What Are Solar Roof Tiles?
Solar roof tiles, also known as solar shingles or solar slates, are a relatively new green energy technology. For those committed to sustainable energy generation and wanting to have a solar-powered home, solar roof tiles are a worth-considering alternative to solar panels.
Compared to the latter, solar roof tiles’ distinctive feature is how they adapt to different styles. This is a significant advantage if you live, for instance, in a heritage area where regulations forbid changes to the buildings. Solar shingles’ finished look is much less aesthetically disruptive than traditional solar panels, as they blend seamlessly with the roof.
Although solar roof tiles are not widely available in the Caribbean yet, they are moving from being a premium product to a common alternative to “bolt-on” solar panels. The reason is that the technology behind them is becoming increasingly price-competitive and popular.
Types of Solar Roof Tiles
A solar tile can be made of classic monocrystalline solar cells or thin-film PV (photovoltaic) cells. Thin-film solar cells are budget-friendly, second-generation solar cells. They require less material and are very easy to manufacture. Furthermore, they contain no toxic components and generate less waste. Besides being thin, thin-film solar cells are more flexible and lightweight.
As of today, thin-film solar cells are less efficient and have lower power capacities than monocrystalline solar cells. However, experts expect thin-film cells to improve in efficiency in the future, as they have a higher theoretical efficiency than monocrystalline silicon cells. They also have a better temperature coefficient, making them more resistant to high temperatures.
Whilst thin-film PV’s lifespan is shorter (10 to 20 years), they boast a faster payback time (around 8 years) due to their lower price to buy and also install. This feature of thin-film cells apply to solar roof tiles and different types of solar panels alike.
In addition to solar cell types, manufacturers may offer different solar roof tiles styles. Solar shingles may come in Textured, Smooth, Slate, or Tuscan styles, just to name a few.
Solar Roof Tiles Brands
Concerning brands, the most widely recognized solar tile brand is Tesla’s Solarglass Roof. The company is already opening up its online store for tesla solar roof tiles, and it will accept orders from around the world. Though, overseas deliveries won’t begin until 2023.
Looking at the local market, Caribbean Identity offers one of the few solar panel roof tiles already available in the Caribbean. The company designed their PV Slate to integrate with slate roofs.
Advantages of Solar Roof Tiles
Domestic solar technologies have many advantages in general, especially in terms of saving energy and protecting the environment. Below, we have listed the main benefits of solar tiles.
- Aesthetically pleasing design. This is likely the most significant advantage of this technology. You won’t have to cover your roof with huge solar panels and, therefore, won’t disrupt your house style. Moreover, there are different types of tiles to accommodate different roof and tile styles.
- Provide clean, free energy. Like solar panels, solar roof tiles are an eco-friendly alternative for powering all your house’s electric appliances. They are also eligible for the same government incentives as solar panels (e.g. the Energy Company Obligation Scheme – ECO4).
- Save on energy bills. Using a solar roof tile system, you can save between 40% and 70% on electricity bills.
- Increase your property’s market value. An aesthetically pleasing look and the current high demand for green energy combined will increase the value of your property.
- Increased resistance and durability. Bolt-on solar panels and solar roof tiles can last decades. However, extreme weather conditions can damage the former. Solar tiles, on the other hand, are as durable as the roof itself, and even hurricane-force winds would not rip them off. In fact, solar slates will protect the roof section they are installed on.
Disadvantages of Solar Roof Tiles
Of course, solar roof tiles have downsides too. Here is an overview of their disadvantages:
- High initial costs. The solar slates purchasing cost is much higher than regular roof tiles. They can be twice as expensive as solar panel systems with similar wattage.
- Less efficient than bolt-on solar panels. On average, solar tiles’ efficiency is 10-20%. Most solar panels have an efficiency of at least 16%, sometimes even 22%.
- They cannot be installed on an already existing roof. Currently, solar tiles are only suitable for new buildings or those in which all tiles will be replaced. In contrast, traditional solar panels can be installed, uninstalled, and reinstalled at any time.
- Not every roof can accommodate them. A roof must be pitched and angled perfectly to be suitable for solar roof tiles. Once again, solar panels are relatively easier to install on ‘difficult’ roofs.