Building Integrated Photovoltaics or BIPVs, solar panels that look like shingles, tiles or slate, have made a comeback lately. Why? Because the tech is better, and the cost is lower.
Solar panels are increasing in popularity, with 2020 alone seeing a 43% increase in installations from 2019–a new record. By 2030, solar panel installations are expected to quadruple, making it clear solar panels are here to stay.
For some people however, the aesthetic impact of installing solar panels on their roofs is still a step too far.
For those turned off by the sheen of flat panels, however, building-integrated photovoltaics ( BIPVs ) do away with front-and-center disposition of solar panels on roofs, allowing building owners to generate solar energy more discreetly.
In this article, I will break down exactly what BIPVs are, how much they cost, which are the best BIPV systems, and more. First, here’s a quick table of contents:
What are BIPVs?
Building-integrated photovoltaics are, in the simplest terms, materials capable of generating solar power that replace ordinary building materials. Whether this is roofing, cladding, or otherwise, the Smart thing about BIPVs is that they become part of the building–not just an extension.
Commonly, BIPVs are used in roofs, most often as tiles. This is the clever part–BIPV roof tiles, otherwise known as photovoltaic (PV) slates, solar tiles, or solar shingles, can almost perfectly blend into existing tiled roofs. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to look primarily at BIPVs for roofs.
So there’s the “ugly solar panels” problem solved–now it’s about working out what BIPV system is the best for your needs.
Advantages of Solar Tiles for Building Design
- Discrete design means no bulky solar panels sitting on top of your roof. This allows much more seamless integration into your property’s appearance.
- Because solar tiles are a part of your roof, they’re inherently much more durable. A typical solar panel system on a roof is at a greater risk of weather damage, especially in high-wind areas. This is because solar panels are mounted on a metal rack that’s slightly raised from the roof, so they are naturally more exposed to the elements. However, to make it clear, modern solar panels are still designed to withstand weather extremes, it’s just that solar tiles are more durable by default.
- Solar tiles, like all solar systems, can help reduce your electricity bill by up to 50% and give you access to clean energy.
- They’re long lasting, with a predicted lifespan of between 25 and 40 years. Admittedly this is only a prediction, albeit a well-informed one, because solar tiles are a relatively new technology having only been widely available for around 10 years.
- Low maintenance. Solar tiles, when properly installed require very little in the way of upkeep, but again, because it’s a new technology we won’t have all the answers until around 15-20 years from now.
Disadvantages of Solar Tiles
- High upfront costs. Solar tiles are definitely more expensive than ordinary solar panel systems, with the typical cost per roofing square (100 square feet) sitting around 1,100–2,600. It’s understandable because solar tiles are a new technology, but it’ll give many people interested in switching to solar pause for thought.
- Lengthy installation time. Properly installing a solar tile system requires specialists trained in both roofing and electrical work. It will usually take around two weeks to fully install a solar roof and you’ll likely need a team of around 10-15 people to do it! As technology improves and more people opt for solar tiles, the installation process will no doubt get quicker and require less people to do it.
- The return on investment isn’t great, with the expected ROI of roof with solar tiles taking around 15-20 years. These days, a solar panel system has an ROI of roughly five years.
- Lower efficiency than solar panels. Until technology improves, solar tiles currently have to trade efficiency for aesthetics. By efficiency we mean how much sunlight solar tiles convert into electricity–right now, solar panels average at around 25-30% efficiency, compared to solar tiles which operate between 10-20%.
The Best Solar Tiles Overall
Each of the BIPV systems we’ve listed here are different in their own ways, which we’ll go into in more detail in the sections below. For now, here’s an overview of the best solar tiles available on the US market.
Best Solar Tiles for Design: Tesla Solar Roof
World-renowned clean-energy brand Tesla first introduced its Solar Roof in 2016 and since then, it has become one of the most popular solar tile options in the United States.
Purely from a design perspective, Tesla’s Solar Roof wins hands down. You get access to four different tiling options, with each carrying the same sleek design expected of Tesla products.
Because of the variety in choice, it’s remarkably easy to blend Tesla’s PV slates into your home’s overall design. A statement on their website reads “each tile looks great up-close or from the street, complementing your home’s natural aesthetic styling.”
Looking through the example images it’s hard to disagree. A key advantage is that Tesla will replace your entire roof with their slates, although not every slate will be solar capable. This helps add to their seamless appeal, as most PV slate systems can still stand out against existing roof tiles.
