Solar Tiles vs. Solar Panels

A sun shining over solar panels against a blue sky with clouds.

Harnessing solar energy is quickly becoming popular among homeowners. Not only do photovoltaic cells offer a way to save money on energy, but they're also great for the environment as a clean energy alternative. However, with solar energy advancing in recent years, there are a lot of options on the market, from traditional solar panels to newer solar roof tiles. With that in mind, here is a basic rundown on the two leading types of solar energy, including the benefits and disadvantages of each.

Solar Panels

Solar panels on the red tile roof of a house surrounded by trees.

Solar panels are the more traditional type of photovoltaic cells and have been around for over 60 years. These types of cells are usually installed on top of an existing roof and leave a generous gap between the roof and photo cell. Solar panels can be angled to optimize sun time and can often be installed without the help of a professional. These types of cells come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are an affordable option for just about any home.

Benefits - Flexible Positioning

Rows of solar panels on a red tile roof against a blue sky.

The benefits of installing solar panels are many, including their proven longevity in performance. Most importantly, solar panels can be moved to catch the most sunlight, regardless of where the roof is located. This flexibility is important, especially if you are thinking about installing photovoltaic cells on an older home. Furthermore, installation is relatively easy via mounting brackets, which also make solar panels easy to replace if they are damaged by weather. Lastly, solar panels are extremely efficient when it comes to converting sunlight to energy, which means a faster return on your investment.

Disadvantages - A Bulky Addition

A section of solar panels on a red tile roof against a blue sky with a sun.

The biggest disadvantage in using solar panels is in their aesthetics. After all, they do not look nearly as good as a traditional roof and can appear bulky on top of an existing roof. Additionally, the gap between the panel and the roof is an ideal location for pests to take root, including squirrels, birds, and bats. However, this can be avoided with the use of mesh wire that discourages birds and other animals from nesting underneath the panels. Furthermore, if you choose to install them yourself then you might miss out on government subsidies and rebates, depending on the local building codes.

Solar Tiles

A solar tiled roof on a house by a lake.

In contrast to solar panels, solar tiles, or solar roof shingles, replace an existing roof entirely. These are basically roof shingles that double as solar energy sources, offering both protection and free energy. Solar tiles are relatively new on the market, introduced back in 2005, and come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. This flexibility makes solar tiles a great option for newly built homes or ones that need a need roof installed.

Benefits - A Good-looking Option

A solar tile roof.

The biggest advantage of solar tiles is in their outward appearance. There is little noticeable difference between solar tiles and traditional roof shingles, which means homeowners can enjoy the benefits of solar energy without compromising the outward look of their home. Additionally, solar tiles offer dual properties as both an energy source and protection against the elements. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of data available concerning the longevity of solar tiles as the technology just hasn’t been around long enough.

Disadvantages - A Costly Investment

A construction worker installling a solar tile roof.

The cost is one major drawback when considering solar tiles. After all, they replace an entire roof, which means a major overhaul especially if they are installed on an existing house. Since they do cover the entire roof, they also generate more heat, which can sometimes negatively affect the subfloor of the roof. Although solar tiles achieved less conversion efficiency when they were first released, new technology has improved their efficiency, though this will largely depend on the angle and position of the roof.


There are many benefits and disadvantages to both solar panels and solar tiles. In the end, the decision to go with one over the other depends largely on the situation and budget. If you plan on retrofitting an existing roof, then solar panels are definitely the way to go. However, if you are building a new home or want to replace an existing roof anyway, then solar tiles are likely a better option. The important thing to remember is that you will save money in the long run, whichever option you end up selecting.