The difference between solar shingles and solar panels is that solar shingles are installed like normal asphalt shingle, but they replace the asphalt shingles in the section of roof that they are installed. Solar panels are mounted on top of the shingles and do not replace anything.
Solar shingles and solar panels are very similar to the extent that they utilize similar technology and perform similar functions. However, solar shingles technology is much newer than solar panel technology. Solar shingles first came into use in 2011 and the technology is still catching on, whereas solar panels have been in use for many years.
Solar shingles are generally less efficient than solar panels. Although technological advancements are closing the gap between the two, solar panels feature a conversion efficiency of approximately 20 percent; slightly more than solar shingles currently produce.
Solar shingles installation can cost 10 to 15 percent less than traditional solar panels and can be installed much faster, as much as 2/3 as fast in most cases. Furthermore, installing solar shingles reduces the amount of asphalt shingles needed to re-roof a house since the shingle serves both as a shingle and an energy producer.
Solar shingles are generally more aesthetically pleasing as they look like regular shingles and blend in with the existing roof, whereas solar panels tend to be large, bulky and very visible.