There are two main options for homeowners who are considering a solar energy system: traditional photovoltaic panels, or a solar roof with built-in PV cells. Like in any design decision, each option has advantages and disadvantages. However, solar panels and solar roofs can both offer an attractive return on investment, and clean electricity for more than two decades.
In this buyer’s guide, we will compare two leading solar roof providers: GAF Energy and Luma Solar. Both companies offer excellent products, but there is an important difference between them:
- GAF Energy offers complete roof replacements, where the GAF Timberline solar shingles are included as part of your new roof. You cannot purchase them for an existing roof.
- Luma Solar offers solar shingles that are compatible with other roofing materials, which means you can use them for a partial upgrade.
Luma Solar was founded in 2007, which means they have been providing solar roofs for more than a decade. In fact, Luma was the first provider of solar roofs in the US, starting ten years before the popular Tesla solar roof was launched in 2017.
GAF Energy was created more recently in 2019, but their parent company GAF (General Aniline & Film) has more than a century of experience in the roofing industry. Regardless of who you choose as your solar roof provider, you will be dealing with a reliable provider. Also, both companies offer a solid warranty.
Luma Solar and GAF Energy: Solar Roof Shingle Comparison
In this section, we compare the technical specifications of the solar shingles provided by GAF Energy and Luma Solar:
|Solar Roof Manufacturer||Luma Solar||GAF Energy|
|Product Name||LSS80||Timberline Solar|
|Rated Power||80 W||45 W|
|Shingle Weight||19.8 lb (9 kg)||10.1 lb (4.58 kg)|
|Shingle Dimensions||52.5” x 14.65”||64.25″ x 17.125″|
|Solar Cell Type||Monocrystalline||Monocrystalline|
|Energy Conversion Efficiency||22.1%||22.6%|
|Operating Temperature||-40 to 185°F (-40 to 85°F)||-40 to 122°F (-40 to 50°C)|
|Temperature Coefficient||-0.42% per °C||-0.39% per °C|
|Wind Rating||TAS 125-03
(200+ mph winds)
|ASTM D3161 Class F
(Tested at 110 mph)
|Certification||UL 1703||UL 1703|
As you can see in the table above, Luma Solar and GAF Energy both use monocrystalline cells on their solar shingles, and their efficiency is comparable. The solar shingles provided by Luma offer a higher wattage (80W) in a smaller area, which means you can achieve a more compact installation.
- For example, if you have a home that needs an 8-kW solar energy system, you can reach that capacity with 100 Luma Solar shingles.
- You would need 178 of the GAF Energy shingles to reach the same installed capacity, since their individual output is only 45 W.
Luma Solar and GAF Energy shingles both tolerate a wide range of ambient temperatures, and their temperature coefficients are comparable. With a 10°C temperature rise, the Luma Solar shingles suffer a performance drop of 4.2%, while the GAF Energy shingles suffer a 3.9% drop.
The table above compares Luma Solar, and GAF Energy based on the same specifications. However, each brand offers unique features that should be considered before a buying decision, since they are unavailable if you pick the competing brand.
Luma Solar: Unique Features
A major advantage of Luma Solar shingles is their compatibility with other roofing materials. This means you don’t have to replace your entire roof to use them. You can simply identify the parts of your roof getting the most sunshine and install solar shingles there for maximum productivity.
GAF Energy does not offer this flexibility since their solar shingles can only be used as part of a complete roof replacement – they are not designed for partial upgrades.
Luma Solar uses 24-gauge Galvalume coated steel to manufacture the metal shingles holding the photovoltaic cells. This component comes with a lifetime warranty, and you can easily upgrade the PV cells with more efficient versions as they become available.
According to Luma, their metallic shingles are three times stronger than traditional roof tiles. If you live in a place where tropical storms are frequent, Luma also offers a Class 5+ Miami-Dade Hurricane Rating.
In case you want to add energy storage capacity to your solar roof, Luma has partnered with some leading brands in the industry:
- Generac PWRcell
- LG Chem
By working together with these companies, Luma Solar can deliver integrated energy solutions for homes: electricity is generated by their solar shingles and stored in a reliable home battery. Luma can work with these battery providers to determine the optimal generation and storage capacity for your home, after analyzing your power bills.
