Since GAF Energy debuted its Timberline solar shingles in 2021, roofers have installed them in 16 states. Although it’s still a relatively new solar technology, this could mark a major change in how homeowners access solar energy on their roofs.
There are 5 million new roofs put on homes each year, and 1.5 million of them use GAF shingles, said Rey Holmes, GAF Energy’s vice president of services and product. Converting even some of those roofs to GAF Energy’s solar shingles would mark a significant increase in residential rooftop solar in the US.
Though CNET wasn’t able to go through the purchasing process and engage in hands-on testing in our review process, carrying out a review of GAF Energy — which is based on data from the internet and an interview with a GAF Energy representative — is less straightforward than it is with other solar companies. GAF Energy’s product and business model are unique among the companies we’ve reviewed so far on the site, making head-to-head comparisons trickier. When comparisons fall short, or something can’t be said for sure, it will be noted in the review.
What do I get from GAF Energy?
Instead of dealing in solar panels, which get mounted to roofs on metal racks, GAF Energy sells solar shingles, called Timberline Solar, that nail into roofs like any old asphalt shingle. The shingles sit flat against the roof, with electrical components housed in conduit on the front of each one. It makes for a less obtrusive look than solar panels, but not as seamless as the sleek-but-pricey Tesla Solar Roof.
Can solar panels save you money?
Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.
Because solar shingles and solar panels are different technologies, it’s not as useful to compare the energy-generating specs of Timberline Solar and the offerings from other solar companies that offer solar panels.
But we can compare Timberline Solar to other solar shingle products. GAF Energy’s Timberline Solar warranties are on par with those for the Tesla Solar Roof, and are longer than other solar shingle brands we’ve seen. You get additional coverage options with GAF Energy, offering two different addendums to choose from. Timberline Solar shingles also have the highest efficiency rating of any solar shingle product we’ve seen (about 23%), according to GAF Energy.
Timberline Solar has the lowest wattage per shingle that we’ve seen (45 watts). The typical wattage of a solar shingle is around 70 watts and the average wattage of a solar panel is between 250 and 400 watts. You’ll likely need to install more Timberline Solar shingles than you would with other brands to meet your home’s energy needs and match the wattage of a singular solar panel.
Timberline Solar shingles are also a bit larger than similar solar shingle products, such as those from Tesla. Why does this matter? Solar shingles are typically priced per square foot. So you might need more shingles to meet your home’s energy needs with Timberline Solar.
In late July, GAF Energy issued a recall for some solar shingles and related equipment it had installed from November 2021 to April 2023, due to a fire risk. By early August, GAF Energy told CNET, 80% of the affected installations had already been repaired. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission noted reports of one fire and five “thermal incidents.”
What solar equipment does GAF Energy install?
GAF Energy only offers Timberline Solar shingles, and does not offer solar panels. And the company technically doesn’t install them. A GAF-certified contractor will be the one putting solar on your roof. You’ll be able to monitor your solar roof’s electricity production through the GAF Energy homeowner portal. This is web-based, meaning there’s no app.
Solar inverters play an important role in turning solar energy into usable energy for your home. GAF Energy uses Delta and SolarEdge string inverters. SolarEdge inverters are widely distributed, highly efficient and offer a solid warranty. They also won the top spot on CNET’s best solar inverters list. Delta inverters are a solid option as well, but we found SolarEdge to be the better choice of the two.
What about solar batteries? You’ll be able to get one, just not through GAF Energy. Timberline Solar roof is compatible with many battery options on the market, according to the company. You’ll need to speak with a licensed energy storage contractor to get a battery installed.
What warranties does GAF Energy offer?
Compared to similar solar shingle products on the market, GAF Energy offers a strong limited warranty for Timberline Solar. Here’s what you’ll get:
Product warranty: One of GAF Energy’s biggest promises with Timberline Solar is protection from leaks. So the company guarantees no leaks from manufacturer defects for 25 years.
Wind warranty: GAF Energy offers a 15-year warranty against winds up to 130 mph.
