There are two main ways to install a solar power system on a residential roof. You can use traditional solar panels, which are anchored to your roof structure with a specially designed racking system, or you can use solar shingles with built-in photovoltaic cells.
High-quality solar panels can last more than 25 years, and they save hundreds of dollars per year. However, solar panels change the appearance of your home, and there are homeowners who don’t like their appearance. Solar shingles are a great option if you want to generate your own electricity but don’t like the look of solar panels on the roof.
GAF has been a leading provider of roofing materials for more than a century. They are currently owned by Standard Industries, and they have a network of over 10,000 roofing contractors across the US. In 2019, they created the GAF Energy business unit to focus on solar power systems for homes and businesses. In 2022, they launched the GAF Timberline Solar Roof, which earned more than 30 awards in less than a year.
In this guide, we will compare the GAF solar roof with traditional solar panel systems, discussing the typical costs of each option along with their pros and cons.
- Generally, solar panels are recommended if your current roof is in good condition and expected to last for at least 25 years more.
- On the other hand, if you have an old roof that must be replaced soon, you have an excellent opportunity to use GAF solar shingles. You get a new roof and solar energy with a single installation, instead of having to deal with two separate contractors.
How Much Does the GAF Solar Roof Cost?
The GAF Energy website does not provide pricing information for their Timberline solar roof, but this data is available from other sources. According to EnergySage, a 10-kW GAF solar roof has a typical price of $48,000 before subtracting incentives. This is comparable to the total cost of a traditional roof with solar panels:
- Based on our research at RemodelingCosts.org, you can expect to pay between $10,000 and $19,800 for a new shingle roof.
- According to EnergySage, a 10-kW solar panel system costs around $29,500 before subtracting incentives.
- Based on these figures, the total cost of a new roof with solar panels can range from $39,500 to $49,300.
You can claim the 30% solar federal tax credit in both cases, but there is an important limitation to consider. If you choose a new roof with solar panels, the tax credit only covers the photovoltaic system components and their installation costs.
If you choose the GAF solar roof, the tax credit only covers the Timberline solar shingles and other components involved in power generation (along with the installation costs).
When GAF Energy launched the Timberline solar roof in January 2022, The Washington Post interviewed their CEO Martin De Bono. He mentioned that the GAF solar roof would have a typical cost of around $42,000, which could decrease to around $30,000 after subtracting incentives. However, he did not specify the system size in kilowatts when mentioning these price figures.
Note: GAF Energy has 280 partners that sell and install its product, the company’s president, Martin DeBono, told Reuters. “The reason we are able to have a building integrated offering at the same cost as a new roof and new solar is we’ve reduced labor content,” DeBono said, adding that labor for roofing and electrical was the biggest challenge.
GAF solar shingles can only be purchased as part of a new roof, and not as stand-alone products. Your new roof uses a combination of solar and non-solar shingles from GAF, which have a similar appearance. However, you cannot purchase a batch of Timberline solar shingles and upgrade only a part of your current roof.
How Much Does a Solar Panel System Cost?
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and EnergySage are three useful references when you want updated cost data for solar panel systems.
- NREL carries out detailed scientific studies, but their results are only published once per year.
- The SEIA publishes the quarterly Solar Market Insight Report, which includes cost data by market segment: residential, commercial and utility-scale.
- EnergySage is constantly updating their solar costs based on market data.
The following table summarizes the cost data from all three sources. This gives you an idea of the expected price range when installing solar panels in US homes:
Solar Costs Reported
Cost of a 10-kW PV System
|NREL Technical Report 2022: US Solar PV System and Energy Storage Cost Benchmarks||$2.95 per watt (modeled market price for a 7.9-kW solar PV system)||$29,500|
|SEIA Solar Market Insight Report March 2023||$3.30 per watt||$33,000|
|EnergySage Solar Cost Data March 2023||$2.95 per watt||$29,500|
NREL and EnergySage estimated the same average price ($2.95/W), while SEIA reported a higher price ($3.30/W). This happens because NREL and EnergySage consider all types of solar panels in their calculations, while SEIA focuses on high-efficiency modules which are more expensive.
Based on these figures, a new roof with solar panels and the GAF Timberline solar roof has comparable costs. In both cases, the photovoltaic components and their installation costs are eligible for the 30% federal tax credit.
GAF Timberline Solar Shingles vs Solar Panels: Pros and Cons
Like in many design decisions, there is no “best option” when you compare GAF solar shingles and traditional solar panels.
- From a cost standpoint, GAF solar shingles make sense if you need a roof replacement soon. They are also cost-effective in new constructions where the roof has not been installed yet.
