Forward Solar Roof: Cost, Comparisons – The Ultimate Guide

Solar panels are one of the most common options for home and business owners who want to generate their own electricity. However, solar roofs are becoming a popular alternative: photovoltaic cells become part of the roof itself rather than having to install them as separate components held by a racking system.

Forward solar roof on a house

Some solar roof providers sell individual solar shingles or tiles you can use in specific areas of your roof, while other companies work exclusively with complete roof replacements.

Forward Solar can be compared with Tesla in terms of product offering. Both companies sell complete roofs, where the areas with photovoltaic cells have exactly the same appearance as non-generating roof sections.

The design makes the solar power system completely invisible, which is great for homeowners who prefer the appearance of an energy-efficient roof like standing seam but without the solar panels. The Forward Solar roof can be used in both residential and commercial applications.

Forward Solar is headquartered in Oakland, California, and they currently focus on the San Francisco Bay Area. However, the company has ambitious expansion plans nationally and internationally.

Sustainability is a high priority at Forward Solar: when an existing roof is removed, the asphalt shingles are recycled for road construction and other applications, instead of being sent to landfills like most other roofing materials.

One of the best features of the Forward Solar roof is the 40-year warranty. Solar panels, shingles, and tiles normally come with 25-year warranties, but Forward Solar exceeds the industry average by 15 years. If your home needs a roof replacement soon, Forward Solar offers a long-lasting product that also generates clean electricity.

Forward Solar Roof: Main Features, and Specifications

The anatomy of a Forward Solar Roof system

Currently, the official Forward Solar website does not provide a specification sheet. However, they have published general information about their product:

Product Features Forward Solar Industry Average
Energy density 19 watts per square foot 11 watts per square foot
Cost of non-solar roof portions $9.75 per sq.ft. $11 per sq.ft.
Cost of solar roof portions $3.75 per sq.ft. Over $5.00 per sq.ft.
Installation time 2-3 days 5-7 days
Roof pitch required 1:12 3:12

The Forward Solar roof uses a five-layer design to increase its durability and performance. Each layer uses optimal materials to accomplish its intended function:

1) Tempered Glass: The upper layer of the Forward Solar roof is made of tempered glass to achieve maximum durability. This layer can withstand hailstone impacts that would cause severe damage to most roofing materials.

2) Optical Chromatic Cloaking: This film is installed right below the tempered glass layer, and it has optical properties that improve the appearance of the Forward Solar roof.

You can choose between eight colors to match your home design: sandstone, patina green, dolphin gray, colonial red, slate gray, sherwood, charcoal, and aged bronze.

3) Monocrystalline Solar Cells: There are many types of photovoltaic materials that can be used to manufacture solar panels, but monocrystalline cells have the highest efficiency available. Forward Solar roofs use this type of PV cell for maximum productivity.

4) Galvanized Metal Panels: Forward Solar uses galvanized panels for structural support, avoiding the bulky frames required by traditional solar panels. This design allows more solar cells per square foot, while saving on materials and labor.

5) Concealed Racking System: Unlike traditional racking systems, which are installed on top of your roof, Forward Solar uses a design where the racking is below the photovoltaic roof sections and completely hidden from sight.

The tempered glass and optical chromatic cloaking cover your entire roof, even the portions with monocrystalline PV cells. However, these two layers have been designed to accomplish their functions without blocking sunlight.

Traditional solar panel systems stand out from the rest of the roof, but all sections look identical on a Forward Solar roof.

  • Even when using solar shingles or tiles with built-in PV cells, you may notice that solar and non-solar roof portions have a slightly different appearance.
  • Forward Solar is a great option for homeowners who are looking for a completely invisible design.

Compared with a separate roof and solar panel system, the Forward Solar roof is much easier to install. It has also been designed to achieve the same weight as a shingle roof without solar panels, which makes the underlying structure less expensive.

All electrical components run through the attic, below the roof and completely isolated from the outdoor environment. Electricians can complete the installation without climbing on your roof, since all the wiring and connections can be installed from below.

