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Solar roof tiles guide

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Solar roof tiles are a relatively new sustainable technology solution. Solar tiles replace existing roof tiles, unlike solar panels, which are installed onto your existing roof. Solar tiles can cost up to twice as much as bolt-on solar PV panels, but the price is expected to decrease over time as the cost of solar panels has. 

Solar roof tiles are great for roofs that lack space, but they’re not suitable for all homes. Solar arrays must be pitched at certain angles, making them unsuitable for flat or low-pitched roofs. 

Taking steps towards renewable energy can be difficult without clear information. This solar roof tile guide will explain how the technology works and lay out the costs, benefits and installers offering solar tiles in the UK.

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Solar roof tiles: What are they?

Solar roof tiles, also known as solar slates or solar shingles, work much like traditional photovoltaic systems. Solar roof tiles are one of the latest means of converting solar energy into electricity to power homes.

The main difference is their appearance. Solar roof tiles are manufactured to suit different roof styles, while traditional solar PV panels are not. Solar roof tiles seamlessly blend in and are mostly unnoticeable, which makes them a popular choice for homeowners who live in heritage areas or are generally concerned with aesthetics. 

It’s important to note that solar roof tiles can only be installed alongside a new roof – it’s not possible to install them on top of your existing roof. This is why they’re more suitable for new buildings or homeowners already considering replacing their existing roofs rather than using bolt-on additions.

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Solar energy generation

Solar roof tiles are made of monocrystalline cells or thin-film PV cells. These cells collect the sun’s rays and create an electrical charge known as a direct current. The electrical charge is then passed through an inverter that converts it into an alternating current (AC). An AC can be used to power home appliances or be fed into the national grid.

What are the different types of solar roof tiles?

As mentioned above, solar roof tiles can be made of monocrystalline cells or thin-film PV cells. Monocrystalline cells are manufactured using pure silicon and have an efficiency of 20 per cent, whereas thin-film cells are manufactured with thin layers of PV material. While thin film cells’ efficiency is around 7 per cent, they are budget-friendly, which equates to a faster payback time. 

Solar tiles can also take the form of various styles to suit your preferred aesthetic:

  • Slate shingles (Tuscan tiles): these tiles mimic classic European wave tiles
  • Smooth glass tiles: these tiles offer a contemporary appearance with a clean-cut design
  • Textured glass tiles: these tiles are well-suited to historic buildings and traditional homes

Which brands and providers offer solar tiles?

Solar roof tiles are relatively new to the world of solar and are not as widely available as the best solar panels. More providers are expected to offer them as prices decrease and technology advances. The main solar roof tile providers in the UK are listed below:

Tesla

Tesla has long been known for its quest to transition to sustainable energy. The company announced that its solar roof tiles, available in the US, are to be made available for UK homeowners in 2023. The tiles are still yet to become available on the UK solar market, but you can browse specifications and sign up for updates via the Tesla website. 

If their pricing is anything similar to the US, they won’t come cheap. According to MarketWatch, a Tesla solar roof can cost between $32,000 and $64,000 (about £25,000 to £50,000).

GB Sol

GB Sol, a solar supplier based in Wales, offers solar PV slates and infinity solar roofs. The company’s slate tiles are designed to integrate with natural blue slated roofs. The slates’ toughened glass and aluminium were designed with extreme weather conditions in mind.

These products are Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS)-certified and come with a 25-year warranty. GB Sol’s slates have a peak output of 28W, and the 4kW system costs £6,520, according to the company’s website.

XO Edge

XO Edge, a London-based solar roof tile manufacturer, has reimagined solar power, and the finished product is a trendy and sleek textured matte black finish solar roof tile that seamlessly blends with Mariana tiles for a contemporary look. The company’s tiles have been treated for ultraviolet resistance, and each tile weighs 1.4kg with a 12W output. XO Edge’s solar tile prices are not available on the company’s website. 

Smartly Energy 

Renewable energy consultancy Smartly Energy is a UK supplier that sources affordable renewable products from Europe. The company supplies and installs solar tiles from the European multi-award-winning company, Megasol. Smartly Energy’s integrated solar roof tiles come in three colours: grey, black and terracotta. 

Marley 

Marley is a UK-based solar manufacturer. The Marley SolarTile is not a traditional solar tile; it’s comparable to a solar panel but it doesn’t protrude from the roof. The solar tiles are sleek and replace a section of your existing roof, sitting flush with the roof.

The tiles have a peak output of 335W and a 20.7 per cent efficiency. The products also have a 15-year product warranty and 25-year performance warranty. 

