Solar Roofing: The future of solar power or a fad?

January 16, 2022 | Filed under: Energy,Newsletter Articles


When you hear the words “solar panels,” you might think of a field full of bright metal or an array on a neighbor’s house. These are the two most common examples, but new products from Tesla and GAF aim to change that. Can their work surpass the efficiency and longevity of a metal roof with mounted solar panels?

Both companies have taken different approaches, leveraging their expertise in technology and roofing, respectively. Tesla’s answer is sleek, futuristic, and interfaces with their existing technology. GAF stuck to their roofing background, integrating a solar array into an existing shingle.

So, we have a technology company making solar roofing and a roofing company making solar roofing.

What about a roofing company working with solar professionals for the best of both?
What’s best for you, and what should you know as a homeowner?

For starters, solar panels and roofing make a great team. Your roof makes up nearly half of the outside of your house, leaving a space perfect for gathering sun. Unlike panels planted in the ground, you aren’t using the surface of your roof for anything besides protection from the elements (except Christmas lights, but you probably have those down by now).

So logically, a roof with solar panels built-in should be a home run. Unfortunately, neither the Tesla nor GAF solution is ideal for every homeowner. Besides aesthetic preferences, they come with pros and cons to consider for your situation.

A Tesla Solar Roof
The Tesla Solar Roof uses a mixture of “smart” tiles with integrated solar and “dumb” tiles spaced around the rest of the roof. The tiles are made of hardened glass with the highest fire rating available. However, they only come in black for an ultramodern look that might not appeal to everyone. Although, with metal flashing and trim, this system is weather-resistant.

The biggest problem with the Tesla Solar Roof isn’t the design but the application.

  • It’s expensive and works best with optional upgrades, like the Tesla Powerwall.
  • Ultimately, they require expert installation, a perennial struggle for Tesla as they train installers.
  • Tesla revealed the system in 2016, and many early adopters didn’t get their roofs for years.

A GAF Timberline Solar Roof
The GAF Timberline Solar system takes a trusted asphalt shingle and adds solar into the mix. Essentially a standard shingle with solar technology attached to the front, Timberline Solar brings the advantages of asphalt shingles, now with solar power generation. Perhaps the best part of this combination is the ease of installation. Like any asphalt shingle, they are nailed down, significantly reducing the labor and expertise necessary for a weathertight roof. However, they still require the services of a solar professional to connect them to the grid.

The downside of Timberline Solar is the asphalt shingle base.

  • The asphalt base will last only 10-15 years from the original installation.
  • This base is bad for the environment; it’s not recyclable and will end up in a landfill.
  • This uneven roofing layer adds bulk to the roof; it’s not as sleek as the Tesla solution.

High-Performance Solar Panels Mounted on the Right Roof
This brings us to the final option in solar power generation on the roof: mounted solar panels. These are the standard option, the status quo, offering their own set of pros and cons. You can choose the roof underneath your mounted solar panels. You pick your preferred finish, color, and material. Metal allows brackets to clamp on tight or fasten underneath panels without drilling. Choosing asphalt or tile requires your solar professional to drill holes in the roof, introducing failure points for water to enter and cause damage.

Many companies offer mounted solar panels, but you’ll still need a specialist. While mounted solar panels are tried and true, the Tesla and GAF roofs have little testing on their longevity and performance.

The truth is, both of these solar shingles stand out from standard roofs. While they are low-profile, they don’t quite hide their solar capabilities. Also, by integrating solar into the design, they sacrifice capacity and power generation, which traditional panels don’t have to consider.

Many homeowners find the best solution is a metal roof with mounted solar panels. This combination lasts longer, installs without penetrating the top, and returns your investment sooner. When other roofs fail after 15 years, a high-quality metal roof will have decades of service to come.

You gain energy savings and energy production from a metal roof with a solar panel installation.

Need help making a solar choice for your roof?
Homeowners have more choices for solar power on their roofs than ever. Two major players have stepped into the arena, joining the already familiar rack-mounted solar. Both new solutions offer unique value but come with downsides to understand, so consider your home and your situation before making the right choice for you.

When you consider a metal roof, our friendly and knowledgeable team members are here to help you, backed with years of experience and excellent metal roofing warranties. Contact us at any time.