One oddity of Tesla’s Solar Roof is that the company is yet to officially reveal its efficiency rating, leaving owners of their solar tiles in the dark. This is a bit strange considering Tesla is well known for talking proudly and in detail about its technological achievements.
A notable downside of Tesla’s Solar Roof is that it cannot be added to an existing roof – instead, you will need to replace the entire roof with their tiles. Naturally this comes at some expense, with the average cost of roofing a 2,000 sq ft home being around 55,300.
Compare this to the typical cost of a non-solar roof on a 2,000 sq ft home, which is roughly 14,000. Or, the cost of adding an ordinary solar panel installation, which will set you back 18,000 for a 6 kw system.
Tesla Solar Roof specifications:
- Dimensions per tile/shingle: L 45” x W 15” x H 2mm
- Can withstand wind speeds up to 166 miles per hour
- Maximum power per tile/shingle: 71.67 watts
- Weight per tile/shingle: 7 lbs
- Warranty: 25 years (12.5 for the inverter)
Best Solar Tiles for Durability: SunTegra Solar Shingles (STS 114)
SunTegra is another player on the solar roofing market, with a number of versions of their solar shingles available. We’re focusing on their STS 114 range here, which provides the highest output of their solar shingles.
STS 114 shingles come equipped with SunTegra’s “TegraVent” technology, which gives them excellent resistance against overheating. Their simple design gives them added durability too. According to their website, SunTegra’s solar shingles contain “50% fewer parts than conventional rack-mounted systems”, which leaves far fewer things to go wrong than those of their competitors.
SunTegra Solar Shingles specifications:
- Dimensions per tile/shingle: L 52” x W 23” x H 0.75”
- Can withstand wind speeds up to 130 miles per hour
- Maximum power per tile/shingle: 114 watts
- Weight per tile/shingle: 18 lbs
- Warranty: 25 years
Best Solar Tiles for Efficiency: Luma Solar Roof
Luma’s solar tiles share a similar sleek aesthetic to Tesla’s Solar Roof, with installations looking every bit as stylish and futuristic. The best part? They’re also incredibly efficient.
On average, Luma’s solar tiles boast a conversion efficiency rating of 22.1%, which in the world of solar tiles is almost unheard of. Though still not quite at the level of traditional solar panels, Luma’s solar tiles definitely give you plenty of power.
At around 4.50 per watt too, Luma’s solar tiles are up there with the most affordable options on the market.
Luma Solar Roof specifications:
- Dimensions per tile/shingle: L 54.37” x W 15.62” x H 2”
- Maximum power per tile/shingle: 80 watts
- Efficiency: 22.1%
- Static wind load: 2,400 Pa
- Static snow load: 5,400 Pa
- Weight per tile/shingle: 19.8 lbs
- Warranty: 25 years
Best Solar Tiles for Versatility: Forward Solar
Forward Solar, a startup company with serious investment, have created their own range of solar tiles. The unique part about their offering is its metal standing seam roof type, which enables their solar shingles to be attached to roofs and garages, barns, warehouses, and other industrial-style roofs.
Buying solar tiles from Forward Solar means paying a remarkably cheap 3.75 per watt, which is by some margin the most affordable of the solar tiles described in this article. They’re not actually available for installation at the time of writing, but you can reserve them on their website now.
Forward Solar specifications (please note, available specs are currently limited):
- Energy density: 19 watts per square foot
- Venting: Passive Venting System
- Warranty: 30 years
Power Shingles. GAF’s new Timberline Solar shingles resemble traditional asphalt shingles.
GAF, one of America’s best-known roofing companies, launched their solar shingles range in early 2022. Details on things like price-per-watt are currently limited, but one thing that was announced has definitely caught the attention of the industry.
GAF’s solar shingles, called Timberline Solar, use half as many connections as other rival manufacturers, including Tesla. What this means is that there are fewer connections that can break, which in turn dramatically increases the reliability of GAF’s solar shingles.
The company’s extensive reach across the US has many solar power supporters hoping that they can persuade more people than ever to consider adopting the technology. The price point is quite appealing too, with the predicted cost to roof a 2,000-square-foot home being around 30,000 (substantially lower than Tesla’s Solar Roof offering).
