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Why get solar panels?

  • Generate free, green electricity
  • Reduce your electricity bill by up to 64%
  • Get paid for what you don't use

Solar roof tiles: What do they look like, how much do they cost and are they worth the investment?

  • Solar roof tiles work just the same as solar panels
  • Modern tiles are sleek and subtle, but more expensive than solar panels
  • Solar roof tiles have an efficiency rating of between 10% and 23%
  • Solar panel efficiency is usually between 18% and 25%
Ergosun solar roof tiles

Ergosun solar roof tiles can be hard to spot – credit: TBS Specialist Products

Solar roof tiles blend seamlessly with your roof while providing your home with green electricity, making them the perfect match for people who want to benefit from cheaper energy bills and renewable energy, but don’t like the look of solar panels.

As solar roof tiles are hand made, and installing them means effectively re-tiling your roof, they are significantly more expensive to install than solar panels, which are fitted on frames over your existing roof.

Contrary to popular belief, solar roof tile efficiency is comparable to that of regular solar panels. In some instances, solar roof tiles can even outperform solar panels (but more on that later).

In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about solar roof tiles, including how much they cost, where you can get them in the UK and the best brands to look out for.

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What are solar roof tiles?

Just like solar panels, solar roof tiles convert sunlight into electricity, but they’re made to look just like traditional roof tiles. Some models are actual roof tiles with integrated solar cells.

Because traditional solar panels are quite bulky and need to be mounted directly on top of your existing roof, some people are put off by their appearance. They can also contrast with the colour and texture of existing roofing materials, such as clay tiles or natural slates. That’s where solar roof tiles come in.

As Chris Hall, director of TBS Specialist Products told The Eco Experts, “wherever you can install a roof tile, you can install a solar tile”.

TBS has been installing tile-in solar systems since 2002. Since then, they have completed numerous installations using various integrated solutions in both new and existing properties around the UK.

Solar tiles were invented for people who wanted a more subtle solar-powered home – and are prepared to pay more for these products.

However, unlike solar panels, you can’t just swap out a couple of roofing tiles here or there to install a solar tile roof. You need to replace the whole thing.

For this reason, those considering getting solar roof tiles are often advised to wait until your existing roof is at the end of its life. They are also an excellent choice for anyone building their home from scratch.

Since you’re installing a new roof anyway, why not get one that can repay your investment?

Ergosun solar roof tiles

Ergosun solar roof tiles – credit: TBS Specialist Products

Should I buy solar roof tiles?

If you want to benefit from solar power for your home but would love nothing more than to preserve the aesthetics of a tiled roof, solar roof tiles might be the way to go. Called by some “invisible solar,” solar tiles are also a great option for solar power upgrades to listed buildings or buildings in conservation areas.

They are also fantastic for complex roofs with cross-gables, dormer windows, sloped gables, and other non-standard pitched roofs.

In most cases, using solar tiles allows for much larger solar installations (in terms of area) than traditional solar panels.

With more and more solar tiles coming onto the market, the problem with them at the moment is that there are far fewer qualified and experienced installers out there than there are for conventional solar panels.

While this shouldn’t put you off, it is important to consider the lead time between an installer providing you with a quote, and your solar roof tiles being up and operational – particularly if you are considering solar tiles as part of a larger renovation project where timing is critical. I mean, your roof  is pretty critical, right?

Depending on the make and model, solar tiles come in various colours and materials, with suppliers offering options to suit different roof designs.

They are best suited to new home-building projects, or for tiling roofs that are already in need of re-tiling.

If you have a relatively new roof and are looking to make the switch to solar power, conventional solar panels will be more cost-effective.

As Chris from TBS explains, only about 10% of their installs are retrofits for existing homes, with the other 90% usually for new builds.

How much do solar roof tiles cost?

An average of 3.5 kW solar roof tile system will cost you £9,500.

House sizeSolar PV system sizeCost of solar tiles

One-bedroom flat

1 kW


1-2 bedroom house

2 kW


3 bedroom house

3.5 kW


4+ bedroom house

5 kW


Information last updated in May 2024.

By contrast, on average, 3.5 kW worth of solar panels will set you back £7,026. But remember,  you are also getting a new roof with your solar tiles, so direct price comparison is slightly misleading.

