Are Solar Roofing Tiles Worth It?
- An overview of the technology and how it works
- How solar roofing tiles compare to traditional panels
- The pros and cons
The decision to go with solar panels or solar roofing tiles can be a tricky one. It’s often worth considering the benefits and the drawbacks of each to help you make up your mind. So how do solar tiles differ from traditional solar panels? Designed to replace standard clay or slate roof tiles, these are a way of maximising how much electricity you can generate without being limited to the number of panels you can fit on your roof.
This article will look at photovoltaic solar roof tiles in detail, from what they are and how they work to how they compare to traditional solar panels. It will also look at how much electricity they can generate, how much they cost and their benefits and drawbacks.
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What Are Solar Roofing Tiles?
Perhaps the most well-known alternative to solar panels, solar tiles offer a sleek, seamless look that is practically invisible. Instead of panels that have to be bolstered to the roof of a building, solar tiles replace ordinary roof tiles in a less disruptive way. They also come in a wide range of styles to complement the type of roof or neighbourhood you live in, without being obvious or out of place.
Once considered a luxury, solar roofing tiles were initially only available in America. As the technology has improved over the years, solar tiles have become more readily available and at a more affordable price. With many homeowners becoming interested in going solar, the demand is there to satisfy more companies to market and produce solar tiles.
Not all areas of your roof will be in the perfect condition to produce electricity from solar power, so not all of your roof tiles will be solar tiles. To save time and money, dummy tiles are used in areas of low light or poor optimisation. They look exactly like their solar neighbours but don’t generate any power.
This does make it sound as though you’re not getting value for money, but it would cost you a lot more if every tile was a solar one. Not only this, but it’s not worth your time installing solar roofing tiles in areas where they won’t generate much or any electricity whatsoever. A north-west facing roof will have dummy tiles because power generation will be at least ⅓ lower than if they were placed on a south facing roof.
Photovoltaic Solar Roof vs Solar Panels
While solar panels come in three different types (monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film), solar tiles only come in two (monocrystalline and thin-film). The technology required for solar roofing tiles needs to be smaller, which is why they only have these two options. The smaller technology doesn’t mean they aren’t as strong as solar panels, just that solar tiles won’t generate as much electricity.
The most obvious difference between these two types of solar technology is that while panels are attached to rails and sit above the roof tiles, solar tiles replace your whole roof. Usually, the whole roof needs to be replaced, as solar roofing tiles can’t just replace a few tiles here and there. The system needs to be wired in and installed at the same time, making sure that it is weatherproof and robust.
How Do Roof Integrated Solar Panels Compare?
Integrated solar panels, or in-roof panels, are slightly different. They replace some of your roof tiles but look like the classic on-roof solar panel. They are designed to seamlessly fit against your tiles and still generate electricity. In-roof panels are a sort of in-between for both solar panels and solar roofing tiles.
In-roof solar panels can be cheaper than other types if there is no additional labour involved. If you have to remove existing tiles, then you can end up paying more. You may be asking if integrated solar panels are worth it instead. In their favour, they are much cheaper than solar roofing tiles, which gives you more choice when looking to go against the grain of traditional on-roof panels.
How Efficient Are Solar Roof Tiles?
Where solar panel efficiencies have improved over time, the best ones on the market can achieve 18-25% efficiency. solar roofing tiles, on the other hand, are slightly lower, typically being between 10-20% efficient. Usually, you can make up for a lack of efficiency by having more tiles installed on your roof. You’re still limited to the size of your roof, but not as much as bulkier solar panels.
The type of roof that is best suited to photovoltaic solar roofing tiles is one that’s south facing and pitched at the perfect angle. While solar panels can be angled slightly easier, roof tiles are fixed and do not have this freedom. Without having the perfect conditions for solar tiles, you won’t be able to maximise the benefit of having this system.
What Do Solar Roofing Tiles Cost?
Solar tiles are, and always have been, more expensive to buy than solar panels. Depending on what sort of wattage you’re after, this will set you back more, as well as how big your roof is. Likewise, the labour costs involved will increase the bigger the job is going to be.
You can see typical costs for photovoltaic solar roof tiles in the graph below.
Retrofitting solar roofing tiles is not realistically possible at this point in time. The existing tiles need to be removed and then a whole new solar roof fitted to replace it. Installation usually takes up to a week, which is why labour costs can be as high as £2,200.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Solar Roof
Finding ways to make your home greener and stylish can sometimes be a challenge, but solar roofing tiles come with plenty of advantages.
Increase property value
Robust and weather-resistant
For people living in listed buildings or in a conservation area, it can be more difficult to get solar installed. Solar panels are invasive and you won’t often receive approval from the local authority to have them fitted. solar roofing tiles, on the other hand, are ideal in this scenario as they aren’t as obvious. As the tiles just need to be replaced, they are more likely to be approved. You will need to check first though, to avoid any fines.
Solar roofing tiles look uniform on the top of a property and have the added bonus of being able to increase its value. There is no guaranteed minimum increase, but estimates range from between 4% and 14%. More demand for solar power is on the rise, and solar tiles can make sure your home appeals to a wider audience of homebuyers.
Perhaps the greatest advantage to photovoltaic solar roofing tiles is how strong they are. Being flat on the roof, they are extremely resistant to weathering, such as from gale-force winds, and are strong enough to withstand high impacts without breaking. With no gaps between the tiles, strong winds aren’t able to do any damage.
On the flip side of things, solar roofing tiles don’t always offer the perfect picture they paint.
No retrofit option
Not suitable for all roofs
You can’t get around the fact that solar roof tiles are sometimes twice as expensive as a similar wattage in a solar panel system. Even worse than this is that they can’t be retrofitted, making them much more expensive to install. As the whole roof needs to be removed first, solar roofing tiles can end up costing you a premium.
Likewise, all roofs are different, pitched at various angles and sometimes not even facing the sun. If the conditions aren’t ideal for catching the most amount of sunlight, you won’t benefit from getting solar roofing tiles installed. Because the efficiencies aren’t as high as solar panels, solar tiles won’t generate as much electricity, which can be a concern if you don’t have a large roof.
Finally, unlike solar panels that can be installed within a day, solar roofing tiles can take up to a week to be fitted. They are more invasive to affix, which will end up costing you extra in labour. Scaffolding will need to be around for a lot longer and the cost of removal of your existing roof tiles will also need to be factored in.
Which System Should You Get?
Weighing up the pros and cons can be a tough job, but it mainly depends on your situation as to whether you should go for solar panels or tiles. If your roof isn’t perfectly angled, you will be better off going for the traditional panels. If you have more of a budget to put towards going solar, however, it could be more beneficial for you to go for solar roofing tiles.
Even though solar roofing tiles aren’t as efficient as panels, the best performing ones can generate more electricity than the cheapest solar panels. If you add in the extra aesthetic appeal, you could lean more towards solar tiles.
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