Remember only a few years ago it was still considered slightly revolutionary to have solar panels, and if you had a solar battery you were quite advanced with your energy efficiency?
Rooftop solar has entered a new generation now with solar tiles now becoming increasingly popular for new builds or renovations.
Unlike those bulky panels (which you aren’t allowed to install in some places such as heritage conservation zones), the solar tiles are your roof, and are available to blend in with slate, ceramic/terracotta or concrete roof tiles.
There are several benefits, apart from the energy savings you will make.
The first is aesthetics. It can be hard to distinguish the solar tiles from the rest of the roof, and because they are seamless, you don’t need to worry about the wind catching under them.
Several manufacturers also say they are much stronger than the average roof tile, so no need to worry during a hail storm.
However they do cost more than your average solar panels (known as a PV set up). The average cost to install a 4kw PV system including an inverter (which converts the energy into a current suitable for powerpoints) is just under $6000.
Solar tiles (officially known as Building Integrated Photovoltaics – BIPV), can be anything between about $12,000 and $22,000 for the same output.
There are several manufacturers in Australia.
You would probably be familiar with Monier, who have been putting a roof over our heads for about 100 years. The company said its Solartile, launched five years ago, was the first BIPV roofing product in the country. Monier also make Inline Solar: each panel is recessed mounted within your roofline rather than being an interlocking tile, but it is about half the price.
Another company called Tractile has taken its Eclipse solar PV tiles one step further, including a solar hot water capability in the same tile. It said that brings several benefits including: increasing the electricity produced by the PV modules as the cooling effect reduces thermal resistance; the ability to store energy in the heated water (in a typical household about 40 per cent of energy consumption is used to heat water), and reducing the heat load on the house as heat is captured in the skin of the building and piped away so less air conditioning is needed for cooling.
There are a few others in Australia; Tesla don’t offer solar tiles here yet.
Due to the cost and integration into the rest of the roof, consider solar tiles if you are building a new home, or undertaking a renovation that needs a new roof. You’ll recoup your outlay in about seven years.