To give you some idea, the average cost to replace a roof in the UK is £5,500. However, most homeowners will spend anywhere between £3,000 to £18,000 for a new roof installation.

But the cost is only part of the story. Remember that solar tiles are effectively little solar panels that will generate electricity and eventually pay for themselves from the savings you’ll make on your energy bills.

Edilians solar roof tile installation

Edilians solar roof tile installation – credit TBS Specialist Products

Are solar roof tiles better than solar panels?

Are you wondering whether you should buy solar panels or solar tiles? Let’s take a quick look.

Advantages of solar roof tiles

Sleek and subtle. The biggest advantage of solar tiles is their stylish appearance. With solar panels on your roof, it’s usually pretty obvious that they’re up there – for some people, this is a good thing (“look at me, I’ve gone solar”), but for others, subtlety is key. Solar tiles give you renewable energy without blowing your cover.

No glass: no glare. Another benefit of most solar tiles is that they produce little to no glare (or refraction from the Sun). This is achieved by the lack of glass on the solar tiles, which typically have a mineral coating instead. This also enables most of them to continue producing electricity in low light when traditional solar panels can suffer.

They don’t get too hot. Solar tiles are typically integrated into a regular roof tile, like a concrete tile. These tiles act like heat sinks, meaning the PV elements of the tile don’t get excessively hot (and therefore become less efficient) compared to traditional solar panels. This setup also means birds can’t nest behind the solar tiles (as they can with conventional panels), adding a nice little bonus people often overlook.

Ideal for listed buildings and complex roof forms. If you’re lucky enough to live in a fancy, listed property (or within a conservation area), you might not be allowed to mess with the appearance of your home. Fortunately, solar tiles are a great way to keep the switch to solar sneaky (but please consult your local authority before proceeding).

Smaller unit size. Easier to cover more of the available roof space, especially on complex roof shapes, around dormers or Velux windows, where you would struggle to fit traditional large modules.

More durable. Solar tiles are tough as nails – Tesla’s, for example, are up to three times tougher than traditional tiles – so they’ll give your roof some serious protection. When the hail gets hard, or the storms get serious, your tiles will face it all with grit and resilience. Tesla even dropped a kettlebell on their solar tile to prove its strength, but we’re hoping airborne kettlebells aren’t a peril your roof has to face. They are also easier to replace. When a few tiles break down for whatever reason, they can be switched out like-for-like, like replacing damaged roof tiles or slates.

Disadvantages of solar roof tiles

Very expensive. As mentioned, solar tiles generally cost more than solar panels. But you are also getting a new roof and improved aesthetics.

Low efficiency. Solar tiles look great but can be less efficient. The efficiency of solar tiles tends to range between 10% and 20%, but some models can approach the best solar panels, topping out at around 23%. For comparison, traditional solar panels generally achieve 18-25% efficiency.

Long installation time. Of course, replacing a whole roof takes far longer than just sticking on a few solar panels, which significantly adds to the total cost. For example, when San Jose resident Tri Huynh had a Tesla solar roof installed in early 2018, it required 10-15 people to install it across a fortnight. In contrast, solar panels can be installed in just one or two days. However, most of this time is taken up by fully boarding your existing rafters, and then fabricating bespoke metal flashings on site to complete the roof.

How efficient are solar tiles?

Solar roof tiles have an efficiency rating of around 10% to 23%, making them less efficient than typical solar panels, which are 18% to 25% efficient. As Chris from TBS Specialist Products told us, his company typically installs monocrystalline wafers with an efficiency of 21.8%. That’s, as Chris explains, within 5% of the best-performing wafer worldwide.

However, there are cases where solar tiles are much more efficient than panels. The first is shading.

This is where things like trees or other buildings cast a shadow over part or all of the solar installation, depending on the angle of the Sun. For traditional solar panel installations, this can dramatically reduce their overall efficiency for a short time.

As Chris from TBS Specialist Supplies explained to EcoExperts in an interview, this can be a serious problem.

“If you have a solar panel installation of 2 by seven panels,14 in total. If one or two of the panels suffer from a 50% drop in efficiency from shading, the entire system is reduced to this performance,” he explained (paraphrased).

