As energy price rises start to bite, more homeowners are looking to renewable alternatives such as wind and solar as a means to power their homes. For most homes, solar is the most cost-efficient technology, because solar PV panels can be installed on an existing roof without requiring any structural alterations.
However, the one downside to solar is that the panels themselves are not exactly aesthetically pleasing. They look fine on most modern concrete tile roofs but stick out like a sore thumb on traditional terracotta tiled roofs. This can put some buyers off installing the technology.
But there is a solution. Solar roof tiles are designed to look like traditional tiles, which means they can be installed on any home without destroying its curb appeal. This makes them ideal for installation on listed buildings or those located in conservation areas. So in this article, we are going to look at solar roof tile technology in more detail.
What are solar roof tiles?
Solar roof tiles are essentially solar panels disguised as roof tiles. They use the same solar photovoltaic technology as conventional solar panels, but they are built into the fabric of the roof like traditional tiles. This makes them almost invisible from the curb, eliminating the one big downside of conventional solar panels.
How much do solar roof tiles cost?
Because solar roof tiles are built into the roof, they are more expensive to retrofit on an existing roof. For example, a conventional 4kW solar panel installation costs around £6,500 to install on an existing roof. The price for a similarly sized 4kW solar roof tile system will come to more than twice that, between £12,000 and £16,000.
However, the cost comes down if you are replacing an existing roof or installing a new one. The actual cost will depend on the style of tiles and how much of the roof needs to be covered. But as a guide, solar roof tiles cost from £160/sqm, while standard roof tiles cost from £40 to £60/sqm.
Where can you buy solar roof tiles?
Solar roof tiles are still a niche product in the UK, so your options are limited. We have created the following shortlist of suppliers to help you find the right solution.
GB Sol Solar tiles
GB Sol(link opens in a new window) is one of the UK’s oldest manufacturers of solar panels. Their PV Slate solar roof tiles range is a popular choice because it’s one of the most cost-effective. But, it’s only available in a single colour natural blue-grey, which limits your options somewhat.
But the panels themselves are good quality and blend in perfectly with natural blue-grey slate tiles, so you can build an invisible solar installation with GB Sol PV Slate. Pricing for a 4kW system is around £8,600 plus the cost of installation.
Solecco Solar(link opens in a new window) is another well-known UK manufacturer of solar panels. Their solar tiles range is available in eight natural slate colours including smooth grey, terracotta and old English dark red.
The cost of installing a Solecco Solar system is more than GB Sol. Expect to pay around £12,000 for a standard 4kW system. The company also supplies standard tiles designed to precisely match the solar tiles, allowing you to build a completely invisible system.
Cupa Pizarras(link opens in a new window) is one of the world’s leading suppliers of slate roofs. Their Thermoslate product operates like a solar thermal system, so it can only be used to heat water and not generate electricity directly.
However, much like the other systems listed here, Thermoslate is completely invisible. The solar collectors themselves are made of slate, so they blend in seamlessly with the surrounding tiles. The system is also cheaper to install than other solar roof tile systems, so expect to pay around £100/sqm.
What about Tesla Solar roof tiles?
Tesla leads the way when it comes to developing sustainable technology. They are famous for their electric cars, Powerwall and solar panels. Tesla was also one of the first companies to release solar roof tiles(link opens in a new window) back in 2016.
So you may be asking, where can you buy them? The answer is you can’t, at least not yet. Elon Musk announced that Tesla Solar Tiles would be coming to the UK in 2019, but the product has been delayed.
But when and if they do become available over here you can expect a tough and durable roof tile that is three times stronger than standard roof tiles. They are also available in 4-styles and 3-textures. And in they come with a 25-year warranty as standard.
There is no word on pricing yet, but expect them to command a premium over other solar roof tiles. As for when you can expect to buy them. Fingers crossed, it looks like they may become available in 2023. Watch this space.
How do solar roof tiles compare with solar panels?
Are you still unsure if solar roof tiles are the right choice? Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of a solar roof tile installation vs a standard solar PV installation. This will give you a better idea of which option is right for you.
Curb appeal is the biggest advantage of solar roof tiles. Because the solar panels blend in seamlessly with traditional slate or concrete roof tiles, the entire installation is almost invisible.
Suitable for listed buildings
The discrete nature of solar roof tiles means they are uniquely suitable for listed buildings or properties in conservation areas. While planning permission is not required in conservation areas, planners do expect changes to be in keeping with the local area.
More durable than roof tiles
Solar roof tiles are more durable than traditional slate tiles. This will provide greater protection against hail, snow and strong winds. And because the tiles are mounted directly to the roof slats, there is no risk of animals nesting underneath them.
More expensive than solar panels
There is no getting away from the fact that solar roof tiles are around twice as expensive as conventional solar PV panels. So if you are going solar to save money, conventional solar PV panels make more financial sense.
