First, let’s differentiate between the two. Shake means split with an axe, Shingle means cut with a saw. It’s that simple.
Obviously shake came first historically. Both are used today, while shake is generally considered the premium product between the two.
Shake tends to be thicker (up to 3/4th an inch thick) than shingles (up to 1/2 inch thick). With the advent of shingle mills in the early 19th century, came the ability to mass produce the wood material, along with possibility to access it in several locations.
Besides thickness, there is also variation in shape, width, texture and eventually treatment and color. Royalty and Perfection. These terms refer to length, with Perfection referencing an 18 inch wide shingle and Royalty attributed to 24 inch wide shingles. Shape tends to be rectangular, especially as it relates to material for roofing.
As cedar shakes are also used for siding, the shape may vary, with how the butt-end (lower side) appears, as in whether it is rounded, straight or even a bit wavy. Being that these shingles are on the upper portion of the home, the need or even purpose for anything uniquely shaped is less necessary.
Did you know? That shake material of higher quality is often used for roofing, whereas cedar siding projects tend to use lower quality shakes.
The material itself is routinely synonymous with cedar shakes, though that’s not the only grain of wood used. There’s white and red cedar, along with California redwood which are the primary wood choices in North America. Outside the US, pine may be the primary choice for shake.
Color options are essentially without limit as any paint or stain can be applied, but typically a clear stain is used due to the natural beauty associated with the material. What is more common is how the wood is treated.
Chemically treated wood will last longer than if it is not treated. Often it is laced with fire retardants to overcome an inherent, albeit, natural design flaw. Or treated to prevent algae and insect infestation. Such treatments can have the material last a good 30 years, or longer.
Value and Cost Further Explored
The rustic charm of wood shake is arguably its most alluring value. While there are metallic, and stone tile products that can come close in matching it’s appearance, none really compare to the authentic beauty of natural wood.
Added thickness in the material means better insulation of the home’s uppermost layer. But the real value is in how it holds up to wind. Asphalt shingles top out at 130 mph for wind uplift resistance, whereas cedar shakes can withstand speeds up to 245 mph. It is also impact resistant, or more so than most other materials with exception of stone.
While the product isn’t requiring special tools or skills to install, it can be quite labor intensive due to the multi-layering, general thickness and moderate heaviness of the material. For a 1200 sq. ft. roof (which is equal to a small home), the total installation cost averages $7,500 to $12,500.
If using premium materials, or a licensed and insured contractor, or having a complex roof with multiple slope angles, then the price goes up. Unless the home is unusually large, you can expect to not exceed $20,000 for a cedar shake roof, but a fair average is $7,500 to $12,500.
By the square, which equals 100 sq. ft. the price for wood shingles installed is $500 to $900 or $5.00 to $9.00 per sq. ft. of wood shingles installed.
If going with cedar shakes instead, the price rises up to $600 to $1,100 per square or $6.00 to $11.00 per sq. ft. installed.
If going with bargain priced material, the costs can come significantly down, but the value or how long it lasts will also go down.
Home Depot sells bundles at about $50, where 4 bundles are enough to cover a square, thus $200. — This doesn’t take into account the other materials that go into a roofing job, such as fasteners, underlayment, etc. but does let you know that if you go the DIY route, costs could be cut nearly in half.
A roof in general will see a recoup value of 70%, though that is based on the popular asphalt shingle. It goes up from there, and given that cedar shake has allure and better than average durability, it is likely closer to 75% or even 80% ROI.
This assumes they are in good condition, and that they are well maintained. Which brings us to the significant drawback.
If not paying for premium, read as treated, material then the product will probably last 20 years, or less if in area with heavy precipitation or much moisture. If properly cared for, and inspected annually, a cedar shake roof could last as long as 50 or even 60 years.
Sunlight made into electricity. It’s that simple. Enough electricity to power not just a few appliances, but an entire home, including transportation. That’s where we are quickly heading, but let’s deal with the basics first.
PV stands for Photovoltaic. — The quantifiable process of converting sunlight (solar) into electrical power. For the conversion to be realized and useful, the right semiconducting material must be in place. — This results in efficiency that helps us put into perspective how solar energy can and does compare to historical methods of producing electrical power.
