If you would like to install solar panels, but don’t like the aesthetic appearance of conventional, or older style solar panels then a great alternative might be solar roof tiles. Also known as solar roof shingles, solar tiles look just like normal black roof tiles. The difference is they are covered with a thin film photovoltaic (PV) material which generates electricity.
Solar tile systems can incorporate traditional roofing materials such as slate, asphalt, metal, and fiber-cement with the solar tiles. In this way, the appearance is not much different from a regular roof, which makes it aesthetically pleasing.
Most solar tiles are generally a dark bluish-purple in color, which makes them suitable for most homes. Many types are even compliant with areas that have strict rules regarding historic preservation of local buildings.
Even though one tile by itself doesn’t produce much of power (usually between 50 and 200 watts, or about enough to power a small window fan) covering an entire roof can be quite substantial. In fact, an entire roof covered with solar tiles can easily generate enough power for your entire home.
However, you still will need to maintain ties to the local power company since even the sunniest climates have cloudy days, which limits how much power the tiles can actually generate. Still, the savings in power costs should be huge over a period of time.
The benefits of solar roof tiles over regular solar panels are:
- Aesthetics – solar tiles are virtually invisible, as part of your roof.
- No extra planning – no need to alter roof lines, colour or pitch. Solar tiles and slates sit flush with conventional roof tiles.
- Reliability – The average lifetime of Solar Roof Tiles is in excess of 20 years. There are no moving parts to the system and very little maintenance is necessary. Solar Roof Tiles usually have a self locking fixing system that allows the glass laminate to be easily removed for inspection, cleaning or replacement.
- Standard installation – tiles and slates fit with conventional roofing practice without the need to adjust battens. One solar tile takes the place of four standard tiles.
- No specialist skills – depending on the type of system that you purchase, all the roofing work can be carried out by the roofing contractor allowing electrical and plumbing work to follow build programme.
This is an excellent time to go solar powered. There are many excellent state and federal tax incentives (up to 80% of the cost) and dealers looking to sell their product in the down economy. You can increase the value of your home, reduce dependance on the electricity grid and save on utility bills all in one go.
Image showing from left to right, a set of panels for solar water heating and then two different solar electric cells. The rightmost panels mimic roofing tiles. Credit jhritz on flickr under the Creative Commons license.