Tesla solar roof: Updates and comparing costs to conventional solar
Tesla and SolarCity announced the launch of the Tesla solar roof in 2016, but there is still some confusion about what exactly it is and how much it’ll cost you.
In reality, the Tesla solar roof isn’t that much more expensive than a traditional solar panel system and roof replacement. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to go solar.
In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know, from how much the Tesla solar roof costs to whether or not it's worth getting.
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What is the Tesla solar roof?
One of the biggest issues homeowners have with solar panels is how they look. As a response, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced Tesla Energy’s new product - the Tesla solar roof - in 2016.
The solar roof was designed to function as photovoltaic solar panels while seamlessly integrating into a roof. This way, homeowners could still enjoy the benefits of solar energy without having to worry about sacrificing their home’s aesthetic.
The solar roof shingles are made of tempered glass tiles which resemble the look of slate roofs.
A Tesla solar roof contains both active and inactive shingles. The active shingles contain solar cells to produce solar power for the home to use. The inactive shingles act as regular shingles to protect the home and provide a uniform look.
Each roof tile measures 15 x 45 inches and comes with a 25-year warranty. The durability of Tesla solar roof tiles is reflected by their high fire rating and ability to handle 1.75-inch diameter hail and wind speeds up to 166 miles per hour.
What’s new with the Tesla solar roof in 2021?
At the end of October 2019, Tesla launched Solar Roof V3, the most recent iteration of the solar roof tiles. Unlike its predecessors, the new Tesla solar roof product comes in one style and consists of fewer parts.
Elon Musk was confident that the rollout of the new solar tiles would be the best of the tiles made yet. The company planned to ramp up production at their Gigafactory in Buffalo, New York and partner with local installers to help deploy more solar roofs than they had in the past.
Tesla has reached its goal of producing enough solar roof materials for 1,000 homes, despite recently cutting ties with Panasonic. Image source: Twitter
In September 2020, Tesla lowered the pricing of the solar roof from $2.85 per watt to $2.01 per watt before incentives, making it cheaper than the national average cost for solar.
There is still no official count of how many Tesla solar roofs have been installed. What we do know is that Tesla solar roof installations have tripled from Quarter 2 to Quarter 3 of 2020, according to Tesla’s quarterly call. We can probably guess that it’s still a relatively low number, though.
More recently, Tesla has partnered with Mississippi Power to create the world’s first ‘smart neighborhood’. The high-tech neighborhood, located in Lauderdale County, Mississippi will have 150 homes, all outfitted with Tesla’s solar glass roof and Tesla Powerwalls. Construction is expected to begin in early 2021.
If this project proves to be a success, it could help push out more solar roofs in the future.
How much does a Tesla solar roof cost?
Tesla’s active solar roofing tiles cost $2.01 per watt, and the inactive shingles cost $7.65 per square foot. Tesla estimates that a 10 kW solar roof will cost a total of $31,133, including incentives.
The actual cost of a Tesla solar roof will depend on the size of your home and your monthly energy usage.
How much does a Tesla solar roof cost compared to solar panels?
A conventional 10kW system would cost an average $19,536 after the federal tax credit in the U.S. This is $11,600 less than the cost of Tesla’s solar roof. However, the Tesla solar roof isn’t just a solar panel installation - it also includes getting a new roof.
So, to get a better understanding of the cost of the solar roof compared to the cost of solar panels, we need to compare the cost per watt of the solar roof compared to the cost per watt of solar panels.
As of January 2021, the average cost per watt of solar is about $2.49 per watt in the U.S. before the federal tax credit. The cost per watt for solar shingles before the tax credit is $2.01. So, Tesla’s solar shingles are cheaper than the average solar panel.
But that doesn’t mean that the Tesla solar roof is the best way to power your home with clean energy.
Is the Tesla solar roof worth it?
The Tesla solar roof is technically cheaper per watt than a conventional solar system. However, because the solar roof also includes a total roof replacement, the overall cost is much more expensive.