Solar cells are the fundamental, man-made part. Each cell produces about 1 to 2 watts of power. While that isn’t much, for the small size they are, it’s actually quite sufficient.
Group cells together into modules and stack modules into arrays, and suddenly mega and kilowatts of power are realized. To visualize what we are communicating, check out this short video from the U.S. Department of Energy.
For the solar cell to be effective, it must be protected. Durable glass for its transparency is the obvious choice and results in the modules we call solar panels.
A module can be as small as those found on calculators, which date back to mid 20th century technology. Or modules can be arranged as arrays, which today is what we consider to be a solar panel system.
Contemporary solar cells are manufactured in about a half dozen ways. The ongoing and still most popular material is crystalline silicon. Its efficiency in the conversion process is why it continues to be popular.
Yet, it is also more costly, which certainly matters when it comes to the idea of using solar cells to power a home. For more cost effective systems, solar cells are packaged in thin-film materials.
Currently, this is where much experimental technology is occurring and emerging.
It also leads to BIPV materials, or solar cells integrated into construction materials, such as the case with Suntegra and other emerging BIPV solar shingles and tile offerings.
Because solar panels, of the non-integrated variety, are still the dominate option in the market, we focus on the components, costs and advantages/disadvantages for this type of PV system.
Effective Means Of Capturing Awesome Power
Each hour, there’s 122 Petawatts of solar energy delivered to the earth from the sun. To help put this in perspective, this is around 10,000 times the power consumed by all humans in one trip around the sun (aka 1 year).
In the last century, we are just learning to tap into solar energy in a meaningful way. Efficiency of cells and ultimately arrays is the ongoing work of research scientists. Highest efficiency arrays are either too experimental for mass production or are relegated to government and major industry purposes.
For a home, the process of solar generation into electrical power requires other technologies to be in play. Foremost is placement of arrays.
Positioning toward the south is a given. Thus rack mounting panels onto a southern exposed roof is the norm. Though, not necessarily the most efficient.
A solar panel mounted on the ground that tracks the movement of the sun is currently the most efficient way to harness solar energy through a PV system. — It can, rather easily, power itself, plus have power left over to supply power to many other applications.
Yet, this type of system is generally more costly upfront, is not suitable to all forms of residential living, and requires much more ongoing maintenance than rack-mounted systems.
System Components And Function
For every PV system, there are generally 4 primary components. The solar panel, which we’ve described already. A controller, which is what regulates the amount of electricity in the system, but particularly to the battery.
You didn’t think the power was directly feeding the needs of the home did you? No, a battery is in place so electrical energy is stored for later use.
The last primary component is the inverter. Energy stored in a battery needs conversion, from DC electrical current, to AC, in order to power most modern conveniences. That’s what the inverter is for.
It’s helpful to understand there are essentially two types of systems you would install for a home: off-grid and on-grid. Off-grid is perhaps what most who are new to solar power conceive a system to be.
It means all power generated from the PV system, will be used solely to power the structure it is connected to. Whereas on-grid (or grid-tied) systems feed to the local utility provider, and then back to the home in a metered process.
Each of the two methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Because storing energy inevitably leads to wasted energy, it is usually far more cost effective for a homeowner to go with a grid-tied system.
It is unlikely that a homeowner would use all the power generated from their solar panels, and so in essence the utility company is paying you for that energy and then providing that same cost back to you for that electricity.
So, you pay for what you need and don’t pay for wasted energy. In this case, the utility company serves as the virtual battery within the system.
Advantages of off-grid are few, but depending on the situation with your residence or style of living can outweigh the advantages of being on the grid.
If living in a rural area, with less access to a utility company, then the costs to get into the grid would be prohibitive for most to make it worth their while to go solar.
Plus, there’s just the notion of being inherently self sufficient without relying on the utility company for power storage.
Installation costs are the determining factor for most homeowners ready to move in this direction. It takes more homework than we can possibly provide should you choose to go the DIY route and, for sure if you are considering going with an off-grid system.
First things first. One advantage of going solar, is federal tax rebates for PV systems. Such rebates were recently extended, through EnergyStar.gov, to ensure they go through 2021.
For 2018 through 2019, whatever cost you spend, you can get a rebate of 30% off the price. Must apply through the government first, but the savings of thousands of dollars is very likely worth it.
