What are Solar Tiles?
There is a growing interest in the use of solar power for domestic heating purposes including the use of solar tiles. This interest has now been taken up by the UK's leading roofing tile manufacturers who now produce photo voltaic (PV) tiles to match their range of clay and concrete tiles.
One of the benefits of this development means that, because the appearance of the energy generating tiles matches the surrounding tiles, local planning authorities do not always require planning permission for their use.
A further advantage of using PV tiles is, because they match the size and thickness of their neighbours, the adjacent rafters and battens do not need to be altered.
There are no extra jointing arrangements or flashing's required where the main and photo voltaic tile meet and, because the PV tiles are connected together, only one wire is necessary to carry the generated power to the main body of the house.
How do Solar Tiles Work?
Contrary to popular belief, solar tiles can operate in daylight as well as sunlight so they can still produce energy on cloudy days.
It is important to maintain continuity of supply so if there is a prolonged period of dull weather, electricity can be taken from the national grid which acts as a back up. Where there is a surplus of power during sunny periods, the extra energy is sold to the national grid via a special import export meter.
The benefits of using photovoltaic solar tiles are numerous including savings on electricity bills, reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, long and almost maintenance-free life and a clean silent source of energy.
However, the main benefit to the householder is access to the government’s Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) scheme that commenced in April 2010. In this scheme, the householder can currently receive 41.3p per unit of surplus electricity generated from a green source provided that the tiles were installed by an approved contractor. This arrangement is guaranteed for 25 years and the payments are linked to the Retail Price Index (RPI).
The cost of supplying and fixing PV tiles is difficult to assess depending upon the number required, the types and size of the tile to match surrounding tiles and the location, but there are numerous firms specialising in this type of work who would offer advice and quotes.
However, it is generally accepted that PV tiles are more expensive than solar panels and produce marginally less energy per square metre.
You can go to our video section on Green Living and watch a couple of films on installing solar tiles to a roof.