GAF Timberline Solar specifications:
- Dimensions per tile/shingle: L 64.25” x W 17.2” x H 1”
- Maximum power per tile/shingle: 45 watts
- Warranty: 25 years
Power Generator of the Future
BIPVs are still an emerging technology, but they represent one of the best options for generating clean energy. all while keeping the character of your home intact.
Despite the substantial upfront costs right now, as the tech is refined and perfected, it’s only logical that will fall. This is especially true now that big-hitters in the roofing industry like GAF have gotten involved. With the price of solar panels dropping rapidly too, PV slates will inevitably follow suit.
Mar 29, 2022 1:28:07 PM Reading time
By Tom Gill, Guest Columnist
Growing up in Cornwall UK, Tom always had a love for green things and wildlife. You could say Tom had an eco-focused outlook before he really started to think about it! As a writer for The Eco Experts, Tom is able to channel his eco interests and create essential guides and articles talking about sustainable technology, solar panels, heat pumps, and the carbon footprint of the Roman Empire.
The Nulok Roofing System offers a highly efficient method of installing Natural Slate, Nulok Solar Tiles and Ceramic Tiles.
This incredibly robust system incorporates Zincalume Battens spaced at 307mm. Locked in place between the battens are Nulok Link Channels, each possessing a stainless steel clip used for securing the leading edge of each slate. This Link Channel eliminates the need for side double-lapping of slates because water passing through the slate is routed by the Link Channel onto the surface of the slate below.
You can download an 8 page Nulok Product Brochure that contains all of the features of the Nulok Roof Installation System along with photographic examples of the installation technique as well as examples of finished roofs. The brochure is updated continuously to reflect new work completed.
Find an Architect
Should you be experiencing difficulty finding an architect to assist you in the design or choice of roof, you can go to this page where there are a number of architects who have agreed to be listed. These architects are well versed in the Nulok roofing system should you choose to use our product for your home.
The Nulok Roofing System offers a straightforward, efficient method of installing Natural Slate, Nulok Solar Tiles and Ceramic Tiles. This incredibly robust system incorporates Zincalume Battens spaced at 307mm.
Phone: 02 9457 0888
Fax: 02 8014 5763
IMPORTANT: Please be sure and check your local building codes before installing a Nulok roof as each area may have different requirements. Nulok Roofing System will not be held responsible if the mandatory requirements are not followed.
Solar Panels vs. Tesla Solar Roof: The Key Differences
It’s pretty obvious when you have solar panels. Less so if you have Tesla’s Solar Roof. But there’s a price to pay for that sleek design.
When you think of solar power systems. you probably imagine the classic solar array : some black panels that point toward the sky and absorb the energy of the sun’s light and convert it into usable electricity. But if you look closely at the roofs of some houses, you might notice a surprise.
In 2016, Tesla.- yes, that Tesla.- introduced something novel. Instead of solar panels that sit in your front yard or stand out on the roof, Tesla decided to turn every shingle into a solar panel. The Tesla Solar Roof replaces an existing roof and captures sunlight to help power your home in a clean and streamlined manner.
There are some significant downsides, namely that the Tesla Solar Roof is quite expensive. (Tesla does not operate a public relations department to field requests for comment.)
Can solar panels save you money?
Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.
For homeowners interested in solar energy, that creates the ultimate question: Should you go with the standard solar panel system or try the less intrusive.- but pricey.- Tesla Solar Roof? To help you with your buying questions, I have compiled the biggest differences between the two solar options below.
Solar panels should be relatively familiar by now, as they have been gaining popularity and have become more affordable in recent years. An array can be located on your roof or set to stand in your yard, depending on what works best for you. While there are a variety of different brands and types of panels, they all offer a clean energy alternative to fossil fuel sources like coal or natural gas. These panels can be expensive, and some are more difficult to install than others. But for the most part, you can expect cheaper energy bills, a smaller carbon footprint and increased property value.
Tesla Solar Roof
Instead of using panels, the Tesla Solar Roof turns your entire roof into your solar array. The Tesla solar roof uses tempered glass panels that replace your standard shingles, providing the same protection you’d expect from a traditional roof while also capturing solar energy. The Tesla Solar Roof is novel, but less proven and harder to transfer to another home if you move because they are custom made for each roof.
Solar panels or a Tesla Solar Roof?