Next is the realization that you’ll be generating watts of electricity at a cost to you, from installation of materials.
So, essentially there’s a cost per watt factor that needs to be calculated and then determined by you, the homeowner, to ensure it is worth your time and money. Chances are it is, and latest information is that costs of material continue to decline.
If basing decisions on information from even 5 years ago, it may lead you to think it is too unaffordable. Yet, what hasn’t changed is that a typical solar panel system will save 30% to 70% off your utility bills when fully implemented.
The key information is that your cost for material is greatly enhanced if going with a buyer (hired professional) that has greater buying power than you.
Once you do the math on your own, you’ll realize what you can afford in terms of amount of panels and the watts generated from such a system. With a pro at your side, you can likely afford more panels, and reduce your cost to watt ratio.
Some key factors and considerations with professional installation include:
surveying your home’s roof for orientation, ability to hold the extra weight, and determination of panels is a first step, that may take awhile. Especially if additional permits and fees are involved.
determining if the company is the right fit for the job
are they experienced in on-grid installation?
can they provide examples of their work?
how many years have they been in business?
how much experience do they have installing PV systems?
are they properly licensed and certified? Don’t just take their word for it, call the county where you live to check on this.
what warranties can they provide? And do you truly understand what the warranty is covering?
as with any job, go for more than one quote and take time to compare notes
be sure to compare apples to apples, or that if one contractor offers bid for something another didn’t include, then follow up and ask for that cost estimate
what does maintenance entail after installation? Who’s responsible for that?
After all the information is in, are you really saving money over say a 10 year period?
Residential PV Solar Power System — Upfront Costs
The upfront costs are usually the reason most people don’t go with solar energy. $15,000 is a lot when you compare it to a yearly bill of say $1,200 for current energy costs.
In 2018, the average cost is closer to $20,000 and yet if we factor in the federal rebate, then it’s actually $14,000. Still, there are enough factors to consider that could lower, but for sure may raise the price.
Which leads to our last consideration of leasing panels instead of owning them. The solar leasing company owns the panels, handles installation and you reap the benefits of lower energy bills. However, this comes with a few caveats, such as:
the federal rebate goes to them, not you
you still pay full price to the utility company for energy used there, even if its reduced some. Plus you are paying the solar leasing company for the energy they are providing you.
if you sell your home before the lease is up, the lease may say you’re still obligated for payments, or you hope the new owner is willing to eat that cost
With all that said, leasing does make it more affordable on the front end, but less of a solution over the long haul.
Material Costs plus Labor Costs = Total Installation Charges
The axiom for all home improvement projects. Yet, for the solar shingle market, this helps to remember, especially with what is on the immediate horizon.
Wait, What’s A Solar Shingle?
The technical acronym: BIPV stands for Building Integrated Photovoltaics. Simply put, embedding solar technology into building materials. For our purposes, we stick to roofing materials, or what is known as the solar shingle and/or solar tile. Especially, since these are the type of BIPV products being designed for the residential market.
If needing a quick refresher on solar technology (the PV part of the equation), see our piece on solar panels. There we note that solar tech is moving in a direction to product “enough electricity to power not just a few appliances, but an entire home, including transportation.” Here, we’ll show you how.
Difference between the Solar Shingle and Panel
First key difference is size. Panels are, or can be, huge. This translates into more solar modules (and cells) being installed on the roof than a shingle can currently offer.
Which leads to the next difference, power. A shingle produces around 15 to 60 watts, while a panel, typically 18 sq. ft. generates 185 to 250 watts. In general, this means the panel system will produce more electricity than a shingle system.
Then there’s elegance factor. Not only are panels big and powerful, they’re big and cumbersome. They are adhered to a roof after careful surveying to make sure the structure of the (whole) house can handle the weight. Usually rack mounted, so they stand out above the roof surface. Noticeably stand out.
Solar shingles are usually near flush with the existing roof structure and becoming more of an option to be the actual roof structure with a beauty that mimics traditional roofing.
At the time of this writing, solar shingles have a metallic finish that is distinguishable from the rest of your roof, but still less noticeable than panels.
The bottom line difference is that currently panels are more efficient and cost effective than shingles.
While shingles are more aesthetically pleasing and gaining traction to be the primary way anyone would choose to do solar power generation on their own residence.