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Solar Shingles

Solar shingles blend nicely into this roof.

Ben West/Flickr

Solar panels are an excellent way to save energy and reduce energy bills, and sometimes even earn you money. If your solar array produces more energy than you're using in your home, many utility companies will buy that excess power back from you to use in the electric grid [source: Gangemi]. The problem with solar panels, from a design perspective, is that they can be a little bit of an eyesore.

That's where solar shingles come in. Unlike traditional solar panels, which lay on top of the roof or sometimes on a freestanding structure near the building, solar shingles integrate right into the roof itself, so they aren't quite so obvious.

Solar shingles are a bit pricier to install than traditional solar panels, since they not only help power the building, but they're actually roof shingles [source: Surina].

There are a couple of different sorts of solar shingles on the market: thin-film or silicon-based. Thin-film shingles cost a bit less, but they also tend to produce less energy per square foot than the silicon-based shingles [source: 1 Block Off the Grid].

As with a green roof, it's best to get a certified contractor involved if you're planning to install solar shingles, since the shingles have to be wired into your electrical system. You'll also need a professional to take a look at your roof to make sure it's even a candidate for solar shingles. They get hotter than typical solar panels, and you want to be sure that your roof is at a good angle to collect sunlight. [source: 1 Block Off the Grid].

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