Homeowners who want to go solar but hate the bulk of traditional roof-mounted solar modules now have an alternative: solar roof tiles. Photovoltaic tiles come in many different shapes and sizes to interlock seamlessly with your existing roof. The resulting solar roofing is inconspicuous, streamlined, and likely to win the approval of even the most stringent homeowner association.
Solar shingles have a thin layer of photovoltaic material incorporated directly into the tile. Other than that, they work very much like solar panels. Once installed, solar tiles convert sunlight into clean, renewable electricity for your home or building. Any excess energy produced is stored in the grid for usage during non-sun hours. Both types of solar require little to no maintenance and pay for themselves over their lifetimes. However, there are a few key differences homeowners should keep in mind when deciding between solar panels and solar roof tiles.
This may be your best reason for choosing solar shingles. Tiles complement the style and architecture of your home without disrupting your roof line with bulky panels. Photovoltaic tiles are shaped and sized to work with all major types of roof tiles. Unlike traditional roof-mounted panels, they are sometimes permitted even on historical buildings and within strict homeowner associations. Don’t expect total invisibility, though. Colors range from dark blues and purples to more muted tones.
Installing solar roof tiles is more involved and usually more expensive than its panel equivalent. Panels sit on top of a frame system on your roof, but solar tiles must be incorporated directly into your roof. Unless you really know what you’re doing with both roofing and electricity, solar roofing is not a DIY project. Check around for free estimates from fully licensed solar contractors to price tiles for your house. Also, state, local, and federal rebates apply to roof tiles as well as panels, which can make a significant dent in the total cost.
Your new solar shingles will have a life expectancy of 20-30 years, which is comparable to both your regular shingles and to traditional solar panels. Many solar roof tiles are designed so that individual tiles can be easily replaced as necessary. In addition, they will work to protect your insulation and roofing materials from the elements while generating electricity. Look for an installer who uses solar roof tiles made by a major manufacturer (e.g. Sharp, GE) to secure the best warranties.
Solar roof tiles are made with thin film solar cells, which are slightly less efficient than the silicon-based modules used in panels. However, because they can be installed on areas unsuitable for solar panels or over an entire roof, they can easily generate enough energy to power a house. Efficiency has more to do with roof orientation, exposure, and shading, so be sure to get your house evaluated for solar before proceeding with your solar roof.