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 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.
On this page:
- What is the Tesla solar roof?
- How much it costs
- Does it require a Powerwall battery?
- Is the Tesla solar roof worth it?
- Should you get a Tesla solar roof?
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 photovoltaic (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.
With the original launch of their solar roof, Tesla had four style options to match any home:
- A smooth glass tile roof
- Tuscan glass tile roof
- Slate glass tile roof
- Textured glass tile roof
However, with their launch of the new solar roof V3 in 2019, there is now only one glass shingle style option, which is most similar to the textured glass tile roof. Tesla’s V3 solar roof tiles also come with a 25-year warranty and measure 15x45 inches.
Tesla’s solar roof consists of two types of shingles:
- Active solar shingles
- Inactive shingles
The active solar glass roof tiles contain solar cells, which allows them to produce electricity for your home to use. The inactive shingles act as regular shingles, they do not produce any solar power.
How much does a Tesla solar roof cost?
Tesla estimates that a 10kW solar roof will cost a total of $33,950, including incentives. The solar roof tiles cost $2.85 per watt, and the inactive shingles cost $5.60 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 $23,532 after the federal tax credit in the US. This is $10,600 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 US, the average cost per watt of solar is $3.18 per watt, before the federal tax credit. The cost per watt for solar shingles before the tax credit is $2.85. 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.
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.
However, if you live somewhere that is prone to frequent blackouts, like California, then pairing your solar roof with a Tesla battery could be beneficial.
Is the Tesla solar roof worth it?
The Tesla solar roof is technically cheaper per watt than the average solar panel. However, because the solar roof also includes getting a new roof, 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 also 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:
I got an estimate from Tesla for how much a solar roof would cost to install on my house - a 2,000 square foot home with a monthly electric bill of $200. They recommended a 7.8 kW solar roof.
The active solar tiles came to a total of $22,173. The remaining 1,293 square feet of roof space would be covered in Tesla’s inactive shingles, coming to a cost of $7,240.80. That brings the total cost of the solar roof to $29,173.80. The federal tax credit would drop this price to $23,409.
Now, let’s look at the numbers if I got a new roof plus a 7.8 kW 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 in my area.
A traditional 7.8 kW system would cost an average of $24,804, before the tax credit. So, the total cost to replace my roof and install a solar system would be $31,804. When the tax credit is applied, the cost would come down to $25,355.
As you can see, the Tesla solar roof is a better deal only if you are in need of a roof replacement, as well as a solar panel system.
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 has recently started cancelling solar roof preorders, even after homeowners had paid their deposits, claiming that the sites aren’t within their service territory.
Plus, Tesla’s partnership with Panasonic recently came to end, so it’s hard to tell if they will be able to produce their solar roof products at the rate they had predicted.
Tesla is also known for it’s not-so-great customer service, which is reflected on SolarReviews. So while the Tesla solar roof theoretically sounds like a competitive option for those looking to switch to solar, Tesla’s reputation precedes them.
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.
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.