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The Pros and Cons of Solar Tiles Versus Solar Panels

The Pros and Cons of Solar Tiles Versus Solar Panels

Introducing solar power to a home is always a very exciting experience. Especially because - while rooftop solar systems are today indeed a common sight across Australian homes - it was really only in the past decade or so that Australia’s ‘solar revolution’ began. Yes, solar power has come along in leaps and bounds since the early days of the last decade - both in terms of its popularity and technological capability - and this is a truly wonderful change. It’s also essential to recognise though, that with ongoing progress invariably comes a greater range of offerings, as new innovations and processes make their way into use.

The story surrounding the growing popularity of solar tiles in Australia is an illustration of this. Whereas a few short years ago it may’ve seemed like a rooftop solar system was the only option for getting solar power in a home, today solar tiles are also available, and a real option for (providing they meet all necessary criteria) many households. But are solar tiles actually better than a rooftop solar system with its standard solar panels? And, what are the main pros and cons that distinguish these two types of solar tech? Let’s dive in-depth and unpack these questions now.

Solar System Pros

A rooftop solar system can be ideally positioned to maximise the exposure of solar panels to sunshine. Solar tiles cannot do this, as they will have to sit at the same angle as the roof. A rooftop solar system can also be anticipated to be less expensive than the equivalent capacity in solar tiles. Yes, the price of solar tiles is reducing, but a big price gap can still be expected between a rooftop solar system and a set of solar tiles with the same generating capabilities. This is not only a worthwhile consideration as it applies to the cost of solar tiles today, but also when it comes to the future. For as discussed more in a moment, the ‘upgrade temptation’ felt by many households once they’ve got their first taste of solar can be very real indeed, given how fantastic solar can be for a household.

As well as other benefits, a rooftop solar system can also be more compact in terms of the surface area it occupies. This is an important consideration as ultimately many households find after a few years they would like to increase their solar capacity, and look to add either a larger system to replace the one in place prior - thus requiring more space on the roof for more panels - or to perhaps add a whole new solar system altogether. For households that dream of an arrangement like this - with many households opting to get a grid-connected solar system first, and then a separate off-grid one later on (perhaps for use to power the garage, heat the pool, or charge the EV) - opting for solar tiles first can complicate this process, as it may end up leaving too little space available on the roof for expanding solar capacity down the line.

Solar Tiles Pros

STC Solar Tiles

Alongside their greater aesthetic appeal in the minds of many, solar tiles do have one key advantage surrounding speed in comparison to a rooftop solar system. This is because - all other things being equal - solar tiles can actually be faster to install than solar panels. It’s important to keep in mind that a rooftop solar system is typically going to be installed quite quickly - with usually just a day (or two at most) required to get the job done - but if a household is operating on an exceptionally tight schedule (such as a need for all its residents to travel overseas soon, or just decisively finish a big renovation), then solar tiles may offer a better option on this basis.

Solar tiles can also be helpful in situations where a rooftop may be very unusual or otherwise unsuitable for a regular solar system. For instance, think of a typical inner-city townhouse in an Aussie city that is perhaps 100 years (or more) old. Such a property may have a rooftop surface area that is quite small indeed, or perhaps has a (installed in more recent times) rooftop deck, or other feature that - even if otherwise lovely - means any solar that is introduced will have to work with some tight space constraints. In this regard, solar tiles can be terrific, as they can be slotted on top of existing tiles, they take up little space as individual components, and they can be removed if need be - though only by a trusted solar professional! - if circumstances arise which require their relocation.

The Cons of Solar Panels and Tiles

It’s recognised some may say that solar tiles provide a more appealing look on the rooftop than a regular rooftop solar system. This perspective is put forward informed by the fact that - whereas a rooftop solar system will always ultimately jut out on top of a roof (even if discretely) - solar tiles can provide a sleek and uniform flat line across the roof. This said, while solar tiles certainly have their virtues from a design perspective on the one hand, it’s also the case that they are indeed more subtle in look than a regular rooftop solar system, and - because of their technology - this will mean any household with end-to-end solar tiles on their roof wouldn’t be able to have a classic red brick (or other coloured) rooftop as they may wish. By contrast, with a regular rooftop solar system, they can!

STC Blue Solar Panels

In turn, some solar enthusiasts really relish the idea of being able to display their home’s renewable energy capacity. For them, a rooftop solar system is not just a tremendous piece of tech that can generate clean and green energy for the household each day, it’s also a visible symbol of their commitment to green innovation and action. It’s of course the case that having a rooftop solar system on the home is not the only way for a home to have green aspects - or to positively contribute to the quest to see the world go green more widely - but there’s also no doubting that having a rooftop solar system is indeed a very good way to illustrate this.

So, it’s important to underscore even if some folks may find solar tiles far sleeker than a rooftop solar system in terms of their appearance on the top of a home, it’s also the case that there are certainly others out there who would find solar tiles to be too understated, and instead really adore the fact that a rooftop solar system allows them to express a part of their personality, and the identity of the household more widely.

Other Emerging Solar Tech

Just as solar tiles are set to become more common on rooftops across Australia in years ahead, it’s also essential to know that other solar technology - especially within the space that falls under the umbrella term of Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) - is indeed developing in a very fast and exciting way. Although we’re unlikely to see such goods in every street for a while yet, the fact is not only is tech like solar window panels in development, but also there’s the expectation that vertical solar panels will become more commonplace, especially for residences - such as in high rise buildings - where putting solar products on a rooftop may not be possible (or it is possible, but there’s simply the desire to add more capacity by installing solar panels on a vertical plane as well).

This is a worthwhile consideration for a household to keep in mind, if they’re really ‘thinking big’ when it comes to not only introducing solar power into their home soon, but also thinking more long-term about what their dream home may look like in future, and how solar power may factor into that plan. The one caveat to this consideration is of course that - while the past decade has shown how fast solar power can progress in the right circumstances - such exciting technology as detailed in the prior paragraph indeed has to go through more research and development. Furthermore, when making their way to market, these new products can be anticipated to be more expensive at the outset. So, for any would-be solar system owner excited about the future, but keen to get solar today? It can be said just as tomorrow is  sure to be very exciting, there’s indeed no time like the present when it comes to commencing the journey to becoming a solar system owner.

For Most Households a Rooftop Solar System Will Be Ideal

For most households, a rooftop solar system is likely to be the best selection between these options here - at least right now. The world of solar technology is always evolving rapidly, and in the years ahead we may see substantial changes to existing tech utilised in a rooftop solar system and solar tiles - and perhaps a greater convergence between these forms of tech - but presently, just as there’s no disputing both solar tiles and conventional rooftop solar systems have their place, the latter is likely to be the best selection for the great majority of would-be solar owners looking to have their home acquire solar power in the near future.

Solar Trust Centre's aim is to highlight the latest and most interesting solar industry news, with a bias towards Australian stories. For more renewable energy content, please check out our blogs here.

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