Given Australia’s propensity for sunshine, solar power is an increasingly popular form of renewable energy, with more than two million Australian households having rooftop solar panels by the end of 2018. A common criticism of traditional solar panels is their bulky appearance, but the innovation and introduction of solar tiles has provided a streamlined option. Combining the appearance of roof tiles with the functionality of a photovoltaic (PV) panel, solar tiles are a discreet two-in-one option that is integrated into the roof while harnessing the energy of the sun.
In Port Macquarie on the NSW Mid-North Coast, Pycon Homes and Constructions used Bristile Solar Tiles and Bristile concrete tiles to create the look of a traditional roof for Stephen Hamer’s new family home.
Stephen commissioned a new home from Pycon, an award-winning home-building company that prides itself on delivering exceptional quality, value for money and showcasing the latest in building concepts and ideas. The Atlas is a 292-square-metre split-level house suited for a sloping block. It has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, kitchen, open-plan living and dining area, a media room, multipurpose space and double garage. Stephen also had solar tiles, solar hot water and a rainwater tank installed. It’s part of a plan to reduce his carbon footprint, wanting to become more self-sustainable and one day live off-grid.
In selecting solar panels Stephen was more interested in the sleek solar tiles rather than cumbersome solar panels to maintain a clean roof line. “I had seen Tesla’s solar tiles, and when I approached Pycon they mentioned Bristile also does a solar roof tile,” he says. “They showed me the Bristile brochure with the solar tiles and matching roof tiles and it was a no brainer.
Bristile Solar Tiles are mini high-efficiency solar PV panels that look like standard roof tiles but have the extra functionality of converting solar energy into electricity. They are made from 45-Watt Suntech premium monocrystalline cells and low-iron, hail-resistant tempered glass, and a solar inverter transforms solar panel power into AC power, suitable for use by regular appliances.
While traditional solar panels mean an additional system is installed on top of the roof, solar tiles are integrated into the roof. Bristile Solar Tiles are designed to complement Bristile’s standard concrete and ceramic roof tiles, available in two profiles and a choice of colours, and their small size and thin profile blends seamlessly with the roofline. “People only notice them after I have told them there are solar roof tiles instead of solar panels,” Stephen says.
The level and integrated appearance of the solar tiles gives a sleeker aesthetic than solar panels that are traditionally mounted on top of the roof. Eliminating the gap between the roof and panels minimises the impact of strong winds and means debris can’t build up around the system. There is also no need to cut, grind or drill through an existing roof during installation.
Solar tiles also have the benefit of maximising the amount of roof space dedicated to generating power. Lots of homes may have limited space that is correctly oriented or aligned for panels, whereas solar tiles can be integrated into the roof to optimise solar power generation. The Bristile Prestige Solar Tiles cover 30 square metres of the roof of Stephen’s house and have been installed on the (rear) northwest and (side) northeast faces of Stephen’s house. This position optimised solar access and is not blocked by trees or other structures that may otherwise shade the roof.
The solar tiles are integrated with dark grey Radium concrete tiles with very little variation in colour between them. Roof tilers and solar electricians worked together to lay the tiles in one day with electrical work to follow. The 5kW system will generate an average of 20kWh per day, which is enough energy to meet the needs of an average family of four in Port Macquarie. There is no battery installed at this stage, but Stephen will look at this option down the track.
Stephen and his family moved into the house in November 2018 and have noticed a vast difference in his electricity bill from his previous house. After receiving his first bill, Stephen said, “just got my first electricity bill and I got a $39 credit. Over the moon!”
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