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How do Solar Tiles Work?

How do Solar Tiles Work?

Solar tiles operate identically to the photovoltaic panels that are already widely used in construction. The primary difference between them lies in their assembly: whereas photovoltaic panels are attached to an existing roof, solar tiles are part of the roof's construction from the start, taking the place of regular tiling.

The tiles are formed by photovoltaic cells that, when they receive sunlight, create an electric field capable of providing electrical energy for use inside the building. Each tile is connected by cables to the power distribution board.

via Shutterstock
via Shutterstock

For the effective operation of the tiles, it is necessary to install an inverter that converts the energy captured by each tile into electricity. Another alternative is to install a solar diverter, or a 'domestic solar system', always with supervision of a professional.

The quantity of energy collected through solar energy is directly related to the amount of sunlight to which the tiles are exposed, which is obviously related to the climate and the location of the project. Sunny days, of course, are more energy-efficient than cloudy days.

via Shutterstock
via Shutterstock

To ensure maximum efficiency, it is essential to maintain and clean the tiles. In addition, it's recommended to choose solar tiles that are arranged next to each other rather than overlapping (unlike traditional ceramic tiles), since this prevents shadow areas from being generated that don't capture sunlight.

When Should Solar Roof Tiles be Installed?

The installation of photovoltaic tiles should be considered if you are building a building from scratch.

Having a high installation cost (which produces considerable savings in approximately 5 years), solar roof tiles are commonly used in corporate buildings that seek certifications related to sustainability. However, currently, they are also installed in some high-standard multi-family homes, which aim to reduce the costs of conventional electricity.

It's possible (and desirable) that this type of solution will eventually be found in all types of buildings, including homes, where personal energy generation reduces the cost of living and increases the autonomy of any family.

Hantile. Image © Hanergy Thin Film Power
Hantile. Image © Hanergy Thin Film Power

Advantages

- Solar tiles are an excellent source of renewable energy for regions with high solar incidence.
- They are visually more attractive and discreet than traditional photovoltaic panels since they are part of the roof design and not installed later. There are some solar tile options that even mimic the appearance of slate stone tiles or ceramic tiles, going completely unnoticed.
- They are a good option for the rehabilitation of buildings in conservation and/or in historical areas (when alterations are authorized).

Disadvantages

- They are new to the market and, therefore, are even more expensive than traditional photovoltaic panels.
- There are still few solar tile manufacturers and few skilled laborers for its installation. Some of the largest producers in the market are Tesla Solar, Hanergy, and Eternit.
- Unlike solar panels, they cannot be installed at angles other than the original roof design, so in some cases, it's more difficult to optimize the efficiency of energy capture. However, this can be an advantage if the roof is designed correctly for this purpose, accounting for the tiles in the very concept of the project.

© Tesla
© Tesla

For more information on photovoltaics, visit the article:
How does Photovoltaic Energy Work?

References

About this author
Cite: Migliani, Audrey. "How do Solar Tiles Work?" [Como funcionam as telhas fotovoltaicas?] 03 Jan 2020. ArchDaily. (Trans. Franco, José Tomás) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/930969/how-do-solar-tiles-work/> ISSN 0719-8884
© Tesla

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