How much does the Tesla solar roof cost in 2020 compared 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, also known as a building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), was designed to function as 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 textured glass tiles that resemble the look of slate roofs.
Tesla solar roof features
When a Tesla solar roof is installed, there are actually two types of shingles that go on the roof:
- Active solar shingles, which contain solar cells to produce electricity for your home to use, and
- Inactive shingles that act as regular shingles and do not produce any solar power
Each roof tile measures 15 x 45 inches and comes with a 25-year warranty. The solar roof tiles are rated to withstand up to 1.75 inch diameter hail and wind speeds up to 166 miles per hour.
They also have the best fire rating possible, making them an extremely durable roofing material.
How much does a Tesla solar roof cost?
Tesla estimates that a 10kW solar roof will cost a total of $31,133, including incentives. The solar roof tiles cost $2.01 per watt, and the inactive shingles cost $7.65 per square foot.
The actual total 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.
In the U.S., the average cost per watt of solar is $2.64 per watt, before the federal tax credit. The cost per watt for solar shingles before the tax credit is $2.01. So, in reality, 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 go solar.
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 is probably better. Then, 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 could actually save you money on installation costs.
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 1,293 square feet of 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 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 $20,592, before the tax credit. Once the tax credit is applied, the cost of the solar system would come down to about $15,649.92. That means the total cost for a new roof and a conventional solar panel system would be $22,649.92.
As you can see, the Tesla solar roof is only a better deal if you are in need of a roof replacement, as well as a solar panel system.
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.
The company claims that ramping up production at Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, New York will allow them to kickstart more solar roof installations. However, Tesla’s partnership with Panasonic recently came to an end, so it’s hard to tell if they will be able to produce their solar glass roof products at the rate they had predicted.
Plus, Tesla recently started cancelling solar roof preorders, even after homeowners had paid their deposits - claiming that the sites weren’t within their service territory.
Tesla is also known for its not-so-great customer service, 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, 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 roof without having to worry about the look of their home.
- 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.