“This isn’t a problem with solar tiles as they act like individual small solar panels independent of others. This is because they come with integral bypass diodes which act as individual optimizers, meaning while some are shaded, the rest will continue to perform optimally,” he added (paraphrased).

Another common criticism of solar tiles is that their “angle of attack” to the Sun is restricted by the pitch angle of a roof, which has to be above 20 degrees. For this reason, solar tiles are limited in this respect.

Solar panels typically suffer the same problem as they are installed parallel to the existing roof. However, they can be angled using frames on flat roofs or ground installations.

Close up of an Ergosun solar roof tile.

Close-up of an Ergosun solar roof tile – credit TBS Specialist Products

Are solar roof tiles more expensive than solar panels?

Solar tiles are generally more expensive than solar panels because they are individually manufactured, less widely-produced and operate in a slightly less competitive market than solar panels.

Unlike traditional solar panels, solar tiles double up as a roof covering or roof tile replacement, so they will naturally be more expensive than bolting solar panels onto an existing roof.

Solar tiles also require a longer, more complex installation, installed by roofers rather than PV installers, increasing costs. The work includes stripping tiles from your existing roof and installing new ones, so it stands to reason that it would cost significantly more than installing solar panels.

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Are solar roof tiles available in the UK?

Yes, solar tiles are available in the UK, but there are only a few companies that provide them.

These include GB-SOL, which creates blue solar slates in Wales, and Solecco Solar, which is based in Leeds.

Solar roof tile manufacturers in the UK

Here are your options when it comes to installing a solar roof in the UK.


This newcomer to the solar market is located in the capital, and charges London prices.

A three-bedroom household can expect to pay £19,995 for a 3.6 kW system.

Each grey tile generates 100 W, and comes with a market-standard product warranty of 10 years and performance warranty of 25 years.

XO Edge

London-based XO Edge says it can install its sleek-looking black and silver tiles on your roof within eight weeks of purchase.

Each tile only generates 12 W, which means you’ll need around 13 tiles per square metre – though at just 1.4 kg each, they’re very light.

XO Edge hasn’t yet responded to our enquiry about price information, but we’ll update as soon as it does.

Marley SolarTile

Marley describes its product as a tile, but it’s really just a solar panel that’s completely integrated with your roof, so it’s flush with your roof tiles.

Each ’tile’ generates 335 W at an efficiency of 20.7%, making it a decent but average solar panel.

The company offers a 15-year product warranty, which isn’t bad, and a 25-year performance warranty that also isn’t pulling up any trees.

If you desperately want panels to be inserted into part of your roof in place of tiles, choose Marley.

Clay coloured solar roof tiles.

Solar roof tiles come in a variety of colours and shapes – credit TBS Specialist Products

GB-SOL solar tiles

GB-SOL, located in Pontypridd, Wales, sells solar tiles in just the one style – “natural blue” slate, to complement a slate roof.

They’re lighter than traditional tiles (just 3.5kg per slate), which means you could replace your roof without having to strengthen your property’s structure.

A GB-SOL solar slate can generate 28 W of power, and has a 25-year warranty on the product, its solar performance, and its weatherproofing abilities.

The tiles sell for £294 per square metre, which adds up to £8,449 for a 4 kW system – though that’s without installation, which will typically add another £2,200. That means you’ll pay a total cost of £10,649.

Solecco Solar

Solecco Solar, based in Leeds, manufactures and sells solar tiles for £3000/kW, which means that a 4 kW system will cost you £12,000.

It also usually costs an additional £1,000 to have the tiles installed, according to the company.

Though its product is more expensive than some, Solecco Solar does offer tiles in eight different colours, from smooth grey to terracotta and old English dark red.

And if you don’t need or want to buy solar tiles to cover your whole roof, you can purchase the company’s identical (and cheaper) non-solar tiles to make up the difference.

Tesla solar tiles

Just as Tesla made electric cars look cool, they’ve made solar tiles that are understated and appealing. Though they’re not yet available to be installed in the UK.

California’s clean-energy aficionados have created their own solar tiles, built with Panasonic photovoltaic cells. Elon Musk announced the new product on the set of Desperate Housewives in late 2016.

