing for the most efficient placement.

Solar shingles were released to the public in 2005, a major advancement in PV production and efficiency. These shingles give roofs a dark blue or purple look, making them similar in appearance to conventional shingled roofs. This is part of their popularity, as most homeowners dislike the look of large solar panels. Newer shingles are being produced out of polymatrix. These easily integrate into pre-existing shingle roofs, and even fit into the historic preservation rules of some countries.

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The most popular types of solar shingles are those made of crystalline solar cells combined with conventional asphalt shingles. These are made of silicone wafers and are prevalent in commercial solar shingle production, making up more than 85% of those available. Crystalline shingles have a power output of about 50 watts.

While solar shingles are more expensive than their PV panel counterparts, most consider it cheap for the aesthetic benefits. Solar shingles typically cost less than the section of conventional tiles they replace on the roof. Some home builders are beginning to offer solar shingles prior to home construction. This reduces the price and hassle of installing solar shingles at a later date.

Some PV systems can have backup battery systems, but those without are directly connected to the utility power supply and channel electricity straight into the power grid. This type can save the most money on electrical bills. Those with battery backup systems can store up to eight hours of power in case of outages or other emergencies. While these are generally less cost efficient, they are popular for their “just in case” feature. Battery backup systems require more additional hardware than those without.

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