The Forward Solar roof is also designed to cool itself efficiently with natural air convection, and photovoltaic cells can operate at a lower temperature on average. This is especially helpful on hot summer days when the electricity output of traditional solar panels suffers a major drop due to heating.

The passive venting system operates continuously with no energy input: air simply flows away from the PV cells as it heats up, to be displaced by cooler air from below.

How Much Does the Forward Solar Roof Cost?

The price of a solar roof can widely vary depending on the complexity of your roof design and the size of your home. Forward Solar makes this clear in the company website, but they provide general cost data that can be used for a ballpark figure: $9.75 per square foot of non-solar roof area, and $3.75 per watt of solar generation capacity.

As a quick example, let’s assume your home needs a 2,000 sq.ft. roof, and the optimal solar power capacity for your energy needs is 8 kilowatts. Based on the energy density and cost data provided by Forward Solar, we can estimate the project cost:

  • At 19 watts per square foot, the solar roof area required for 8 kW would be 421 sq.ft.
  • The remaining 1,579 sq.ft. of roof area are non-solar.
  • Based on the general cost data, the solar roof sections would have a price of $30,000 and the non-solar sections would have a price of $15,395.
  • Adding both values, the total project cost is $45,395.

Keep in mind that this is a very broad estimate. To get an accurate solar roof quote, you need a professional assessment of your property and electricity bills. In the case of Forward Solar, you need to identify the optimal roof sections for photovoltaic cells.

  • Ideally, the roof areas that get the most sunshine should contain solar cells, while areas that are constantly shaded should be non-solar. Photovoltaic cells that are constantly shaded are a wasted investment.
  • South-facing roof sections tend to get the most sunshine in the northern hemisphere. However, east-facing solar cells can make sense in buildings that need more electricity during the morning, and the same applies for west-facing solar cells in properties with a high consumption during the afternoon.

The US offers a federal tax credit for solar power systems, and the benefit will remain available until the end of 2023. You can claim 26% of project costs as a tax deduction if your solar PV system is installed before the end of 2022, and 22% if your system is installed in 2023.

In the case of solar roofs, which have both generating and non-generating sections, you only get the tax credit for roof components involved in solar generation. However, the federal tax credit is still a great incentive for solar roofs despite this limitation.

Does the Forward Solar Roof Have a Good Warranty?

One of the best features offered by Forward Solar is a 40-year warranty. For comparison, most solar panels come with 10–25-year product warranties, and 25–30-year power output warranties.

In other words, your home gets a reliable roof and a clean electricity source for the next four decades.

Keep in mind that manufacturer warranties have terms and conditions, and they are normally voided when products are not used as designed. Getting a professional installation is very important, especially when there are both structural and electrical components involved.

How Does the Forward Solar Roof Compare with other Products?

Among solar roofing providers, Forward Solar can be considered somewhat similar to Tesla and GAF Energy.

All three companies are exclusively dedicated to complete solar roofs, and they don’t sell solar shingles or tiles individually for partial roof upgrades. Depending on project conditions, this can be an advantage or disadvantage:

  • Getting a complete solar roof from a single vendor is great for new constructions, or existing homes that need a roof replacement soon. You can get an integrated roofing system with power generation and warranty coverage if this is your case.
  • However, the option of a partial upgrade is helpful when you have a roof in good condition that will not need a replacement soon. Unfortunately, you cannot upgrade your roof partially with the Forward Solar design.

Some leading solar roof providers who offer partial upgrades are Luma Solar, CertainTeed, SunTegra, and SunPower. You can consider their solar shingle and tile options if your current roof is in good condition, and you aren’t planning a replacement in the near future.

At $3.75 per watt, the Forward Solar roof can be considered one of the most affordable. You can expect to pay over $5 per watt for many competing products, and there have been cases where homeowners get solar roof quotes for more than $10 per watt.

The 40-year warranty offered by Forward Solar is also an excellent feature, which exceeds the coverage offered by most solar roof providers.

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