5 reasons why you should NOT get the Tesla solar roof

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Tesla solar roofs look nice, but come with compromises. Image source: St. Augustine Record

We know that Tesla sounds like it’s the most cutting-edge high-tech company on the planet, but it seems like CEO Elon Musk should focus a little less on getting to Mars, and a little more on improving his company’s customer service here on Earth. 

Even Musk has said it himself; Tesla made some pretty ‘significant mistakes’ when it came to the solar roof (also referred to as the Tesla solar shingles). It looks cool, sounds cool, but for most homeowners it’s not a practical decision to install. 

It can be really hard to discern whether or not the Tesla solar roof is a worthwhile investment. Even in cases where it does come close to similar installations in terms of price, there are just too many compromises homeowners have to make when they go with the Tesla solar roof that we don’t think are worth it. 

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    1. It’s expensive

    The biggest drawback to the Tesla solar roof is the price. Unless you’re in the market for a total roof replacement and a solar panel installation, the solar roof makes absolutely no financial sense. 

    Even if you are looking for solar and a new roof, you can probably get a conventional roof replacement and solar-plus-storage system for less than if you went with the Tesla solar roof.  

    A Tesla solar roof uses two types of shingles to replace your existing roof. Active solar shingles that contain photovoltaic solar cells and generate electricity for your home, and inactive roof shingles that look like the photovoltaic shingles but do not generate electricity. 

    Technically speaking, the $1.80 per watt-price of the solar roof is cheaper than the average cost for solar, but that’s partially because Tesla is such a large company that they can take afford to take some losses on their price, and because they probably rolled some of the material and labor costs into the price of their roofing materials to make the solar appear cheaper. 

    Their roofing materials cost between $15.30 and $21.27 per square foot, depending on how complex your roof is. A traditional roof replacement for asphalt shingles would cost somewhere between $4.00 and $10.00 per square foot.

    You can learn more about the difference in the costs of the Tesla solar roof and conventional solar installations in our in-depth article, Complete Guide to the Tesla Solar Roof.

    See what local installers are charging for rooftop solar panels

    2. You have no control over the design

    When it comes to solar, Tesla’s big on the “one-size-fits-all” approach. While this does allow them to shave down some costs, it comes at the expense of homeowners. 

    For one thing, you don’t have a say in how your solar system is designed. This isn’t as big of a deal with the solar roof compared to a regular solar energy system because you don’t have to worry about aesthetics when you’re placing the solar shingles. 

    But say for example, in order to keep the installation costs down, you might not want to size the system to cover your entire electric bill. Or maybe you want the Powerwall batteries to be installed on the east side of your house instead of the west side where your patio is. You don’t really get to choose, Tesla does. 

    In fact, some homeowners have even reported that Tesla charged them $2,000 in order to request changes to their design plans. It does, however, seem to vary for every homeowner, as some didn’t report having the same charge applied to them. 

    3. It’s inefficient

    Tesla hasn’t released any official performance specifications on their solar roof tiles, which in and of itself is a red flag. But, from what’s circulated on the internet, they seem to be about 18% efficient, which falls in line with traditional solar panels.

    Despite having similar estimated efficiency ratings to that of conventional solar panels, they don’t perform as well because they are attached flush to your roof. Conventional solar panels are mounted on racking, and can be installed at an ideal angle to maximize solar production. 

    The solar shingles just go against your roof, so the angle they sit at is predetermined and can’t be adjusted. This means you’ll likely need a bigger-sized solar shingle system to cover your electric bill than if you had installed a solar panel system, which, in turn, causes you to spend more. 

    For instance, you would need to install a 8.18 kW Tesla solar roof system to cover a $200 electric bill in California. You would only need about 5.71 kW of traditional solar panels to eliminate that same bill.

    4. You can’t add more solar in the future

    If you get your solar roof installed and realize you need more solar shingles to meet your energy needs, you’re out of luck. 

    Tesla will not expand the size of your solar roof system - what you get is what you got. With traditional solar panels, you can add more panels if you need more, provided you have the roof space

    5. It’s Tesla

    Tesla is notorious for having poor long-term customer service when it comes to its solar department. People have waited weeks to hear back from service representatives when they’ve had questions or issues with their solar roof installations. This isn’t always the case of course, but based on what we’ve seen, it seems to be more common than not.

    It’s not just the company’s customer service though, the whole solar operation is unreliable. We already mentioned that they don’t provide technical specs for their solar shingles, and the lack of transparency is honestly concerning. 

    Not to mention, Tesla had made claims of new solar roof products (like a clay version of the shingles that were supposed to be made available all the way back in 2017) and never delivered.

    Tesla is also constantly changing their pricing structure for the solar roof, making it difficult to discern what you’re actually paying for and at what rate. While changing prices isn’t a huge issue, we drew the line when the company instituted price increases for homeowners who already signed contracts

    Yep, you read that right. Homeowners who already signed contracts for their solar roof installations received news that the prices would be changing, and in some cases the costs increased by more than 75% of their original contracted price. Five months and a class action lawsuit later, Tesla finally agreed to honor original contract pricing for solar roof projects, but it left a sour taste in our mouth. 

    How to switch to solar - without Tesla

    It’s really tempting to go solar with Tesla. Their solar roof looks awesome and their solar panels cost way less than what most other solar companies are charging. But when you take that low (initial) price, you’re compromising on things like installation quality, customer service, and design freedom. 

    At SolarReviews, we strongly recommend going solar with a reputable, local solar installation company when you’re looking to switch to solar power, even if it is a little more expensive than Tesla. These companies will take the time to understand your unique situation and find solutions tailored to your needs during the installation process. And you can trust that down the line, they’ll have your back. 

    You can get started with your journey to going solar by using our state-of-the-art solar panel calculator that gives you accurate solar savings and production estimates for your specific home.

    Find out how much you will save on your monthly electricity bill by going solar
     - Author of Solar Reviews

    Catherine Lane

    SolarReviews Blog Author

    Catherine is a researcher and content specialist at SolarReviews. She has strong interests in issues related to climate and sustainability which led her to pursue a degree in environmental science at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

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