If you'd like to use solar energy, but can't stand the look of rooftop panels, there is a more attractive option that's catching on across the country. Solar shingles combine protection and power without changing the shape of the roof line.

What are solar shingles?

Solar shingles are lightweight solar panels designed to integrate with asphalt shingles as part of the roof. They are usually on flexible sheets and have wires and connections that are hidden under the shingle. Energy from sunlight is collected by the shingles and sent to an inverter that transforms the DC current into AC current which can be used by appliances in your home.

While the exact ratings and characteristics vary by manufacturer, these systems are designed to integrate into a normal asphalt shingle roof. The sheets are lightweight and rated to protect your home just like a normal shingle. Typically, they protect against rain, hail, and high winds, and can withstand the weight of someone who is working on the roof. Talk with Miller Roofing & Guttering Inc. for more information about different shingle materials. 

Where can solar shingles be used?

You don't have to live in the sun belt to use solar energy. In fact, Germany gets only as much sunlight as Alaska, yet generates five times the solar energy as the US.

The size and location of a solar shingle system will depend on the available sunlight, the size and orientation of the roof, and the amount of electricity your household requires.

You will need an area of roof that receives direct sunlight for a large portion of the day. Landscaping can have a big impact on a solar system's usefulness, so be prepared to trim or remove trees that block the sun.

Are there drawbacks to solar shingles?

Solar shingles are not just a roofing material. They are part of a system that ties into your home's electrical panel and the local utilities. That means additional costs. You will need an inverter to connect the system to your home's electric panel. The electric company may require you to install a new meter, so excess power from the system can be sold to the grid. These costs may be reduced by special programs from the shingle manufacturer or by energy tax credits.

Because the system feeds power back to the grid, it won't operate during a blackout. This protects workers who might be trying to restore power in the area. Solar shingle systems are not emergency power supplies. They don't store energy in batteries, nor do they work at night.