What do you mean, solar panels are ugly?

Believe it or not, there are people who don’t buy solar panels because they feel that they ruin the beauty of their homes. Fortunately, new developments are constantly in the pipeline and there are more and more products that can be invisibly incorporated into the house. For example, roof tile solar panels. What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Close your eyes, say ‘solar panel’ and what immediately comes to mind are very noticeable, rectangular, shiny, black or dark blue plates mounted on a roof with racks and rods. Sometimes function comes before form, but it’s not always pretty. Especially for old buildings with traditional character, a solar panel can be quite a disfiguring thing.

Is solar roof tile an alternative?

But things can also be different. Manufacturers are working hard on products whose aesthetics pass the test with flying colours even by the most discerning people. For several years now there have been solar panels on the market that can hardly be distinguished from ordinary ceramic tiles.

Generating solar energy invisibly

Solar panels on roofSeveral manufacturers, such as Solarmass and Smartfroof, provide such a product. The shapes vary: from flat to curved tile variants like we’re familiar seeing in ordinary roof tiles. They also come in different colours, so they come not only in black, but also in different shades of terracotta (orange/brown), grey and green. These cells can be placed directly on the battens. The cells can be easily attached, thereby creating a custom‐built panel – no – a custom‐built roofing, we should say. And a roof that is indistinguishable from an ordinary roof: but one that generates your own energy invisibly!

Lower efficiency, but more square metres

Only advantages? No, unfortunately not. Solar roof tile is more expensive than solar panels, which today are competitively priced. The efficiency per square metre is also lower. On the other hand, if you can cover the whole roof and thereby gain a larger surface area, you can essentially offset the lower efficiency. On the other hand, the installation costs are generally higher than with a ‘straightforward’ solar panel installation.

In short, all in all, the payback period for such solar cell roof tiles will be considerably longer than for regular solar panels. But for those for whom the appearance of the tile and the environment is important, ‘solar tiles’ are definitely worth considering.

A matter of patience…?

Those who want to put off the decision for solar panels may wish to give it a wait‐and‐see approach. At one time today’s solar panels were also extremely expensive. It was only through subsidies or tax incentives that they became cost‐effective. Now that the prices for the panels have dropped so much that even without all the perks you can recoup the costs in no time. Whether solar roof tile will ever reach the same price level or not is the question. At the moment, ‘design’ comes at a price. Moreover, solar roof tiles will probably never be produced in the same large quantities as solar panels are.

A good suggestion for those who don’t want to wait that long: get some advice from your supplier on coloured panels. Or on ultra‐thin versions that you can install on your roof in an almost “recessed” way, to make them a bit easier on the eyes.

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