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Solar Panel vs Roof Tiles – Which Is Better?

Author: Samuel Beckingham
Updated: Dec 20, 2023
6 minutes read
  • Solar panel roof tiles or a solar array?
  • How solar panel price affects the payback period
  • Why choose a solar panel over roof tiles

Renewable energy is easy to make use of at home, and with both PV cells and solar panel roof tiles available, there’s options for everyone. Naturally, these systems differ in how much electricity they can produce, but that’s not the only contrast between the two.

Using a solar panel vs roof tiles can come down to one factor above any other, such as the amount of power you can generate. The main reason why we’re looking at solar panels in the singular against roof tiles is because one panel can produce more electricity than an individual roof tile.

This article will aim to explain all the differences between traditional PV systems and the more modern solar panel roof tiles. From price and installation method of solar panel and roof tiles, to efficiency and general aesthetic, all your questions will be answered. We will also look at whether roof tiles or solar panels are better depending on a number of factors.

Ready to purchase a solar system? Use our online quote comparison tool to receive local, tailored quotes. It only takes a minute.

Half an image of a roof with solar panels and one with solar roof tiles

What’s the Difference?

Firstly, let’s discuss how roof tiles and solar panels are different. While a solar panel has roof tiles underneath it, solar tiles replace your existing roof surface. The tiles have solar technology integrated within them, minimising the amount of visible apparatus on the top of your home. Though the angles can be adjusted more easily with a traditional PV system, solar panel roof tiles are fixed and limited to the pitch of the existing roof.

The other main difference is that you can’t simply replace a few concrete or slate tiles with solar tiles; the whole roof needs to be upgraded. Solar panels, on the other hand, can be fitted singularly or a few at a time, but they are more limited to how much space the roof has.

How Much Do Solar Panel Roof Tiles Cost?

It goes without saying that the more expensive system is solar slate over panels. The technology is more compact and much more labour-intensive to install. As innovation in solar panel roof tiles hasn’t been as intense as traditional PV systems, they aren’t as cheap. Solar panel prices, on the other hand, reduced by 82% between 2010 and 2019, making them incredibly cost-effective.

You can see typical costs of both solar systems in the interactive graph below.

Where a 1kW PV cell will cost you £2,500, the equivalent system in solar panel roof tiles will set you back 2.2 times as much. A 4kW system, on the other hand, is effectively half price if you choose a panel over solar tiles. Bear in mind, these costs don’t cover labour, which will spread over a week for solar roofing as opposed to a day or two for PV panels.

Tesla solar panel roof tiles have been promised in the UK for a number of years, but have met a series of delays. It’s unclear when they will be available for purchase.

For further information, you can see the costs of solar roof tiles in 2024 in our accompanying guide. This also details the manufacturers available in the UK.

How Efficient Are They?

Solar Roof Vector

Solar efficiency has increased by some margin since the early days. The most efficient monocrystalline solar cells are capable of 27% efficiency, while the best solar panel roof tiles can reach 20%. On average, PV tiles are 8-15% less efficient than their traditional panel counterparts. This means that you need more of them to generate the same amount of power, which is one of the reasons why the whole roof needs to be replaced when you choose solar panel roof tiles over the more traditional type.

Whether you choose a solar panel or roof tiles, both systems should be able to cover your electricity needs. Even though tiles are less efficient, it doesn’t mean they aren’t fit for purpose. You may still be able to cover all your needs through solar slate.

How Long Does Installation Take? Solar Panel vs Roof Tiles

Installing solar panels is a relatively seamless job. The labour required can be reduced to a couple of days, but a larger solar array will take longer to install. Most of this time is taken up by erecting and removing the scaffolding as panels can typically be installed within a matter of hours.

The difference in installation times from changing solar panels to roof tiles can be drastic. Whether you’re looking to switch from PV cells to solar slate or you have an existing roof, the whole system and structure will need to be taken down first. Removing solar panels will take even longer. Not only will more scaffolding be needed, as it affects your whole roof, but the beams need to be bare before the solar panel roof tiles can be secured. This usually takes about a week to do, but larger properties will take longer.

Which Is Better?

Overall, you cannot beat traditional solar panels at this moment in time. Not only will you be saving in terms of cost and how much power you can generate, they are a lot less intrusive to install compared to solar panel roof tiles. You can understand why they are the most popular choice of low carbon technology for homeowners, as 72% of people would install solar panels if money was no object. You can save yourself money by choosing a solar panel over roof tiles.


Solar Slate Vector

Older generations don’t tend to like the look of solar panels, while the younger generations prefer them. Whether you like how PV arrays appear on a property or you prefer the uniformity and seamless integration of solar panel roof tiles, the debate is entirely subjective. If you want to make it less obvious you have a home powered by sunlight, then the technology of a solar panel within roof tiles could be for you.


In terms of raw power, you will benefit from more electricity generation from monocrystalline solar panels over roof tiles. While the most efficient solar slate can be more efficient than the cheapest PV panels, you need to factor in how much you’ll pay for them as well.

Payback Period

Ultimately, there is a higher price tag for solar panel roof tiles as the technology isn’t as widely available. Not only that, but you have to consider how long it will take for the system to pay for itself. Payback periods for a standard PV array can be around 6 years, while payback for solar roofing tiles is likely to be anywhere upwards of 20 years.

The actual payback period is dependent on a lot of factors, such as:

  • The size of your system

  • Solar tile cost or solar panel price

  • How much electricity you generate

  • How much solar energy you use

  • If you have a solar battery

  • How much you export back to the grid (and the rates you receive)

  • What rates you pay for electricity use

  • How many hours of sunlight you get

  • If your roof is angled perfectly (especially for roof tiles)

  • How long the system will last

The payback period for traditional on-roof panels has been calculated in our article on solar panel costs.

Lifetime of Solar Panel Roof Tiles and PV Cells

The lifetime of solar roofing tiles and panels is fairly consistent. The optimal rate at which they will generate electricity will gradually deplete over time, but panels last around 25-30 years in this window. Solar slate is usually guaranteed for at least 25 years, but most manufacturers agree that they will last longer than standard roof tiles.

Get a quote for solar panels in the UK by filling in your details using the button below. Alternatively, you can receive a quote for solar roof tiles by doing the same.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Solar Tiles

The advantages of solar panel roof tiles are mainly about their aesthetics, but also extend to their durability and ease of use for listed buildings. You can benefit from discreet solar power without making it obvious to your neighbours, and be safe in the knowledge that they will last throughout bad weather.

On the downside, the disadvantages of solar tiles are mainly down to their higher cost. Additionally, they are not as efficient as a traditional on-roof PV system. A lack of efficiency of around 10–20% means a lot less electricity can be generated throughout the year. Not only this, but the installation time for PV slate is much longer as the whole roof needs to be replaced.

You can see a full list of pros and cons in the table below.

Ready to Start Your Solar Journey?

Now that you know all about PV slates and how they work in comparison to traditional panels, why not get a quote? Click on the button below to receive quotes from local MCS accredited installers. They will get in touch to provide you with tailored quotes for your area, whether you’re after solar panels, tiles or a battery.