Price is a tricky thing when it comes to solar systems, as a lot of it is going to be dependent on what your house and property is capable of supporting. There is the cost of solar panels, the infrastructure needed to support them, the installation costs.- and you have to account for the actual capacity of the system. In both cases, you can get tax credits and other incentives for installing these systems, so that will help to ease the price somewhat. Research suggests solar panels cost between 15,000 to 25,000 to buy and install.
Can solar panels save you money?
Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.
For the sake of simplicity: conventional solar panels are cheaper than the Tesla solar roof in terms of the overall cost. Tesla has also had some challenges keeping the price down for its solar roof system, which has been a point of issue for some people. Price estimates suggest can scale from 30,000 to 75,000, with some people reporting installation costs as high as 100,000.
The installation process for solar energy systems can be complicated. In general, traditional solar panels are easier because they can be installed in different places depending on the layout of your property.- either on your roof or on the ground. The Tesla Solar Roof can only be installed on your roof, obviously, and is a bit more of a to-do since it requires replacing your entire roof. There are fewer contractors familiar with the Tesla solar roof system than conventional panels, so this can create challenges in finding a capable installer.
Solar power capabilities
Both the Tesla Solar Roof and traditional solar panels will have a similar ability to meet your power needs, although your ability to scale your solar power system to your electricity needs might be more limited with the Tesla Solar Roof compared to panels. It will likely be easier to expand a setup with traditional solar panels in the future if you find your electricity needs have increased.
Mobility and longevity
One downside of the Tesla Solar Roof is the fact that it really can’t move with you. Because it is custom-fit to the roof of your home, you can’t pack it up and install it on another home. Conventional solar panels offer a bit more flexibility here, as you could potentially take your solar system with you.- though you may want to leave it to benefit from the boost in property value that they provide.
Winner for most: Solar panels
For now, conventional solar panels are the safer bet if you are looking to make the switch to solar power. They are a proven product. They are also typically cheaper and offer a bit more flexibility in terms of how you install them.
Tesla’s Solar Roof shows a lot of promise, but the custom tiles can be cost-prohibitive and early troubles with the product make it hard to recommend at this stage. Future versions of the Tesla Solar Roof may improve and make good on the promising concept. For now, stick with what works so you can save on your energy bill and shrink your carbon footprint.
Solar pv slates
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⚡️ We are extremely excited to become Megasol’s UK installation partner. Europe’s leading solar panel and solar tile manufacturer. the multi-award winning company based in Switzerland.
⚡️ No longer do you need separate roof tiles and solar panels. Solar Tiles (or Slates/Shingles) are electricity generating roof tiles.
⚡️ Megasol’s Solar Tiles are second to none in terms of quality, looks and performance. They fit seamlessly with Smartly’s no compromise goal to supply reliable and sustainable products, which perform well, and look incredible.
⚡️ Our expert design and installation team works with you to find the best solar solution for your needs, and work with you through any design, grid applications or planning consent required. Reach out to us to arrange a call, and we can tailor a solution to suit your exact needs.
Integrated Solar Roof Tiles. Traditional Slate Style in Grey
Integrated Solar Roof Tiles. Modern Black
Integrated Solar Roof Tiles. Modern or Traditional
High performance Solar Panels, mounted on existing roof structures or integrated in-roof. Multiple brands available.
⚡️ With skyrocketing electricity prices, there has never been a better time to invest in solar power. Solar Panels, battery storage and EV charging are the perfect combination to generate and use renewable and sustainable electricity, instead of buying at a premium from the grid.
⚡️ We have chosen to partner with Megasol as they have a proven 30 year track record of quality manufacturing and superior products. Our values align and we share a drive for a cleaner, greener, sustainable future.
Award Winning Market Leaders
Megasol is the industry leader in European Solar design and manufacture. A multi-award winner in design, architecture and technology.
Megasol has ISO9001 accreditation and all their products are extensively tested to the highest European standards (IEC/EN 61215, 6170, 61701, 62716). Megasol also offers an extended 10 year product warranty and guarantees performance for 25 years.
Is your project unique? We work outside the box too!
Smartly and Megasol can help with projects that are not your usual roof structure. Car Ports are a popular choice. Store the electricity produced and charge your car(s) directly from the car port structure.
No project is too big. Here is Schaffhausen Football Stadium in Switzerland. An epic solar stadium roof with 8707m² of Megasol solar tiles, producing an output of 1.2MWp.
