Solar power surges in popularity for home owners

There's enough energy in one hour of sunshine to power the Earth for a year. All that free energy means solar panels are popping up in the suburbs.

The solar energy industry is growing rapidly, with nine times the number of installations in 2016 than there were four years prior.

But one hurdle for homeowners is the visual impact of solar panels on the roof.

"You build a beautiful house and when you put bulky panels on top of it, sometimes the design appeal of the house is lost within the panels," says Michael Walters of Monier Roofing

One solution is solar roof tiles made from toughened glass - where the solar cell is built into the roof line.

"You can actually walk on it [and] treat it like a normal tile," Mr Walters says.

Martin Peck is an early adopter - putting in enough solar tiles on his new house that he feeds electricity back to the grid - which in turn reduces his power bill.

"[It] saves us around $30-40 during the summer and maybe $20-25 during the winter," he explained.

But as with all new technology - they cost more.

"Compares about one third to two thirds more than a regular bolt-on panel - but you do get the design appeal with this as well," Mr Walters says.

Some developers are now pre-wiring all new homes to be solar ready - and one Platinum Homes showhome is running all the lights and appliances from solar tiles.

"They aesthetically look good and return some money which is fantastic, it's a no-brainer really," says representative David Watt.

If you believe Tesla's Elon Musk, they're the roof of the future - he's just launched his own range.

There's still a lot of empty rooftops in New Zealand - only 11,000 homes are solar, but each one saves approximately $647 a year on power.

The Government is predicting a huge uptake in the coming decades, saying by 2040 there could be as many as 350,000 solar homes.

And it could wipe billions off total electricity bills - because who doesn't like something for free?