Power production warranty: GAF Energy says your solar shingles won’t decrease in production more than 2% in year one or more than 0.55% per year after that. After 25 years, Timberline Solar should still produce at 84.8% its original level. That rate of decline is in line with many solar panels in use today, but lags behind some top-of-the-line offerings.
For an additional cost, Timberline Solar comes with two enhanced solar warranties you can add on: Solar Plus and Solar Max. With a Solar Plus warranty addendum, you receive a one-year guarantee of the electrical workmanship and 10 years of coverage for third-party electronics.
With the Solar Max warranty addendum, you receive a 10-year guarantee on the electrical workmanship and 25 years of coverage for third-party electronics. You’ll also receive a 25-year solar power generation guarantee. This guarantees that your Timberline Solar system will generate a specific number of kilowatt hours by certain points throughout the 25 years. The value of this guarantee depends on how many kilowatt hours are promised. Such decisions are made from project to project.
Holmes said that while GAF isn’t focusing on backup batteries just now, the systems are compatible with all major battery brands, and customers will be able to add one.
Does GAF Energy use subcontractors?
Yes, GAF Energy uses a network of certified roofing and electrical contractors to install Timberline Solar shingles. These solar shingles are nailable, meaning that the actual “solar” shingles themselves can be installed by qualified roofers, along with the regular shingles on your roof at the same time. A local GAF-certified roofer will install the solar shingles and an electrician will handle the inverter installation, wiring and other electrical components.
How much does a Timberline Solar roof cost?
It’s hard to say. Comparing prices between Timberline Solar and conventional solar panels is difficult. While conventional solar panels go on top of your roof, Timberline Solar is part of your roof. That means you buy a new roof and Timberline Solar at the same time.
Though prices vary by market and by project, getting a new roof and solar from GAF Energy costs about the same as a new roof and traditional rooftop solar panels, the company said. So getting Timberline Solar only makes financial sense if you’re ready to replace your roof.
What financing options does GAF Energy offer?
GAF Energy itself doesn’t offer any financing or leasing options for Timberline Solar. But your GAF-certified contractor might. It’s pretty common for solar installers and contractors to offer some type of solar loan or financing program. Although some are better than others. If there are multiple GAF-certified solar roof installers in your area, compare their finance offerings to see which is most feasible for your budget.
There are other ways to pay for your solar roof as well. Paying cash up front, a personal loan from your bank or a home equity line of credit are just a few other options.
Does GAF Energy operate in my state? How do I order?
Timberline Solar is available in 16 states.
GAF Energy makes Timberline Solar, but it’s installed by GAF-certified Master Elite roofers. That means while some people come to GAF Energy directly through its website, most engage exclusively with their contractor.
If you’re in the market for a roof and specifically looking for Timberline Solar, you can fill out an online form on GAF Energy’s website, which will connect you with a local installer, or add you to a waitlist to be notified when Timberline Solar becomes available in your area. From ordering to installation, GAF-certified roofers handle the project, though they work with local electricians to handle the side of the project that involves inverter installation and necessary wiring.
Is GAF Energy my best choice?
While we weren’t able to buy or perform any kind of hands-on testing for this review, we can still compare the Timberline Solar roof to other solar roof products. And as far as solar roofs go, a Timberline Solar roof from GAF Energy is a solid choice. The other major solar roof player, Tesla Solar Roof, looks sleeker but comes at a fairly steep premium (though cost varies based on your roof’s complexity and size) and its maximum wind withstanding speed is 20 mph less. Timberline Solar shingles also have a maximum efficiency rating of 23%, according to GAF Energy. This is the highest efficiency rating of any other solar shingle brand we’ve seen. Timberline Solar from GAF Energy should match up well with conventional solar on price, too.
If you’re on the fence about whether you should install solar shingles or solar panels, the main factors to consider are your budget and aesthetics. Solar shingles will likely make the most sense for you if your roof needs to be replaced before installing solar panels, and if you’re not a fan of the “look” of solar panels on your roof. If you don’t need your roof replaced and you don’t care about aesthetics, installing solar panels is probably a better option. However, it’s worth pointing out that Timberline Solar’s performance over time is comparable to many conventional solar panels on the market today, although higher-performance solar panels have higher guaranteed performance later in their lives.