We can provide guidance on projects. Here is the highest PV system in Europe, 3821m above sea level in Zermatt, Switzerland. producing an output of 77kWp. Megasol solar tiles can operate in the harshest of environments!
⚡️ You do not need to compromise the look of your home, office or commercial building to be greener and more sustainable.
⚡️ Some people do not like the look of standard solar panels, but still wish to generate their own power and/or offset their carbon footprint. Solar Tiles are the perfect solution, while making your roof look great.
⚡️ Solar tiles are also an option in conservation areas or on listed buildings where standard solar panels cannot be installed (subject to planning permission).
Frequently Asked Questions
Your Solar Questions Answered.
Solar tiles cost slightly more than standard solar panels. However, when you consider that they are the roof material and solar panel combined, you do not have to purchase a new roof and additional solar panels.
As a rough estimate (depending on the product), Standard Solar Panels cost on average £1750 per kW, or £250 per square metre. Solar Tiles cost on average £2250 per kW or £350 per square metre. However it is worth remembering that solar tiles replace the roof materials, so you do not need to purchase and install roof tiles if you go for the solar tiled option.
Plus UK customers pay ZERO VAT on solar panels and tiles between now and 2025. So it is an ideal time to make the investment.
Please note these do not include installation costs (which are usually around 25% of the material cost), or any battery storage.
Megasol solar tiles are made to order so delivery will be approximately 12-16 weeks from date of order.
Smartly works with every party involved to align schedules and make sure the project is completed as smoothly as possible. We’re here to help every step of the way.
Megasol solar panels and tiles are manufactured for each specific project, and we work with you every step of the way.
Contact us in the first instance with an enquiry and we’ll help with design and costing. Click here to contact us or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have roof or structural drawings then it would be great if you could send them to us. We will work with you to fully understand your requirements, and advise on the best tile or panel type for your project.
Yes, we have a fantastic team of qualified installers across the UK ready to go.
We break down the decision to two aspects. cost and carbon footprint.
With skyrocketing electricity prices, there has never been a better time to invest in solar power. Solar Panels, battery storage and EV charging are the perfect combination to use ALL the power you generate instead of buying electricity from the grid!
If you are replacing your roof, or building a new home or commercial premises, solar tiles mean you do not need separate roof tiles and solar panels.
You also do not need to compromise the look of your home, office or commercial building to be greener and more sustainable. Some people do not like the look of standard solar panels, but still wish to generate their own power and/or offset their carbon footprint. Solar Tiles are the perfect solution for a greener, more sustainable future, while making your roof look great.
Of course! Standard Solar panels have fantastic benefits too. Click here to find out more about our Standard Panels.
Or feel free to contact us with an enquiry and we’ll help with design and costing. Click here to contact us or email email@example.com
Solar Tiles Summary
⚡️ Solar tiles and solar slates are the perfect way to invest in a solar solution for your home. With modern options and traditional choices for a range of home aesthetics, Smartly has everything you need to make the switch to solar power all in one place.
⚡️ With world leading leading brands in the solar technology industry such as Megasol, Smartly only stocks the very best solar options for our customers.
Solar tiles and solar slates are the ideal choice for those who want a roof and solar power option rolled into one. You do not need to compromise the look of your home, office or commercial building to be greener and more sustainable.
Tiles and slates with solar technology differ from solar panels in that they also act as roofing materials. This means that by opting to choose tiles, we’ll be replacing your current roofing tiles with solar versions.
Some people do not like the look of standard solar panels, but still wish to generate their own power and/or offset their carbon footprint. Solar Tiles are the perfect solution, while making your roof look great.
Solar tiles are also an option in conservation areas or on listed buildings where standard solar panels cannot be installed (subject to planning permission).
There’s an abundance of options to choose from, such as:
⚡️ Match solar roof tiles with a traditional slate look. This option has a variety of colour options available such as black, terracotta, and grey. They generate 165Wp/m2⚡️ Level solar roof tiles for a modern style. These tiles don’t overlap like slates but sit neat and flat. This option comes in terracotta or black and generates 165Wp/m2⚡️ Nicer solar roof tiles. A more efficient, integrated option that is ideal for modern homes. These tiles generate 220Wp/m2 and are available in black gloss.
Find the ideal tile for your roof by contacting us today!