So, if you don’t need to replace your roof, installing a traditional solar system probably makes more sense for you. That way, you don’t have to spend extra money on new roofing that you don’t need.
On the other hand, if you do need a new roof and you’re looking to switch to solar, the Tesla solar roof system would actually cost about the same as a traditional roof replacement and solar installation.
Let’s take a look at an example:
Tesla recommended a 7.8 kW solar roof for a 2,000-square foot home with a monthly electric bill of $200.
The active solar tiles came to a total of $15,636.27. The remaining roof space would be covered by Tesla’s inactive shingles, coming in at $9,891.45. That brings the total cost of a new solar roof to $25,527.72. The federal tax credit would drop this price to $21,544.38.
Now let’s look at an example where this same house got a traditional shingle roof replacement, and installed a 7.8kW solar panel system.
First, the whole roof would need to be replaced with new asphalt shingles. This would come out to about $7,000 based on the average cost roofers charge for installing asphalt shingles.
A traditional 7.8 kW system would cost an average of $19,422, before the tax credit. Once the tax credit is applied, the cost of the solar system would come down to about $14,372.28. That means the total cost for a new roof and a conventional solar panel system would be $21,372.28.
As you can see, the price of the Tesla solar roof is just about the same as if you replaced your whole roof and installed new solar panels.
Does the Tesla solar roof require a Powerwall battery?
No, you do not have to install a Tesla Powerwall battery with a solar roof.
Energy storage can increase the cost of your solar installation by thousands of dollars. With that said, Tesla offers a $1,000 discount when you install a Powerwall with a solar tile roof, which would cut down on energy storage costs.
But, if you live somewhere that is prone to frequent blackouts, like California, then pairing your solar roof with a Tesla battery could be beneficial.
Should you get the Tesla solar roof?
The company’s solar roof tile installations were supposed to shake up the solar industry. Unfortunately, Tesla has consistently been unreliable when it comes to their solar roof.
Despite being introduced in 2016, Tesla didn’t start installing solar roofs until 2018. Even then, some people believe that less than 100 Tesla solar roofs have actually been installed in the United States. Tesla even recently started canceling solar roof preorders, even after homeowners had paid their deposits - claiming that the sites weren’t within their service territory.
While some people have received their solar roofs, like one homeowner in Kansas whose installation took just four days, others have been living through a nightmare. One Florida homeowner’s project took two months to finish, and was met with unresponsiveness from Tesla when issues came to light. This stark variation in experience shows that Tesla hasn’t quite worked out their installation process, so customers should keep this in mind.
The scenario that took place in Florida isn’t that surprising. Despite being extremely popular for electric cars, Tesla is also known for its not-so-great customer service when it comes to their energy division, which is reflected on SolarReviews. So, while the Tesla roof sounds like a competitive option for those looking to switch to solar in theory, Tesla’s spotty reputation precedes them.
The bottom line is that while the new version of the solar roof is definitely an improvement from the past, Tesla’s unreliability when it comes to the solar roof and their lackluster customer service makes it hard to gauge if you’ll actually get a solar roof anytime soon - or if it’s even worth the risk.
Before deciding on the solar roof, you should get quotes from multiple solar installers to make sure you’re getting the right rooftop solar system for you.
- The Tesla solar roof integrates solar panels into regular roof shingles so homeowners can generate solar power on their roofs without having to worry about the look of their home.
- The newest version of the Tesla solar roof was announced in October 2019. Since then, the price of the solar roof has dropped and the number of total solar roofs installed has tripled, however, the actual number of roofs installed is still unclear.
- Tesla estimates that a 10kW solar roof will cost a total of $31,133, including the savings from incentives.
- The active Tesla solar roof shingles cost $2.01 per watt, which is cheaper than the national average cost of solar. But the cost of replacing your whole roof causes the total cost to be much higher than a conventional solar system.
- Installing the Tesla solar roof only makes sense if you are looking to go solar and also need to replace your roof. Otherwise, you will be paying extra money for a roof replacement you don’t need.
Author: 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.