Solar roofs are still considered somewhat of a niche product in the solar space, and are offered by very few installers. You might even only have one solar roof option in your area. But to get the best price possible, get quotes from as many solar roof installers in your area as possible, even if there are only two.
Read more: Want something smaller than a whole-home solar system? See our picks for the best portable solar panels and solar generators.
GAF Energy pros and cons
- Installs like a normal roof
- Promises longer protection against leaks and defects
- High efficiency
- Can’t be angled
- Lower wattage per shingle than other solar roof options
- Could cost you more than solar panels
GAF Energy reviews: What are customers saying?
Reviews can provide a helpful method for evaluating the customer service quality of a company. But customer reviews should always be read with a grain of salt, and it’s important to do your own research and ask questions. Customer reviews for GAF Energy are a mix of good and bad reviews.
Here’s a small sample of positive and negative Google reviews for GAF Energy. These reviews have been lightly edited for spelling and grammar.
5 star reviews
“I purchased a Timberline Solar roof through GAF and was blown away with the level of service the team provided at every step. [One employee] guided us through the setup, scheduling, and other work. [Another employee] made sure the roof installation went smoothly and went perfectly. [Other employees] acted incredibly professional during the electrical work and had everything done efficiently and safely. I already have people asking about where they can get the roof. If you’re trying to decide between GAF and Tesla, the level of attention and ability to get questions answered by knowledgeable staff make GAF the clear choice.” Kevin C.
“Our old roof of 40 years needed to be replaced and GAF Energy provides an excellent solution with their Timberline Solar roofing system. Our solar shingles were installed a month ago and we couldn’t be more pleased! [Employees] have been great throughout the entire process. Their customer support has been exemplary and we always had an open line of communication. Everything went smoothly from the first site visit, installation and cleanup to the final inspections.” Kenny. K
1 star reviews
“We’re renovating our Florida home and looking to install a PV solution to cover our power usage. After researching various options, we found the GAF solar shingle solution to be the most promising. We reached out to a roofing company recommended by GAF and things quickly took a turn for the worst. Despite being told about the benefits of the technology, we never received a concrete offer. When we followed up, we were told we’d have a call with a GAF Energy representative, but they never showed up. After weeks of no progress, we reached out to GAF for another contact, only to be connected with the same roofer. We tried finding other roofers on the website, but none of them had experience with the solar roof product. In the end, we switched to Tesla, who provided a compelling offer within hours.” Rolf R.
“If I could give them zero stars I would. They did not know the specifics of my state/area, and they put too many panels on our home. When our electric company denied our application and explained to GAF what choices we had for the solar to be accepted, GAF did not call us to discuss it with us. We had to hear about it by calling the electric company. Meanwhile, months went by with us paying for the solar but getting no benefit. They went months without speaking to us even though we continued to request information from them. If it were not for our roofing company and our diligence with calling the electric company, we never would have had our solar approved.” Marcie R.
How we evaluate solar companies
Reviewing solar companies in a hands-on way is difficult. Accounting for all the differences project to project is impossible. To provide a helpful review, we focused on what we can measure and meaningfully compare among companies.
We focus on three buckets of criteria: equipment, warranties and service.
Within the equipment category, companies receive scores for the panels, inverters and batteries they install. Warranties include the guarantees on the panels, workmanship and weatherization against leaks. Companies earn points for service if they offer a price match, a meaningful level of price transparency and a well-rated app for monitoring solar production. They lose points if there are major issues pertaining to customer service (lawsuits, investigations or clear reputations for shoddy service). These issues will always be detailed in the review.
You can read a detailed look at how the scoring breaks down.
We don’t consider the average price of a company’s installations in their score. This information is difficult to find and hard to compare across service areas (and even roof to roof). Companies are often slow to disclose it, too. We also leave out easily found but not useful information like how many states a company operates in.
Frequently asked questions