Complete review of Tesla solar panels: are they worth it?
Individual panel prices
Prices of DIY kits
Installed system prices
If you’ve been considering installing solar panels, chances are you’ve come across Tesla. And while their website makes it seem like going solar with Tesla is the best way to have a high-tech home of the future while simultaneously lowering your electric bill, that actually might not be the case.
So, what’s making the switch to solar with Elon Musk really like? Is Tesla’s low pricing too good to be true?
In this article, we break down everything you need to know about buying Tesla’s solar panels, from Tesla’s approved financing options to whether or not buying them is the best choice for your roof.
You can expect to pay about $16,500 for a 7.2 kilowatt (kW) solar panels system from Tesla before you apply the 30% federal tax credit. The installation price falls to about $11,600 after the tax credit.
This ends up working out to an average of $2.30 per watt of solar installed on your roof by Tesla. But, Tesla’s pricing can range from as low as $2.00 per watt to $2.75 per watt, depending on where you live. Tesla’s prices are cheaper than the national average cost for solar, which typically falls between $2.60 per watt and $3.00 per watt.
The total price of a Tesla solar system also depends on the size of the system you install. Tesla offers installations anywhere between 4.25 kW and 24 kW. Exact sizing options vary with location.
There are a few reasons why Tesla can charge such low prices for solar. Brand name recognition also helps a lot. Tesla doesn’t have to do a whole lot of work to get people to their website. People know Tesla - so they go right to it. This, plus the fact that they’ve made the ordering process entirely online, eliminates a ton of overhead costs that many other solar companies face.
Not to mention, Tesla is a large company - they can afford to undercharge for their panels and take a slight loss at the front end of the deal.
Tesla solar installations may be cheap in comparison to its competitors, but not everyone has thousands of dollars lying around to pay in cash. Homeowners have the ability to take out a loan directly with Tesla to help cover installation costs.
Tesla’s solar loan works like any other regular solar loan. You take out a loan with Tesla and make monthly loan payments back over a 10-year term at 6.99% APR. These terms are pretty consistent with financing options you’ll see offered by other installers. However, Tesla does require a down payment - many solar loans come with zero-down offers. Make sure to compare financing options offered by local installers before jumping right into a Tesla loan.
The following table outlines estimated monthly loan payments for different-sized solar systems from Tesla:
|System size||Cash price*||Down payment*||Monthly payment*|
*Based on price of $2.32 for systems installed in Florida
**10-year term at 6.99% APR after potential incentives considered
In 2021, Tesla announced that it would be switching from using Hanwha Qcells’ Peak Duo Black solar panels to their own Tesla-branded solar panels.
Tesla doesn’t list a whole lot when it comes to the performance specifications of its panels. Scrolling to the “Solar Panel Specs” portion of Tesla’s website shows 400-watt panels, but it doesn’t say much beyond that, other than that the modules shown on the page could be different than the ones used in your final design.
If you do a little digging on the internet, you’ll come across some solar panel spec sheets from Tesla suggesting the company offers two panels: the H Series and the S Series. These models are also listed in Tesla’s most recent solar warranty documentation.
|Spec||Tesla H Series||Tesla S Series|
|Models||T395H, T400H, T405H||T420S, T425S, T430S|
|Wattage||395 W - 405 W||420 W - 430 W|
|Efficiency||20.1% - 20.6%||19.3% - 19.8%|
|Power tolerance||-0 / +5 W||-0 / +5 W|
|Dimensions (with framing)||74.4" x 41.2" x 1.57"||82.4" x 40.9" x 1.57"|
|Warranty||25-year performance warranty, 10-year comprehensive warranty||25-year performance warranty, 10-year comprehensive warranty|
Tesla (and their die-hard fans) love to point out that Tesla’s panels are “more powerful” than other residential panels on the market. The fact of the matter is that many panels on the market today are pushing the 400-watt mark.
Not only that, but Tesla’s S Series of panels are much bigger than many residential panels and closer in size to commercial panels. Because these panels have more area, more solar cells can fit in the frame, resulting in a higher power rating.
Don’t get us wrong - the Tesla panels do still have some great technical specifications. The power tolerance rating and temperature coefficient align with popular Tier 1 solar brands, so they should operate well under real-world conditions.
When you install a Tesla solar panel system, you get three warranties:
Tesla panels come with a product warranty that guarantees the panels will be free from defects in design and materials for 25 years. This is a great product warranty compared to the industry standard of 12 years.
As solar panels age, they can’t produce as much electricity as they did initially. Performance warranties outline how much solar panels degrade as they age.
