Solar roof tiles provide homeowners with the chance to benefit from the savings that can be made with solar panels but who don’t want traditional solar panels on their roofs.
There are advantages and disadvantages to choosing solar tiles over solar panels. The average solar panel installation is a 3kW system costing £4,000-£6,000. Replace solar panels with solar tiles and you’re looking at a cost of £10,000-£12,000 instead. Is it worth the difference?
In this article, we’ll look at:
- how solar tiles work,
- what they cost,
- what sort of money you can save by using them, and
- who’s manufacturing them.
At the end, we’ll put solar roof tiles and solar panels head to head to help you work out which choice is right for you.
Household Quotes tip – you may often see solar roof tiles referred to as solar slates, solar shingles, or PV roof tiles.
Solar roof tiles growing in popularity
New-build homes are being fitted with solar tiles as standard in increasing numbers. The people purchasing these brand-new houses will benefit permanently from the savings on electricity bills that solar power has been proven to bring over the last couple of decades.
For existing houses, more and more homeowners are asking specialist solar roof tile installation companies to replace their current roof with solar roof tiles.
Why solar roof tiles over normal solar panels?
For many people, the idea of having the large, standard solar panels bolted on to their home covering most or all of their roof is not desirable as they believe solar panels would negatively affect the aesthetic appearance of their home. Solar roof tiles were developed to service this exact marketplace.
Where a home is a listed building and/or it’s situated in a conservation area, planning permissions for solar tile panels is much more likely to be approved than for solar panels although we would urge any homeowner in this situation to check with their local authority before making a purchase.
Solar roof tiles as an investment
Solar roof tiles are a smart investment by any homeowner looking to add value to their property and reduce their annual electricity costs.
Research in America by Tesla Roof Shingles has indicated that homeowners will benefit from a 10% jump in the value of their properties when they install solar roof tiles.
The Energy Savings Trust has estimated that a home which has solar roof tiles installed on it will earn up to £7,250 cash over a 25-year period based upon payments made under the Feed-In Tariff system and savings achieved against standard energy bills.
How does the Feed-In Tariff system work?
The Government’s Feed-In Tariff system is split into two parts – a tariff for generation and another tariff for export.
The generation tariff earns money for your household for every kWh of electricity generated by your solar roof tiles.
The export tariff then pays you for every kWh of electricity you don’t use which is then sold to the National Grid.
The current rates are:
|Time period||Date range||Generation Tariff||Export Tariff|
|Q1||1st Jan – 31st Mar 2018||3.93p per kWh||5.03p per kWh|
Solar roof tiles and the Feed-In Tariff system
To join the Feed-In Tariff system, you need to purchase your solar tiles from an accredited supplier of the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).
You receive your solar roof tile installer’s MCS certificate when the work is done. Then, you can apply for and benefit from the Government’s two major incentive schemes – the Feed-In Tariff and the Renewable Heat Incentive.
Upon successful registration, you will start to receive payments from the Feed-In Tariff scheme. You will be paid under the tariff for twenty years and your payments are not subject to taxation and do not count towards your personal tax allowance.
Solar roof tiles and saving money on energy
When you’ve installed your solar roof tiles, they’ll be responsible for generating a significant amount of the electricity your household uses. This “home-grown” energy reduces the amount of power that you have to buy from your utility company bringing down the value of the monthly direct debit you pay for your electricity.
Based on an electricity bill of £600 a year, your household could save over 50% on its annual energy charges with a 4kW solar roof tile system. The smallest option, a 1kW system, will produce savings closer to 15%.
Photovoltaic roof tiles – how they work
Solar roof tiles work in exactly the same way as the solar panels you’re familiar with.
The tiles take heat and energy from the sun and convert them into electricity using the photovoltaic process. This process creates an electrical field and this field is then converted into the electricity which powers your home.
In your loft or roof space, there will be a connection point. This connection point joins the solar roof tiles with electrical cables and an inverter. The electricity that your solar roof tiles create is DC power. Your inverter changes the DC power into the AC power which is what all the electrical items in your house run on.
How much electricity can they generate?
The more roof tiles you have, the more electricity they can generate.
Other factors also influence the amount of energy creation including:
- how long the sun is out
- the pitch of your roof
- how your south-facing roof is orientated in relation to the position of the sun
- how efficient the make of solar tiles you’ve purchased are.
There are times when your solar roof tiles will provide more electricity than your house needs. When this is the case, the surplus electricity will be fed into the National Grid and you’ll receive payment for that via the Feed-In Tariff (described above).