GAF Energy Timberline Solar: Unique Features
GAF Energy only offers complete roof replacements that include solar shingles, and the non-generating areas of your roof use conventional shingles from GAF. However, this is great for homeowners who need a new roof, and for new construction projects. You can choose between four shingle colors for the non-generating roof areas:
- Pewter gray
- Weathered wood
Having four shingle colors available, the GAF solar roof can blend with a wide variety of home designs and architectural styles. GAF also offers the DecoTech mounting system in case you want to use traditional solar panels. Unlike a traditional racking system, which creates a gap between your solar panels and the roof, DecoTech allows a flush installation where panels are aligned with the roof shingles.
GAF Energy focuses on simplifying the installation process and maintenance of their solar roof shingles. GAF developed the first nailable solar shingle in the market, which means that any qualified roofing contractor can install them with a standard nail gun! Also, their solar shingles have no electronic components on the front. Once they are installed, these components can be accessed from the attic, without having to climb on the roof.
Luma Solar vs GAF Energy: Price Comparison
Traditional solar panels have predictable costs, and you can expect to pay around $3.00 for each watt of capacity in residential applications. For example, an 8-kW system will come with a price tag of around $24,000 before deducting incentives such as the federal tax credit.
When installing solar roof shingles, on the other hand, the price can vary widely depending on the complexity of your roof. When using Luma Solar shingles, you can expect costs below $6 per watt if you have a simple roof layout, or if you’re only carrying out a partial upgrade. However, the cost can increase above $10 per watt if your roof has a complex layout and geometry.
In the case of GAF Energy, pricing information is still very limited, since the Timberline Solar Energy Shingle is a relatively new product. However, company president Martin DeBono mentioned that homeowners can expect to pay around $42,000 when installing a GAF solar roof, and the out-of-pocket cost can decrease to around $30,000 with solar incentive programs. However, he did not specify the system size (kilowatts) that would have a typical cost of $42,000.
Which Solar Roofing Products Are Similar to GAF Energy and Luma Solar?
Solar roof providers can be classified into two groups: those who only offer complete roof replacements, and those who focus on more flexible products that can be used for partial upgrades. GAF Energy falls into the first category, while Luma Solar falls into the second one.
Other solar roof providers who only offer complete replacements include Tesla, Forward Solar, and 3-in-1 Roof. They are great options if you’re not only looking for a solar power system, but also a new roof. On the other hand, if your current roof is in good condition and expected to last for another 20 years or more, you can consider a partial upgrade.
If you only plan to upgrade part of your roof with solar shingles, your options also include CertainTeed and SunTegra. Like Luma Solar, these companies offer solar shingles that are compatible with roofing materials from other providers, and this makes them suitable for partial roof replacements. Finally, if you want to compare installation systems for flush-mounted solar panels, the SunPower OneRoof is similar to the GAF DecoTech system.
Luma Solar vs GAF Energy: Warranty Comparison
Both Luma Solar and GAF Energy offer excellent warranty coverage, but there are important differences between their terms and conditions.
Luma Solar actually offers a combination of three warranties. The solar cells have a 5-year product warranty and a 25-year power output warranty, while the underlying metallic shingles have a lifetime warranty. The power warranty in particular offers 80% of rated electricity output after 25 years of use.
GAF Energy offers a 15-year warranty against wind damage, a 25-year warranty against manufacturing defects that cause water leaks, and a 25-year power output warranty according to the following conditions:
- 2% power output degradation during the first year.
- 0.55% degradation per year, between years 2 and 25.
- This means the warranty covers 98% of rated capacity after one year, 93.05% after 10 years, and 84.8% at the end of the 25-year period.
Considering only photovoltaic components, the GAF Energy warranty can be considered better because it offers a longer coverage period against product defects. Both brands offer a 25-year power output warranty, but GAF Energy offers a slightly lower degradation rate: 84.8% of rated capacity after 25 years, compared with the 80% value offered by Luma Solar.
Luma compensates for the shorter solar cell warranty by offering a lifetime warranty for the underlying metallic shingles, and an upgradeable design. This means you can use more efficient solar cells as they become available in the future. On the other hand, GAF Energy solar shingles remain nailed in place after their initial installation.
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