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Solar Tiles vs. Solar Panels

Written by, Viktor Gruevski

Updated September, 5, 2022

With most of the world turning to renewable energy, an increasing number of homes in the UK are adding solar panels to their rooftops. 

But what are solar tiles and how do they compare to solar panels?

Let’s dive in.

Solar Tiles vs. Solar Panels in the UK

Energy generation and efficiency

In terms of efficiency levels, solar panels take the lead. They are cost-efficient and can also be individually turned towards the sun to capture more sunlight.

For comparison, solar panels reach efficiency levels of 16%-22%, while solar tiles usually reach an average of 10-20%.

Nevertheless, tiles might be a better long-term investment. Tiles will significantly increase your house’s value in case you want to sell it in the future.

Working principle

A solar system consists of three segments: solar panels, an inverter, and a solar gateway. The panels are made of photovoltaic cells which collect the sunlight and transform it into electricity. The solar inverter then turns the electricity into clean, usable energy to power your household. 

Solar roof tiles work on the exact same principle. 

Installation and roof suitability

The main difference between solar panels and times is in the way they are installed. 

Unless you’re building a brand new home or replacing your entire roof, you might want to cross solar PV tiles off your renewable energy sources list. They cannot be attached on top of your existing roofing materials and you would have to start from scratch to install solar tiles.

Solar panels are installed on an existing roof.

What’s more, setting up solar roof tiles is a delicate and technical process. It requires trained professionals who are qualified to work with electricity and roofing. In addition, replacing your whole roof with solar tiles takes much longer than putting up traditional tiles and adds to the overall cost, compared to solar panels, which can be installed in 1-2 days. 

Aesthetics

Solar roof tiles are essentially solar panels that replace regular clay tiles. They are ideal for customers who prefer an elegant design since they perfectly blend into the roof. Solar panels on the other hand are bulky and don’t have many different colour options.

Still, if you prefer solar panels and are looking for a more elegant and discreet look, there are many companies that manufacture in-roof solar panels, which are generally much flatter than regular solar panels.

Durability 

Both solar panels and ties are rigorously tested. They can withstand extreme weather, including heavy snow, high winds, and even hail. 

Based on their warranties, both solar panels and tiles have a life expectancy of around 30 years. However, there are manufacturers that offer warranties of up to 40 years and the Tesla company even provides an “infinite tile warranty” to customers. 

Cleaning and maintenance

The solar panels for your house require very little maintenance, but it’s best to regularly clean them to maintain maximum efficiency levels. The same applies to solar roof tiles. 

The surface of the panel and tiles is pretty easy to clean and it doesn’t require using any special products. Still, most homeowners hire professionals to inspect and clean their solar panels, simply because it’s safer and to avoid breaching the warranty.

Market availability and manufacturers

The UK solar panel and tile market has been on the rise for a number of years and has been joined by many reputable manufacturers like LG that makes excellent solar panels, 

Currently, the solar panel market in the UK is much larger than the solar tiles market, but that’s mostly due to the fact that solar panels have been around longer and they require less installation work.

Small Solar Panel Kits: Are They Worth It?

What are solar kits?

Over the last decade, small solar panels have risen in popularity, mostly among people who want to go off-grid on their own

As the name suggests, solar panel kits for your home are essentially solar panels bundled with all the hardware you need to assemble it and run the energy system on your own.

The best part about solar kits is that they are affordable and you can install them yourself.

Off-grid vs. grid-tied kits

With grid-tied installation, your home solar system kit is connected to a utility grid. Grid-tied systems are cheaper to install and a much more efficient option. They can also save more money with net metering and put excess electricity (electricity that their panel created but they haven’t used) onto the utility grid.

Off-grid solar system kits, on the other hand, are not tied to a utility grid and rely on batteries to store and take power from. They’re often installed by people who live in places where they don’t have access to a utility grid.

How Much Do Solar Panels and Solar Tiles Cost?

System Size Roof Space in m²Average Cost of Solar PanelsAverage Cost of Solar Roofs
1kW8 and above£2,000-£3,000 £5,000-£6,000
2kW12 and above£3,000-£4,000£6,000-£8,000
3kW20 and above£4,000-£6,000£8,000-£12,000
4kW25 and above£6,000-£8,000£12,000-£16,000

When are solar panels the right choice?

Solar panels are the perfect choice if you:

  • Don’t want to replace your entire roof
  • Are looking for a more affordable option
  • Prioritise efficiency

When are Solar Tiles The Right Choice?

Roof tile solar panels are the perfect choice if you:

  • Are building a new house or have to replace your entire roof
  • Want to increase your home’s value
  • Are looking for a sleek design

Bottom Line

Regardless of whether you opt for panels or tiles, powering your home using renewable energy will reduce both your electricity bills and greenhouse gas emissions. For now, solar panels are slightly more affordable (you can even buy second-hand solar panels), but tiles are a better choice if you’re building a new home or replacing your entire roof. 

                           

Frequently Asked Questions And Their Answers

Do solar panels need direct sunlight?

Solar panels can generate electricity using both indirect and direct sunlight. They can work in partially cloudy conditions and even on rainy days. 

Are solar panels worth it?

Installing a panel system is certainly a big step. However, switching to solar energy is a smart investment that will pay out long-term since many homeowners will see a return on investment of 7-8 years.

How long do solar roof tiles last?

Leading manufacturers claim that solar tiles are extremely durable and offer guarantees of up to 40 years. Companies like Tesla even provide lifetime guarantees on their solar roofs.

How efficient is a solar roof?

While solar tiles look amazing on your roof, they aren’t as efficient as solar tiles. The efficiency of solar tiles is within the range of 10% to 20%, compared to the 18-25% of solar tiles.

How much do solar roof tiles cost?

Putting up a solar roof is a great method to decrease yearly electricity costs and make your property more valuable. Homeowners looking to install solar tiles can expect to be set back £5,000-£6,000 for a 1kW system, and an additional £2,000 for every extra kW.

I'm an interior architect by education with a tendency for content writing and research. Whenever I’m waiting for the engine to finish rendering my model, I love reading and researching on a wide variety of topics. I especially love writing content that is backed up by thorough research and relevant data. Given my engineering background, I'm more for the empirical data, not the "I couldn’t help but wonder..." vibe. When I'm not busy writing or drawing, you can find me hiking with my beagle or binge-watching in my bed. There is no in-between.