More and more homeowners are now wishing to keep the surplus electricity they create and they can do this via a solar battery storage system (link to article).
The benefits of storing your own electricity are that it’s cheaper to use up your stored energy than buy it from your utility company via the National Grid. And, in the event of a power failure, you can use the energy retained by the solar battery storage system to provide electricity to your appliances.
Who are the market leaders in solar tiles?
There are two main companies which manufacture solar tiles – SolarCentury and TESLA.
SolarCentury solar tiles
SolarCentury is a UK-based manufacturer of solar tiles. Their solar tiles and panels have been fitted on 25,000 homes in Britain since the founders launched the company in 1988. The company’s most prestigious award in their 30-year history was the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation.
They produce three types of solar roof covering:
- the C21e Solar Slate tile,
- the C21e Solar Plain tile, and
- the C21e Solar Roof tile
SolarCentury have incorporated the latest technology into the selection of tiles – monocrystalline.
Monocrystalline tiles are built from the highest-grade silicon inglots. The main advantage of this to a homeowner considering solar roof tiles is that these carefully-constructed inglots enjoy the highest efficiency rating from the three main types of solar technology. The superiority of monocrystalline does mean though that it comes in at a highest cost than the other two options.
SolarCentury solar tiles are very durable and hard-wearing – the company offers a 25-year power guarantee and a 10-year tile warranty on all of its products, offering real peace of mind to would-be purchasers especially as this will be a fairly major investment for the majority of homeowners.
TESLA solar roof
TESLA are a California-based company best known for the design, production, and sale of high-end electric-powered vehicles. Originally, TESLA’s roof tiles were tested out by a handful of their employees. It was the favourable reaction of those employees which eventually led to the launch of its solar tiles and solar panels division, under the brand name “Solar City”.
Now the company have opened up their solar tile retail operation in the UK and SolarCity solar tiles and solar panels are available to purchase here. They expect to begin certifying installers throughout 2018.
TESLA claims that their solar tiles are three times stronger than standard roofing tiles. Their tiles are available in four different styles – slate, smooth, Tuscan, and textured.
TESLA offers an unlimited warranty on the tile itself and offer customers the guarantee that the tiles will produce energy for at least 30 years after purchase.
SolarCentury solar tiles versus TESLA solar tiles
Having as the first point of comparison between the two energy output, SolarCentury wins meaning that its customers, over time, will end up saving more money on their electricity bills
On warranties, TESLA wins as both its tile warranty and power generation warranty beat the current offering by SolarCentury. It also has a wider range of design styles giving you the option to personalise your solar roof tile installation.
Solar panels vs solar tiles
Not sure whether you should choose standard solar panels or the newer and more attractive solar roof tiles?
The choice is yours but these are the main factors we believe that you should take into consideration.
Solar roof tiles are a lot more discreet than solar panels and evidence from America suggests that they add to the value of your home. You can enjoy a warranty of up to 30 years of power generation meaning that you’ll see a return on your investment each year for the next three decades in the form of lower electricity bills.
If you worry about the look of solar panels, then solar roof tiles are aesthetically a lot more pleasing. Homeowners living in listed buildings or in conservation areas are more likely to get planning permission (if needed) for solar roof tiles as they will not detract too much from the desired visual appearance a planning officer will be seeking to preserve.
However, solar roof tiles are difficult to retrofit – you most likely will need to replace your entire roof to have solar roof tiles installed. That’s a big expense.
Solar roof tiles are more expensive than solar panels (up to 100% more in price) and the difference in price is not likely to come down any time soon because it’s a smaller market than the solar panel market and there’s much less competition between manufacturers.
Solar roof tiles are less efficient than solar panels. They will produce less electricity for you than solar panels covering the same surface area on your roof. Whilst you may benefit from an increase in the price of your home, you are going to get smaller pay-outs on your Feed-In Tariff for 20 years because solar roof tiles will produce less surplus electricity.
Solar tile price
A 1kW system fitted to your roof will cost between £5,000 and £7,000. For every additional kW, the price is likely to increase by around £2,500.
How to find out more
Although there are only two major companies supplying solar roof tiles at the time of writing, competition in this market place is expected to double in the next 2-3 years as consumers realise that they don’t have to have large solar panels bolted onto the top of their houses to enjoy the benefit of power from the Sun.
Make sure that you contact a MCS installer who can help not just with the selection of the solar roof tiling option you wish but with careful and professional solar roof tile installation to your home.