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Tips for Inspecting Solar Roof Shingles

The roof is a big part of every home inspection. It is usually the most expensive part of a home, so if it needs repair or replacement, the potential homeowners need to know.

While asphalt shingles still reign supreme in the roofing world, it is likely that you may start encountering more roofs with solar shingles.

Model of house made of solar panels.

Some homes have roofs that are made from solar materials instead of having panels attached.

Solar Power’s Popularity

Solar power has come a long way over the years. Originally almost prohibitively expensive and seen only on the homes of the rich and hippie eccentric, solar panels are now becoming mainstream. One reason is that the cost of solar installation is much lower today, due to improved technology and economies of scale.

Several companies have developed solar shingles over the years, but until recently, the cost of these was much higher than for solar panels. Plus, shingles are not as efficient as panels. Thus, the technology had not taken off. But now, the prices have come down a bit, making this option realistic for more homeowners.

A recent Energy Sage article compares the cost of solar panels to Tesla solar shingles. If you are replacing your roof, the cost of the replacement plus solar panels is about $34,000. The cost with Tesla shingles is about $50,000, or about 50 percent more. (If you don’t need a roof replacement, getting solar shingles makes little sense.)

Buying solar shingles from another company, however, might save money. Tesla solar shingles are integrated throughout a roof with glass tiles, giving these roofs a smooth, futuristic look. Traditional solar shingles are installed in sections. These roofs appear to have a patch of shiny shingles surrounded by traditional asphalt. So part of the cost of Tesla shingles is the look.

Calculating how much money you would save in electric bills with solar shingles is difficult. Homeowners use varying amounts of electricity and rates are different in different parts of the country. Roofs are also different sizes, and a roof in Arizona will produce more solar power than one in Maine.

For now, solar panels will still beat out shingles for energy production and savings. They’ll just look different.

What to Look for When Inspecting Solar Shingles

If you don’t work in an affluent area, you may never encounter a Tesla shingle. But you may see some solar shingles.

Walking on a regular roof as part of a home inspection is not necessary and rarely recommended. The preferred way to inspect a roof is on a ladder from the eaves, from the attic, and from the ground with binoculars. Investing in a drone is helpful, but not necessary.

Walking on solar shingles is an absolute no-no. Solar shingles are made of a thin film that can break easily under pressure.

Digital drawing of a house with a magnifying glass over it.

Inspecting a roof’s integrity is an essential part of a home inspector’s job.

If you are not an electrician, you will not be able to verify the health of a solar shingle system, but you can observe and make some notes on their condition. For instance, if you see that any of the shingles look like they are coming loose, you should report that to the potential homeowner. Ditto for any warping, buckling, cracking, denting, loose wires or other obvious damage.

A home inspection course does not generally delve too deeply into solar shingle inspections because they are still uncommon and the technology used today is brand new. This may change if this product takes off, but in the meantime, following our tips on what to look for when inspecting a roof with solar shingles covers your duty to the potential homeowner.

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