The tiles are extremely tough (up to three-times stronger than a traditional roof tile), available in four styles (Textured, Smooth, Slate, or Tuscan), and they have an ‘infinite’ warranty. If you want them, you just have to wait a while (and pay a lot).

However, they require a long installation time, boarding of the rafters to an existing roof, and other bespoke works (like flashing) on site. They are, in effect, a bit of a different beast from other solar tile products. However, Tesla also sells a high-performing solar battery called the Tesla Powerwall that integrates with the “tiles.”

Solar roof tile installation.

Solar roof tiles are great for more complex roofs. Image courtesy of TBS Specialist Products.

Solarcentury solar tiles

This one’s nothing more than a history lesson. The UK-based Solarcentury used to sell solar tiles (the C21e range), but these have since been discontinued (in 2015).

Instead, the company now produces integrated solar panels – the Sunstation Roof-integrated+ – which aren’t quite as subtle as solar tiles but still sit more seamlessly on your roof than standard solar panels.

For more information about manufacturers around the world who have their solar tiles on the way, check out this from Ars Technica.

Edilians SolarMax

Edilians SolarMax is another interesting solar tile product. Integrated solar pv modules that are laid on the same battens as the adjacent roof tiles, giving an elegant finish, with variations that cover every type of roof tile and slate available in the UK

The company historically exclusively manufactured regular roof tiles but was commissioned by the European Commission to develop a solar tile system. One of the first installs in the UK was in 2002, and they are still going strong.

These also come with ventilation slots to overcome overheating, and can be installed to pitches as low as 14 degrees


Ergosun solar roof tiles

An example of an Ergosun solar roof tile installation – credit TBS Specialist Products

Ergosun Solar Roof Tiles were among the first commercially available solar roof tiles produced in 2011. Designed by an engineer in Derbyshire, they have since been installed across three continents.

They are large-format flat roof tiles that can have grey or terracotta colour-matched solar PV modules installed to give the most discrete solar array available.

As the module is matt finished and only 3.6mm thick, the resulting finish makes it almost invisible. As a result, they have been successfully installed in the Peak District National Park and even on a Grade I-listed building in London.

Are Tesla solar roof tiles available in the UK?

Tesla solar roof tiles aren’t currently available in the UK, and it’s unclear when the first UK installations are going to happen.

They were expected to be available in mid-2018, but this was then pushed back to 2019.

If Tesla solar roofs become available, the company has said they will cost $21.85 (£18.36) per square foot.

Based on this, here are the expected costs of a Tesla solar roof:

Size of home

Cost of Tesla solar roof

1,500 ft²


2,000 ft²


2,500 ft²


3,000 ft²


Information updated in March 2024

However, Tesla CEO Elon Musk admitted in 2021 that the cost to consumers could be two or three times higher than Tesla’s initial estimate, according to Verge – five years after he initially unveiled the tiles.

Next steps

You should now have all the information you need to decide whether to buy solar roof tiles or solar panels.

In terms of value for money, solar panels are the clear winner, producing more solar electricity at a lower cost – which  means you’ll break even on your solar investment sooner.

To find the best solar panel prices for your home, fill in this quick form, and our trusted installers will be in touch with free quotes for you to compare.


You usually won’t need planning permission for solar tiles.

Your tiles will not protrude more than 20 cm from your roof, so they’ll almost certainly fall under the ‘permitted development’ category of home improvements.

The only exceptions are if your home is a listed building or located in a conservation area.

Solar roof tiles can last up to 25 to 30 years, which is around the same lifespan as solar panels. Solar roof tiles are very durable, and can sometimes be stronger than regular roof tiles, so it’s unlikely that they will break.

Solar roof tiles don’t usually need to be cleaned, unless you live in a particularly dry and dusty environment. The rain will keep solar tiles clean enough to keep operating efficiently, according to most manufacturers.

The one bit of maintenance you should do is make sure to keep your solar tiles clear of any debris, such as branches or leaves. And if you do feel you need to clean them, you should hose your roof down from the ground.

Written by:
Christopher is an Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) specialist with extensive experience advising consumer and trade clients on energy efficiency and sustainability.
Reviewed by:
Roland is Editor of The Eco Experts. He is passionate about solar power, reducing plastic waste and technology that can help humanity overcome some of its greatest challenges.
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