- Solar panels offer a much higher ROI if your roof was installed recently. If you want to use GAF solar shingles in this case, you must remove the newly installed shingles and you’re essentially paying for two roofs!
The GAF Timberline solar shingles are the first nailable photovoltaic shingles in the market. This design feature makes their installation much simpler since you don’t need a complex racking system. Roofing contractors can easily set up the GAF shingles using a nail gun, while solar panels need dedicated mounts and a racking system.
Not being able to purchase GAF solar shingles as a stand-alone product is a disadvantage for homeowners who don’t need a roof replacement. You must pay for a complete roof upgrade if you plan to use them, even if your current roof is in good condition.
The following table compares the pros and cons of each option: traditional solar panels and the GAF Timberline solar roof.
Type of Home Solar System
|Traditional Solar Panels||They can be used on existing roofs.
Lower cost and higher ROI for homeowners who don’t need a roof replacement.
There is a wide selection of solar panel brands and qualified installers.
|They change the appearance of your roof.
You need penetrating mounts for most roof types, and they may affect your roof warranty.
If you need a roof replacement, you must uninstall and reinstall the panels.
|GAF Solar Roof||Your roof warranty is not affected since the solar cells are part of the roof shingles.
GAF solar shingles are easy to install thanks to their nailable design.
There are no visible solar panels on your roof.
GAF solar shingles are water-shedding, and warranted to withstand winds up to 130 mph.
|You cannot purchase GAF solar shingles for a partial roof upgrade. Your only option is replacing the roof completely.
Solar shingles are only cost-effective for homeowners who need a roof replacement, and in new constructions that don’t have a roof yet.
In terms of warranty coverage, high-quality solar panels and GAF Timberline solar shingles are evenly matched: you get a 25-year warranty in both cases.
Solar Panels and GAF Solar Roof: Payback Period Comparison
The combined price of a new roof and a solar panel system is comparable to the cost of a GAF Timberline solar roof. The cost of a new roof represents an unavoidable expense if you already need a replacement, and both options offer the same payback period and ROI in this case.
According to NREL and EnergySage, you can expect to pay $29,500 if you purchase a 10-kW home solar system. The 30% federal tax credit is equivalent to $8,850, and the net cost of your solar installation is reduced to $20,650.
- Under favorable sunlight conditions, a 10-kW solar energy system can generate over 15,000 kWh/year.
- At the average electricity price of 16 cents/kWh reported by the US Energy Information Administration, this energy output is equivalent to $2,400 in annual savings.
- Considering the upfront cost of $20,650, the simple payback period is 8.6 years.
- The best solar panels come with a 25–30-year warranty, which is much longer than their payback period.
- You can achieve an even shorter payback period if local electricity prices are higher. At 25 cents/kWh, the payback period drops to around 5.7 years.
If you need a new roof, GAF Timberline solar shingles offer the same ROI as solar panels. The incremental cost of the GAF solar roof is equivalent to what you would pay for the roof replacement anyway.
The GAF solar roof has a much longer payback period if you don’t need a roof replacement. Assuming you can reduce the cost of the solar roof to $40,000 with incentives, the payback period is 16.6 years. This is twice as long as the payback period of traditional solar panels.
Are Solar Roof Shingles Compatible with Energy Storage?
Solar panels and solar roof shingles are both compatible with energy storage. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) cost benchmark, a battery system with a power output of 5 kW and a storage capacity of 12.5 kWh has a typical market price of $18,791 ($1,503 per kWh of storage capacity).
- Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, all home batteries over 3 kWh are now eligible for the 30% federal tax credit.
- Before the Act, batteries were only eligible if getting 100% of their charge with solar panels, and this limited their usefulness.
- Now you have the flexibility to charge your battery with grid power on nights and cloudy days, when solar generation is low.
Considering the NREL estimate, you can expect to pay around $15,033 for a 10-kWh home battery. With the 30% tax credit, the net cost drops to around $10,523.
How Does GAF Compare with other Solar Roofing Providers?
GAF solar solar shingles are not available as a separate product, and you must purchase a complete roof if you want to use them. Tesla and Forward Solar have a similar product offering: their solar shingles are only available as part of a complete roof replacement.
GAF Energy has some 280 partners that sell and install its product, so the wait times should be reasonable. Tesla Solar Roof, on the other hand, has far longer wait times and may not be available in all regions.
CertainTeed, Luma Solar and SunTegra are solar roof providers that sell their photovoltaic shingles as a stand-alone product. This means you can install these shingles in specific areas of your roof that get high sunshine, and there is no need to replace the rest.
If your current roof is in good condition, getting a complete replacement is not viable financially, since the payback period of your solar energy system is double. In this case, you can use traditional solar panels, or you can consider one of the solar roof providers that offer PV shingles for partial upgrades.