Guide to Solar Roof Tiles
As more and more of the world begins to transition in earnest away from fossil fuels and towards more renewable sources of energy, it is more important than ever to consider how each of us can more be eco-friendly in our daily lives. Using public transport and shopping locally are great starts but the best place to really make a difference is in our homes or, in this case, on our roofs.
In the distant past perhaps whilst only seen as a gimmick, solar power has quickly become one of the UK’s highest sustainable outputs, only behind wind and biomass, with enough produced to power around 3 Millon households (As of 2021). Not only is solar good for the environment, but it is also more efficient, helps with our economic growth and, coming directly from the sun, is completely free.
It is no wonder then, that solar panels and tiles have become more of a talking point in recent years with many homeowners on the fence as to whether to make the investment. In this brief guide, we’ll go through some of the reasons why you might (or might not) want to take the leap – including that all-important cost factor.
What are Solar Roof Tiles?
A new and emerging technology, solar roof tiles offer the one thing that panels are sorely lacking. Subtlety. They are designed not only to provide you with heaps of electricity but to look and appear as regular tiles - keeping a smart and uninterrupted finish to your roofline.
To dip our toes into the technical aspect, they take photons naturally produced by the sun and use them to knock electrons loose from their atoms. These electrons then flow through a circuit created by the use of solar cells (which act like semiconductors) to generate a direct current which, with the use of an inverter, can then be run through an AC grid to power your home.
Essentially, they function in much the same way as solar panels but with one key difference. Solar tiles cannot just be attached to the top of your roof, nor can you simply replace a few of your current tiles with Solar alternatives. For the system to function as intended your entire roof would have to be replaced and rebuilt with either a complete set of solar’s or a mixture of both Solar powered and traditional tiles.
Perhaps the most well-known supplier of soalr roof tiles, Tesla is currently dominating much of the conversation. Partnered with a company called Hanwha, they offer bundles and installations with the big selling point being long-term energy savings. Whilst not yet available in the UK, the initial findings over in America seem promising with the tiles not only offering self-sufficiency but also a strength touted to be roughly three times stronger than standard alternatives.
As for more homegrown tiles, your choices are fairly limited at the moment, with the main companies to keep an eye out for being Solecco Solar in England and GB Sol Solar tiles in Wales. Both manufacture their own tiles, though currently, only Solecco offers a range of finishes to choose from.
How Energy Efficient are Solar Roof Tiles?
Alongside cost, energy efficiency is likely the main way you’ll be able to determine a tiles efficacy. The better its energy efficiency, the more electricity it can produce and the more power it can offer to your home. Of course, higher efficiency will also mean you require less traditionally sourced power which, in turn, will also lead to lowered bills.
As it stands at the moment solar tiles can offer an efficiency of anywhere between 10 – 20%. For context, most panels will offer around 16, but it is important to remember that they have been around for a lot longer and that tiles are constantly under development. It is very possible that this number will increase in the coming years.
Are Solar Roof Tiles Right for Your Home?
We are well aware however that developments in ‘the coming years’ are not particularly helpful for those of you looking to make a decision now. To help get you to one side of the fence or the other, we’ve taken the liberty of addressing a few features you can expect from Solar Tiles.
Marketed as one of their primary selling points, you cannot speak on the benefits of solar tiles without mentioning their stunning aesthetics. They have been specifically designed to look like normal tiles, sidestepping the often gaudy appearance that panels offer instead.
Solar tiles have also been designed to last. Seeing as they are a long-term investment it only makes sense that they boast a durability hardy enough to make that investment worthwhile. Tesla tiles for example are designed for all-weather protection have been supplied in the US with a 25-year warranty to back this up.
Of course, anything designed to last as long as these tiles and with as much tech packed into them are bound to cost more than any ordinary tiles. We’ll go into this in a bit more detail below, but safe to say solar tiles will, more often than not, clock in at around double that of anything traditional.
They are also extremely limited in their use and offer little flexibility when it comes to installations. They may likely never be a viable choice for those looking to replace a few broken tiles and, unless you’re fitting a whole new roof or working on a new build entirely, rarely make for a viable option.
How Are Solar Roof Tiles Installed & How Much Do They Cost?
As you might expect, replacing your whole roof with a solar system is not a simple job. It most certainly cannot be done in a day nor by anybody but qualified professionals – of which there are not too many currently in the UK.
Generally speaking, most solar roofs will be made up of two types of tiles: Producing and Non-Producing. Whilst they may look the same the reality is the actual solar cells will be mixed in with normal tiles and placed in the area of your roof which receives the most sunlight.
The non-producing tiles are installed first, after which the more complicated process of installing the actual Solar tiles can begin. This may require an electrician, or someone certified to work the cables and wires to ensure they are all functioning properly. Of course, this is alongside a roofer to help with their positioning and fixing. Once this is done, the rest of the installation can then proceed as normal, with the fabrication of appropriate trims and other detailing work.
When it comes to the cost for all this, like with any roof installation, the exact figure will depend on the size of your roof and the specific brand of tile. For reference you can expect a 1Kw system installation to cost anywhere between £5,500 - £7,000, with high-grade systems reaching up to £12,000 or even £16,000. Of course, this may be in addition to any work that needs to be done to your roof beforehand, such as the removal and disposal of old tiles or slates.
Solar roof tiles are an investment. We’ve said it before in this article already, but for those put off by the price, it is important to remember. Installed correctly and receiving a good amount of light, it is more than possible that they will pay for themselves down the line. The question is whether you are prepared to wait for them to do so.
Solar Roof Tiles vs Solar Panels
The numbers above are daunting to be sure, especially so given it is such a new and largely underutilised technology. The more cautious homeowner out there may find the proposition of removing their entire roof one that is simply not feasible when the option of panels also exists.
They would have a point. The reality is while solar tiles are an exciting new development and may well become the norm in the future, right now panels are cheaper, more versatile, and much easier to install. A 1kw panel for example can cost less than half of that of a tile system of comparable power. They can also be fitted more easily to different pitches of roof while tiles may require a more specific angle.
All in all, unless you have the budget and are interested in taking the leap into what amounts to a new and growing industry, panels remain the more ideal choice for the average home. Although, that is not to say it will always be that way. The progress made in solar tiles the last few years has been impressive and if intertest continues to grow we may see them becoming a regular feature on roofs across the UK at some point down the line.
Have More Questions About Your Roofing Project?
Whilst we don't currently offer solar roof tiles, you'll find over 40,000 materials at Roofing Megastore. These include gorgeous roof windows, tough roof tiles, and much more. So, if you need a hand choosing your roofing material simply get in touch with our award-winning team. They can be reached by calling 01295 565 565 or dropping us a message via our online chat.