Solar power got off to a false start about 30 years ago. In order to use the early technology, homeowners had to install huge systems of panels on their roofs. In addition to being an eyesore, they were costly and cumbersome and the general public failed to embrace these first efforts. Thanks to upward spiraling energy costs and incentives for going green, we now live in a new age of solar technology.
Some companies now manufacture solar tiles and shingles which integrate fairly seamlessly with standard roofing styles. This trend has created a new market known as "Building Integrated Photovoltaic" (BIPV) and it's growing rapidly in the US and some other parts of the world as well. In California, one of the most cutting-edge states when it comes to conservation, many builders incorporate BIPV tiles and shingles in the roofs of newly constructed homes. Although the technology is fairly complex, it basically means incorporating solar cells in the preferred roofing material (shingles).
Are Solar Tiles Right for You?
Before deciding on whether to use solar tiles, the homeowner needs to conduct a thorough energy study. Many local utility companies provide free assistance. You can compute your own potential expenses by researching the costs of installing a BIPV roofing system. You'll need to factor in state and federal government incentives, and compare these numbers with your annual electric bill.
Climate and energy costs play a big role in making your decision. For example, the more sun that directly hits your roof, the more power you'll receive from a solar power generating system. But it may not be cost effective. If your electricity is still fairly cheap, then it may not make financial sense for you to go solar at this time.
As for which product will work best on your roof, each situation calls for an analysis. If you aren't concerned with aesthetics, solar panels may meet your needs. Solar tiles may appeal to you although they can't be installed on steeply pitched roofs. If the roof pitch is a concern, solar shingles might be a better solution.