Less efficient than solar panels
Solar roof panels are also less efficient than solar PV panels. Actual efficiency levels vary across manufacturers, but most manufacturers list an efficiency rating of between 10-20%, compared to 18-25% for conventional panels.
Not compatible with existing roof tiles
Solar roof tiles cannot be installed without replacing your existing roof tiles. This makes installation considerably more expensive and disruptive than with a standard solar PV system.
Because the entire roof has to be replaced when installing solar roof tiles, installation not only takes longer, it’s a lot more disruptive. A typical installation takes around two weeks to complete, compared to a couple of days for a standard installation.
Are solar roof tiles right for you?
Solar roof tiles are an exciting technology, but they are still in their infancy. That means buyers have limited options available to them and prices remain stubbornly high. So at the present moment, conventional solar panels make more financial sense.
However, they do have a place in certain circumstances. For example, homes located in conservation areas must ensure any development is in keeping with the local area. While this does not preclude the installation of solar panels, they must be installed in a way that minimises their impact. Solar roof tiles are ideal for meeting this regulation.
While listed buildings or properties located on the site of a listed building or monument must obtain listed building consent before making any external changes to the property. In this scenario, consent is more likely to be granted if you can show that the external appearance of the building will not be altered by the addition of solar panels.
Another option would be to look at integrated solar panels (also known as ‘in-roof’ solar panels). These are essentially ‘on-roof’ solar panels that sit flush with roof tiles. You can expect to pay more for integrated solar over conventional should you be retrofitting on an existing roof. However, costs will be lower when installing on a new roof.
Read our Integrated Solar Panels article for more information.
Looking at the local market, GB Sol offers one of the few solar panel roof tiles already available in the UK. The company designed their PV Slate to integrate with slate roofs. They manufacture the shingles in Wales. Solecco is another great alternative for solar tiles in the UK until Tesla Solarglass is available.How much does a solar tile roof cost? ›
On average, the cost to install solar roof shingles runs $21 to $25 per square foot or $2,100 to $2,600 per roofing square. So a total project could easily average $60,000 to $75,000 — at least. That's considerably higher than the cost of a conventional roof (between $5,646 and $12,031, according to HomeAdvisor).How much does a solar roof cost UK? ›
The cost and savings
The addition of solar roof tiles is a smart method to reduce annual electricity costs while adding value to your property. It will cost between £5,000 and £7,000 to fit a 1kW system to your roof, with the price likely to rise by approximately £2,500 for every additional kW.
This is the most common, and perhaps best, roof material on which to install solar panels. Because composite shingles are so common, this roof type offers the widest range of options for equipment and installers.
You can expect to save roughly £270 on electricity bills annually, and together with the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), you would reach the break-even point within 16-22 years. In the end, though, no matter the situation, solar energy in the UK is typically worth it.How many solar tiles does it take to power a house? ›
The average one-bedroom house needs six solar panels, a typical three-bedroom house requires 10 panels, and a five-bedroom house will usually need 14 panels. In each case, the panels will produce enough electricity to cover 46% of an average household's annual usage – or more, if you don't leave the house very often.Can you walk on solar tiles? ›
The company noted that its solar shingles install just like regular roof shingles, except for exposing the electrical contacts on the upward side so they can be easily accessed (don't worry — the whole thing is as weatherproof as a regular roof too). You can even walk on them when it's time to clean the gutters.How long do solar tiles last? ›
How long do solar shingles last? Solar shingles can last up to 25 to 30 years and are sturdy enough to last even longer with excellent maintenance.What is better solar panels or solar tiles? ›
Solar roof tiles are generally considered less effective than solar panels, simply because they are not be suitable for every kind of roof design. Also, they are built into the roofing material so there is no possibility for the tile to be turned/ re-oriented after installation.Are solar panels legal in UK? ›
Solar PV panels are considered 'permitted developments' and often don't require planning permission. However, exceptions apply and it's best to check with your local planning office for guidance. If you live in a listed building, conservation area or national park, additional restrictions may apply.
Absolutely! There's nothing stopping you and your family from living life off the grid – except the small matter of money. Typical solar panel costs are around £5,420 – but if you have a large family, you'll want to install even more panels, which could mount up to £8,000.Can I heat my house with solar panels UK? ›
You may think that the UK isn't sunny enough to justify investing in solar power. Thanks to the contemporary designs and high-quality engineering, our solar cells can generate electricity even in low light conditions. No matter how cloudy and wet it gets, you can still heat your home with our solar panels.Do solar thermal panels work in the UK? ›
Solar thermal panels absolutely work in the UK – and don't worry about cloudy skies. Thermal panels can function even when the sky is overcast, as the sun's radiation passes through clouds just fine.