Tesla’s warranty states that its panels will operate at at least 98% of their original rated power after one year of use. For the remaining 24 years of the warranty period, the panels’ power capacity will not drop by more than 0.54% annually.
This is pretty much in line with industry standards; most panels have an annual degradation rate of 0.50%. Tesla’s is a little higher than that, which means Tesla panels will degrade a tiny bit faster than other panels on the market. This shouldn’t be a make-it-or-break-it decision for getting Tesla solar panels, but something to take note of.
Will the real warranty please stand up? The performance warranty information we’ve listed here is what’s written in the warranty document on Tesla’s website, so this should be the one to follow. But, a different set of performance warranty terms are listed on the datasheet for the H Series panel (again, that isn’t listed on their website) and a statement on their website that includes yet another performance warranty.
The comprehensive warranty covers your entire Tesla solar system, including any Powerwalls you choose to install, the Tesla solar inverter, and roof mounting and leaks. It is nice to have a comprehensive warranty, so you only have to deal with one company if something goes wrong with your equipment.
With a regular solar panels system, for example, your inverter would probably be from a different company than your solar panels, so you’d need to keep track of a few different company warranties. Having a comprehensive warranty from one company, like Tesla, can save you a headache down the line.
The specifics of Tesla’s comprehensive warranty aren’t listed on the website but are included in your purchase agreement when you order the panels.
It’s unclear what size or series panel Tesla will install on your roof; they don’t even provide the full technical specifications of their panels directly on their site. However, based on the 400-watt panel listed on Tesla’s website, it seems like you’ll most likely get the T400H panels installed.
With that said, you probably won’t know for sure until you place an order.
Tesla solar energy systems are made of three basic components:
The solar panels take sunlight and convert it into electricity. The electricity then travels from the solar panels to the Tesla solar inverter, where it is converted into AC electricity that your home appliances can use.
When you use the electricity your solar panels make, you use less energy from the grid, thereby lowering your power bill.
The solar panels will produce the most electricity in the middle of the day when the sun is highest in the sky. Any energy your solar panels produce that your home doesn’t use will be sent to the utility grid or your Tesla Powerwall battery if you have one installed.
At night, when your home’s energy usage is higher than what your panels produce, you will take electricity from the grid or your battery, depending on your system setup.
The Gateway monitoring system keeps track of this process and how your solar power system is performing, which you can keep an eye on with the Tesla app.
Over the past year, Tesla has flip-flopped back and forth between whether or not they require a Tesla Powerwall with their solar panel installations. As of January 2023, Tesla does not require a Powerwall with Tesla solar panels.
If you want to add energy storage to your Tesla solar panel installation, it’ll add $11,500 to your installation costs.
Tesla solar panels look like the ones you’re used to seeing on roofs. They are installed on top of your existing roof and generate electricity for your home.
Tesla’s solar shingles are designed to look like traditional roofing materials, so you can’t tell that there is solar installed on the roof.
Tesla solar shingles require a full new roof replacement, so the solar roof tiles don't stand out from the rest of your shingles. Unlike their traditional rooftop solar panels, Tesla manufactures their solar shingles themselves at their Buffalo, New York gigafactory.
You can read our breakdown of how Tesla’s solar roof compares to conventional solar panels for more information.
It’s true that you’ll probably get the lowest price for going solar when you go with Tesla. But the price of solar also includes the cost of the long-term relationship that you get with your solar installer, and that seems to be where Tesla cuts costs.
Unfortunately, Tesla has historically been known for having pretty shoddy long-term customer service - which you can read about in customer reviews here on SolarReviews. Because they are such a large company, they don't have the ability to give you the type of one-on-one service that you need when going solar.
Tesla’s customers have reported that it’s hard to get ahold of them if there’s a problem with their system, and it can take even longer to get someone out to check on the issues. This can actually cause you to lose a substantial amount of money.
If your solar panels aren’t producing energy properly, you have less electricity to power your home, and thus a higher electric bill. The longer it takes for someone to fix your system, the more money you lose.
At first glance, a Tesla solar panel installation seems like a no-brainer. They have an easy ordering process, and they offer good-quality solar panels at an insanely low price. All we can say is that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
When it comes to solar, communication between you and your solar company is key. You’ll be dealing with them for 25 years, at least! Tesla’s track record shows that they might not be the ones you want to rely on if something goes wrong. Cutting costs won’t be worth the potential headache you could incur after the solar installation.
We recommend getting quotes from a few local solar installers before you decide to go solar with Tesla. A local installer’s prices will most definitely be higher than Tesla’s, but the cost includes the value of a long-term customer relationship, and to us, that’s priceless.