Tyle

London-based Tyle has manufactured a solar tile that mimics the appearance of a roof tile. Each solar tile has a peak output of 95W, and Tyle’s products are MCS-certified.

How much do solar roof tiles cost?

Solar roof tile technology is a new technological advancement that is still in progress. The cost of solar roof tiles can be twice as high as traditional bolt-on solar panels. Factors that affect the overall cost are roof size and the proportion of the roof you choose to cover with solar roof slates. 

The table below includes the average prices for solar roof tiles based on available prices from UK manufacturers:

System sizeCost (average)Installation costTotal
2kW£7,000 to £9,000£1,900£8,900 to £10,900
3kW£10,000 to £12,000£2,000£12,000 to £14,000
4kW£12,000 to £16,000£2,200£14,200 to £18,200

Should I choose solar panels or solar roof tiles?

Solar panels vs solar roof tiles

Solar panels and solar tiles are both sustainable ways to power your home. They function in the same way, but their performance differs. 

Solar tiles cost up to twice as much as solar panels. The average cost of a 4kW solar array is £7,000, whereas a solar tile system of the same wattage costs around £12,000, excluding installation costs. 

Bolt-on solar panels are mounted to a solar mount pitched at a 35- to-40-degree angle for maximum sunlight exposure. With solar tiles that replace your existing roof tiles, your roof’s pitch must be of the same angle. If it isn’t, this could affect performance, so they’re not recommended for flat roofs. 

However, if you’re already considering replacing your existing roof, solar roof tiles are just as durable as traditional ones. Their ability to withstand adverse weather conditions such as hurricanes, hail and strong winds makes them a good roof material. Unlike traditional solar panels, tiles can also protect the roof section they’re installed on.

Thanks to solar tiles’ discrete design, they’re ideal for homes situated in conservation areas. Solar roof tiles blend seamlessly into the surrounding roof tiles and sit flush, unlike solar panels, which protrude from your roof’s existing structure.

Solar panels pros and cons

Pros

Reduce energy bills Have an average efficiency of 20 per cent Have an average lifespan of 25 years

Cons

Do not blend well with the existing roof Use up a lot of space May require planning permission to install in some homes

Solar roof tiles pros and cons

Pros

Reduce energy bills Are durable and can withstand all weather conditions Are aesthetically pleasing, with a choice of designs

Cons

More expensive than solar panels Have an average efficiency of 7 to 18 per cent Cannot be installed on existing roofs – requires a total replacement Are not suitable for flat roofs or roofs not pitched between 35 to 40 degrees

Frequently asked questions about solar roof tiles

No, solar roof tiles are not suitable for flat roofs. To install solar tiles, your roof must be pitched and angled at 35 to 40 degrees to maximise sunlight exposure. Traditional solar panels are mounted at this angle using a roof mount, but roof tiles require a roof structure that already sits at this angle.

Yes, solar roof tiles are eligible for solar grants and incentives just like solar panels. This means you can benefit from the government’s zero VAT scheme and other schemes. However, solar roof tiles cost considerably more than solar panels. If you’re eligible to receive funding, solar roof tiles might not be the best choice because of their lower efficiency, which could equate to lower energy bill savings.

Solar roof tiles have an average lifespan of 25 to 30 years just like traditional solar panels. They’re durable and can withstand high winds, storms and hail and can also protect the area of the roof on which they’re installed.

rachel

Rachel Sadler

Home Tech Writer

Rachel is a seasoned writer who has been producing online and print content for seven years. 

As a home tech expert for Independent Advisor, Rachel researches and writes buying guides and reviews, helping consumers navigate the realms of broadband and home security gadgets. She also covers home tech for The Federation of Master Builders, where she reviews and tests home security devices. 

She started as a news and lifestyle journalist in Hong Kong reporting on island-wide news stories, food and drink and the city’s events. She’s written for editorial platforms Sassy Hong Kong, Localiiz and Bay Media. While in Hong Kong she attended PR events, interviewed local talent and project-managed photoshoots. 

Rachel holds a BA in English Language and Creative Writing and is committed to simplifying tech jargon and producing unbiased reviews.

Molly Dyson

Editor

After growing up with a passion for writing, Molly studied journalism and creative writing at university in her home country of the United States.

She has written for a variety of print and online publications, from small town newspapers to international magazines. Most of her 10-year career since relocating to the UK has been spent in business journalism, writing and editing for admin professionals at PA Life magazine and business travel managers at Business Travel News Europe and representing those titles at conferences around the world.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Molly is an expert in a broad range of consumer topics, that include solar panels and renewables, home improvements and home insurance, and consumer technology such as home security and VPNs.

In her free time, Molly can usually be found exploring the outdoors with her husband and their young son or gardening.