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What are solar shingles?

Installing Solar Shingles

Solar shingles are about the same size as a typical roof shingle, while solar panels are flat, rigid panes often several square feet. It's because of this size difference that installation of solar shingles is much more labor-intensive -- more shingles are needed to complete a job compared to the number of panels required for the same project. Installers tediously put in one shingle after another after another and wire each one inside the building. If you decide to get solar shingles, always hire a professional certified by a reputable certifying group, such as the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers or state or trade organizations.

Photovoltaic (PV) installations cost between $9 and $11 per watt. An average system will range from $15,000 to $30,000 (after incentives). Price is affected by the size of your PV system and the amount of sun and shading in your location.

The time it takes to do an installation varies and is affected by roof space, the number of people in an installation crew and the status of the building (re-roofing verses new construction). Once all the solar shingles are put in and wired together indoors, under the roof, the installer applies for a permit to connect your system to the electric grid.

Needless to say, homeowners can't (or shouldn't) attempt installation on their own. However, the industry is changing, and five to 10 years from now, homeowners may be able to safely and easily "plug and play," according to the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). For this to happen, more sophisticated infrastructure would have to be in place, specifically, smart meters and a smart grid, which don't yet exist. Here's how it would work: The homeowner would plug his or her solar shingles into a smart meter -- a meter with plug-in ports for solar electric applications like solar shingles. Through this special meter, they could hook up to the electric grid.

The next page has even more information to take your roof solar, as well as other ideas to make your home energy efficient. Enjoy all that money you'll save.