Just the other day Tesla, Elon Musk’s company famous for it’s electric cars and home battery system, announced what I believe could be a game changer for the wider construction sector, and the UK fenestration market too.

They announced glass roof tiles with in-built solar panels. This is what they look like:

Credit: Solar City/Tesla

Credit: Solar City/Tesla

This is a screen shot taken from their website. How cool do these look?! These are seriously nice. My particular faves being the Slate and Tuscan options.

Find out more at Solar City

These tiles are made up of three layers. There is a solar cell sat at the back of the tile, there is then a coloured louver film that sits over the top that allows the solar cells to blend in, without loosing too much light, and then there is a tempered glass layer that sits on top to give the tile strength and protection.

According to Tesla, the owners of Solar City who are making the tiles, the glass that is used for this product is as strong as steel and can withstand nearly three times the force a standard roof tile. Presumably these tiles are OK to stand on then. Wouldn’t risk it in the middle of Winter though.

A quick glance on the Solar City website and it doesn’t state the basics as to how these tiles work with the rest of your home, so presumably they can be wired up in a similar sort of fashion as existing solar tech. However, it is safe to assume that Tesla would rather have you buy one of their Powerwall home batteries for all that solar energy to be stored in. I’ve seen them. They’re the future of home power.

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Game changer for solid roof market

So why does this product matter? What effects would it have on our industry? Potentially, massive.

The solid roof market is one of the strongest, best forming sector in the wider UK fenestration market. More and more home owners each year are choosing solid roofs for the conservatory upgrades. And the new-installation market remains largely untapped with over 30m homes still ripe for a glazed extension, potentially with a solid roof.

Up to now, the solid roofs on the market have been using plastic tiles designed to look like real ones, or real ones themselves. There has been an attempt to introduce solar panel tech into solid roofs via a company called Solaris Roofs. They launched in April at the FIT Show, but things have been pretty quiet around the company since the launch. It’s a hard nut to crack, combining solar tech and solid roof tech. But the Solar Roof product from Solar City and Tesla might just be the product that slingshots the solid roof market to even bigger potential.

The vital factor here is for solid roof manufacturers here to start looking at how this product works and if it can be integrated in such a way that it can sell it to installers in a relatively simple way, and for installers to fit it without trouble. If companies like Prefix, Guardian and others can get into the nitty gritty of this product, understand how it works, then it is quite feasible to believe that before long we could start seeing Solar Roof glass tiles being installed on solid roofs as part of residential conservatory refurbishment and new-build installations.

It helps that the product actually looks great too. Four options, all I would happily have on my own house roof, never mind just the glazed extension. This is what will make it easy for installers to up-sell to home owners, should the technology make it’s way to our market.

The other obvious USP is being able to not only give the home owner a room that feel just like part of the house, but a stunning roof that is working for the home owner, whether they’re using the room or not.

The potential for our industry and the solid roof sector is possibly massive. The potential for the wider construction sector is many times greater. Consider the number of houses that need to be built just in this country to attempt to catch up with demand. Consider the retro-fit market, with builders and roofers replacing or repairing roofs for already existing homes. As far as game changers goes, this really is one, and our industry needs to be pushing forward to the front of the queue to make sure we get a piece of the action.

Production of the Solar Roof begins in mid-2017.

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