Interview: Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels with Noah Siegel

Weighing the pros and cons of solar shingles vs solar panels is not as easy as it might seem. Solar technology moves forward very fast and doing Internet research can mislead you into drawing wrong conclusions based on outdated information. This is why our CEO Jacob Bayer, decided to sit down and interview SunTegra Solar Northeast Business Development Manager Noah Siegel to get some first-hand information on how the SunTegra shingles and tiles fare in the competition against modern photovoltaic (PV) panels.

While browsing through the SunTegra Solar website, we encountered pictures of some really nice-looking solar shingle and solar tile installations in New Jersey and California. So, let's start with: How many states have SunTegra installations right now?

Glad that you enjoyed the photo gallery! Our marketing team just launched the 2016 website and added new photos, videos, and testimonials. We’ve completed installations in NY, NJ, MA, CA, CO, MI, and we just recently expanded into CT and the Carolinas.

In each of our markets, we’ve connected homeowners with local SunTegra Solar Partners. Our partners are experienced solar energy contractors who educate customers about solar shingles and provide full-service solar energy design and installation services. When we receive an inquiry in a new area, we will work closely with that homeowner to connect them with a qualified, local solar company and grow the SunTegra network. 

SunTegra solar shingle instalations

Solar shingles have become cheaper over the years and the technology behind them is now a lot more advanced. Would you say that "curb appeal" is still their largest selling point, or it is time to start considering them for other reasons?

While curb appeal remains one of the strongest drivers, the other main driver for homeowners is actually “roof savings”. For every square foot of SunTegra installed, homeowners want to save on the avoided roofing materials and cost of installing a regular roof. Every day, just as often as we hear, “We want to go solar, but think the panels are ugly”, we also hear homeowners say, “We want solar, but our roof is 15 years old and needs to be replaced, so we want to learn more about solar shingles.” 

Solar shingles and PV panel installations differ a lot. What does that mean in terms of solar generation and installation costs?

Beyond curb appeal and roof savings, the power generation and economics are just as important for solar shingles as they are for solar panels. I know, it’s surprising for solar shingles! In the past, solar shingles were double or even triple the price of panels; therefore, it was solely about aesthetics. However, fast forward to 2016, and we’re seeing SunTegra installations at only a 10 to 20% premium compared to panel installations. It’s an exciting time because in the past it was like comparing apples to oranges, but today, homeowners can seriously consider solar shingles versus solar panels without compromising the return on their investment. 

SunTegra solar shingle instalations

What are the key technical differences or similarities between the SunTegra solutions and traditional rack-mounted solar panels? 

In terms of technology, SunTegra has leveraged the most widely used solar technologies in the industry, in particular, monocrystalline silicon solar cells, which allows us to achieve the efficiency of a standard solar panel. In terms of the installation, the main difference is that there is no racking system with SunTegra because the unique frame allows the solar shingles to install flush to the roof. One other feature is the solar shingle weight. The SunTegra Shingle weighs no more than a standard roofing material, so there is no need to worry about additional weight on the roof structure or drilling into rafters during installation. 

PV panels have the advantage of adjustable angle and tilt to improve efficiency on a flat roof. With that in mind, which roofs are suitable for solar shingle installations and what types of constraints exist?

Well, the same rules apply for solar shingles as do for traditional solar panels. It makes the most sense to use the south, west, or east facing roof planes, with south facing producing the most power throughout the year. The solar shingles have specifically been designed for pitched roof applications and just like standard solar panels, the system will match the pitch of the roof plane. As for flat roofs, you’re best to go with standard solar panels on a racking system. 

We know that you feel strongly about using authorized installers, but can DIY enthusiasts do a good solar shingles installation? Does SunTegra offer detailed installation instructions for those who want to try and do everything on their own?

That’s a great question and we would surely like to get every DIY enthusiast interested in solar to be able to install SunTegra. The installation is the simple part! While we could train an experienced DIY enthusiast to install SunTegra within an hour, it’s the behind the scenes engineering, permitting, rebate processing, and coordination with the utility company that requires a solar professional to carry out the project. Also, we work exclusively with licensed electricians to install our systems to make sure they are safe and reliable. That said, perhaps we’ll introduce an opportunity for the DIY community in the future where they can install the SunTegra Shingles on the roof, then we’ll set them up with one of our electrician partners to finish up the electrical connections. Always open to new ideas!

Since aesthetics is one of the shingles core features, have you ever had cases where homeowners install a number of shingles guided by how well they aesthetically cover their roof? If yes, do they opt for more shingles than necessary for their electrical needs or less?

We design systems based on how well they aesthetically blend with the roof as well as based on electrical needs. For example, we can step along the hips and valleys of a roof to cover more area, which increases production, but also creates a nicer aesthetic effect because we are able to reach smaller areas on the roof. We would not install a system that was well beyond a homeowner’s electrical needs; however, we are comfortable installing up to 110% of a homeowner’s previous electric usage, if they really want the extra capacity and expect to increase their use over time.

 

SunTegra solar shingle instalations

We've also heard that SunTegra is planning to introduce product lines for garden and patio spaces and for the sides and facades of commercial and community buildings. How soon can we expect to see a new SunTegra product?

Well, Jacob, we are on our way! We just met with a solar engineering partner in NYC to brainstorm new approaches for building facades. As for garden and patio spaces, we recently designed a canopy system using the SunTegra Tile and are ready to move forward with a pilot in the coming months.

For now, the focus is introducing the SunTegra Shingle and Tile approach to homeowners, business owners, and solar pros across the country to see what they think of roof-integrated solar.

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