Solar tiles: Advantages, examples, and costs in the UK
As part of the energy transition, solar panels are increasingly common across the UK. The technology is becoming both more affordable and more efficient for producing renewable energy. However, an even newer technology, known as solar tiles, has gained popularity in recent times and is in some cases seen as an excellent alternative to conventional solar panels. In this article, we’ll provide you with a complete guide to solar tiles.
What are solar roof tiles?
Solar roof tiles, also known as photovoltaic roof tiles, are a way of integrating solar energy into your homes without really altering the look of your property. While installing solar panels is popular in the UK as it helps reduce your carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as well as reduce your electricity bill, the biggest complaint about them is that they are large and can make buildings look ugly.
Solar tiles, however, replace traditional roof tiles. Essentially, they are roof tiles with solar panels. They actually work in exactly the same way as solar panels - through the use of semi-conducting materials and using sunlight to create an electric field.
Can solar tiles be used to heat water?Solar tiles can be used to generate electricity for your lights and to power your appliances in your home. And in good news, they can also be used to heat water - if you have an immersion heater for your water tank.
Solar tiles vs panels: What’s the difference?
There are actually five main differences between the two, even though they do exactly the same job:
- Solar panels are mounted on the roof whereas solar roof tiles sit alongside traditional roof tiles;
- Solar tiles for roof are a relatively new concept in the UK meaning they are not widely available yet;
- And that has an impact on price - they are more expensive than solar panels;
- Solar panels can be installed on an existing roof while solar roof tiles can’t - they replace traditional roof tiles;
- Solar panels often can not be installed on listed or historic buildings whereas solar roof tiles can.
Solar roof tiles: What are the advantages?
As with choosing any new feature that will alter your home, solar roof tiles have their advantages and disadvantages. Some of the main advantages include:
- Sleek and stylish: They have a very stylish appearance and will not alter the look of your home too much compared to solar panels. Opting for solar roof tiles will allow you to start doing your bit to reverse climate change and use a green energy source, without anyone even noticing;
- Allows older buildings to also switch to green energy: Many historic and listed buildings in the UK are unable, by law, to be altered either structurally or aesthetically, meaning solar panels are not an option. Solar tiles open the possibility of allowing listed buildings to also use renewable or green energy sources - something that would be of huge benefit as the nation looks to cut carbon emissions to become carbon neutral by 2050;
- Increased durability: British weather can wreak havoc with standard roof tiles - they wear down and need replacing after a while. And with weather patterns changing due to global warming, another advantage of solar roof tiles is that they are designed and manufactured to be more durable - meaning no leaky roofs, and no need to replace the tiles for many decades.
What are the disadvantages of solar tiles for roof?
There are, however, some downsides to installing solar roof tiles, including:
- Lower efficiency: As technology improves things may change, but currently, solar roof tiles are around 8-15% less efficient than solar panels, according to Deege Solar - a UK-based solar panel and tile installer. That means homeowners and business owners will pay more to generate less electricity;
- Higher costs: As mentioned, the switch to solar roof tiles will see homeowners pay more because they are more expensive to install. Currently, you should expect to pay around double to install solar roof tiles compared to solar panels;
- Long installation times: Because solar roof tiles replace traditional roof tiles, the installation process can be lengthy;
- Limited availability: Solar roof tiles are a fairly new concept in the UK, meaning there are currently few companies providing installation services. As their popularity takes off, that should hopefully change.
What are the best solar roof tiles?
It’s hard to say which are the best solar roof tiles in the UK at the moment because the market is fairly small and there aren’t that many companies offering them. What we can do though is give you an overview of the companies that do offer solar roof tile installation and let you choose which one you think is best for your needs.
Tesla roof tiles: Are they available in the UK?Electric car maker, Tesla, has also branched out in recent years to other areas of the renewable energy market, and does actually manufacture solar tiles. Despite various dates announced to launch in the UK, it keeps getting pushed back, and as of now, they are still unavailable in the UK.
GB Sol solar roof tiles
The solar PV tiles available through GB Sol are manufactured in Wales. The tiles are designed to integrate with not just terracotta roof tiles but slate roofs as well, which can sometimes be more difficult to get planning permission for.
Solecco solar roof tiles
Based in Leeds, Solecco offers two types of solar tiles: black mono-crystalline and red terracotta polycrystalline solar tiles. Something that sets them apart from the rest is the fact that the tiles are made from recycled plastic, meaning you can actually have an even bigger impact on the environment should you opt for these tiles. The company estimates their tiles last an average of 30 years.
Nulok solar roof tiles
Nulok tiles are widely available across the UK and other parts of the world including Europe, the US, and Australia. For every 1Kw installed on a roof they generate an average of 3.7kWh.
Solar roof tiles: UK cost
As a relatively new technology in the UK, solar tiles for roof can be fairly expensive. According to Checkatrade.com, they can cost around double what you’d pay for solar panel installation. There are a number of reasons behind this, including the longer installation time as it is a more complicated process.
The actual cost of the installation will depend on factors such as:
- The size of the roof;
- How much of the roof you want installed with solar roof tiles.
Because of their high cost, it is recommended that solar roof tiles be installed on new builds or home renovation projects.
In our table below, you can get an idea of how much you should expect to pay if you opt for solar roof tiles.
|Size||Average solar tile cost||Average cost of labour||Total cost|
|1kW||£5,500 – £7,000||£1,800||£8,050|
|2kW||£7,000 – £9,000||£1,900||£9,900|
|3kW||£10,000 – £12,000||£2,000||£13,000|
|4kW||£12,000 – £16,000||£2,200||£16,200|
Are there any government grants available?While the Government does provide a Green Homes Grant of up to £10,000 for energy-saving alterations to homes, unfortunately, solar tiles are not covered by the grant. However, energy regulator, Ofgem, does provide a Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (Domestic RHI) in which homeowners can earn money by selling any excess electricity back to the national grid. If you fulfil the criteria, you should be quick to apply as the scheme will close to new applicants on 31 March, 2022.
Check out our guides and advice for more information on what changes you can make to help protect the environment.