Let’s face it, most of us would like to run our homes on solar energy as much as possible. So why are so few of us doing it? Aesthetics and pricing are squarely to blame. Obviously, some properties just can’t support solar panels because of factors like a poor bell curve (lack of sustained direct sunlight), space and foliage. But these cases exclude one other reason from the conversation: Solar panels are garish, which is partly why people don’t want to fork out their cash for them. Therefore, solar roofing options that are more seamless and tile as a shingle combo have become popular choices. A few solar roofing options are out there, but they are slow to manifest in places like Chicago.
What are the solar roofing options available? Here’s a look at the best we’ve got and what’s to come. Current options may not be too exciting, but the horizon is looking good!
Solar Roofing Options Available in the Chicago Area Now
A number of solar roofing options perished due to timing and pricing factors from companies such as Dow. That alone should tell you that it’s a slippery slope bit of tech. Manufacturers have been slow to realize what consumers want and how to craft solar panels into a system that removes the aesthetic hang-ups people have. That’s why we are currently stuck with two options that are not your typical large panel arrays.
CertainTeed, manufacturer of mid-level quality asphalt/comp shingles, have their Apollo II and Apollo Tile II offerings for those who are happy to have something slightly less garish than standard panels.
As you can see (below), the goal of these products is to flow with the contours of the roofing system. But unfortunately, there’s still an unappealing contrast, even if you use black shingles or tiles (Apollo Tile II pairs with a costlier synthetic shingle tile product). Depending on weather and lighting, these solar panel shingle clusters look like holes in the roof, which is a pretty good description of what they actually are.
Next, is the SunTegra Solar Roof Tile. These tiles work much like the Apollo Tile II as a roofing system and have some tiles that are photovoltaic cells with an apparently distinctive look. These tiles look just a little better than the Apollo Tile II, depending on the shingle tile style and shape.
As you can see below, they’re very similar to Apollo!
These, like any solar roofing products, are of course pricey because they require special wiring and electrical integration. Getting a whole new roofing system on top of getting solar is also cost prohibitive to many.
There are hubs where you find roofing contractors who are licensed with solar roofing manufacturers. Southern California has plenty of roofers who are able to install these systems, whereas a place like Chicagoland doesn’t have more than a handful who have tried to offer these solutions.
Solar Roofing Systems on the Horizon
If you follow tech news or are a fan of solar power, then you’ve heard about the solar roofing systems being built by Tesla. For the first time in this emerging industry, someone got it! Tesla realized that aesthetics was one of the two factors that caused people to struggle with solar adoption. Because most products start out as utilitarian, it’s no surprise that it took a few decades to get to this place. Tesla took things a few steps further with its tiles, which were finally released for sale in mid-2017.
- Tesla made all the tiles match visually! You can’t tell a photovoltaic tile from a plain one.
- The company offered four beautiful looks to choose from, which include:
- Textured tile (cedar shake inspired)
- Tuscan (red curved tiles)
- Slate (absolutely gorgeous)
- The tiles are all made from revolutionary tempered glass! This makes them look better than any polymers shingles out there while being stronger than any current tile available other than metal!
- Off-grid power supplies are also now available!
Just look at how beautiful and seamless the Tesla tiles are!
Now for the part that should make Chicagoland residents cry: These tiles won’t be available for some time. At the moment, it’s still unknown what the roll-out time frame is or who will handle the load (Tesla’s Solar City or licensed roofing contractors).
The good news is that people are finally excited, and that means wallets will be opening up to gain access to this innovation in roofing.
It’s our prediction that by 2020, solar roofing will begin to sweep the Chicago area. Early adopters who can afford to shell out the extra money often live in upscale developments with HOAs. With the current roster of design options, Tesla’s tiles are pretty much guaranteed to be allowed by HOAs with strict rules on cedar shake and slate-only communities.