Tesla solar roof review: is it worth the hype?
Individual panel prices
Prices of DIY kits
Installed system prices
Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the company’s solar roof shingles back in October 2016, causing a huge media stir.
However, it wasn’t until April 2018 that the electric vehicle manufacturer began the rollout of their first installed solar roofs. Even then, very few were installed, making it hard to gauge if the Tesla solar roof was as revolutionary as the company claimed it would be.
Then in October 2019, Tesla released the Solar Roof V3, boasting it as their best solar roofing product yet. With a 25-year weatherization warranty and a Class 3 hail rating, the new Tesla solar roof is expected to be more durable than previous versions.
But, are Tesla’s solar shingles actually worth the hype they’ve been getting in the media for the past four years?
Before we get into the specifics of the Tesla solar roof, let’s go over what exactly the solar roof is. Tesla and their subsidiary SolarCity designed the solar roof to look like a traditional roof, however, some of the shingles are photovoltaic - meaning, they are able to generate solar power.
This way, homeowners could enjoy the benefits of solar energy without sacrificing the aesthetic of their home.
Tesla’s solar roof consists of two types of textured glass tile shingles:
When you choose to install a Tesla solar glass roof, your entire roof will be replaced with a combination of active and inactive solar shingles. The active solar tiles contain solar cells, so they can produce solar energy for your home to use. The inactive shingles function has regular shingles, and do not produce any electricity.
Tesla now requires all Tesla solar roofs to be paired with their solar battery, the Tesla Powerwall. You cannot install a solar roof without a Powerwall.
According to Tesla, the active solar roof tiles cost $2.01 per watt. The cost of the inactive shingles varies, based on the complexity of your roof. Tesla divides roofs into three groups:
The actual total cost of a Tesla solar roof will depend on how much energy your home uses, the size of your roof, and the complexity of your roof determined by Tesla’s design team, as well as any other details or upgrades deemed necessary by Tesla.
For instance, some customers have reported that Tesla required them to upgrade their electrical panel for almost $5,000, adding to the overall cost of the installation.
We used Tesla’s cost estimator to get an estimate of the total costs of a solar roof for an 1,708 square foot, moderate complexity roof in Stockton, California, with an electric bill of $140 per month. Based on the needs of the home, Tesla suggested a 5.7 kilowatt (kW) solar roof at a total cost of $38,844, before incentives.
The active solar shingles cost $11,516 and the cost to replace the remaining roofing materials was $27,328.
The federal tax credit can be applied to the cost of the active shingles, which would bring the cost down to about $35,849. Some additional costs may qualify for the federal tax credit, but for this example, we are assuming just the solar costs outlined on Tesla’s site qualify. The 5.7 kW roof is predicted to save $15,986 on utility bills over the lifetime of the system and break even after 19 years.
When you look at the cost per watt of Tesla’s solar roof, $2.01 per watt, it’s actually quite comparable to the average cost of solar in the United States, which, as of April 2021, is around $2.85 per watt.
However, the Tesla solar shingle roof isn’t just solar panels, it's a roof plus solar panels. So, to get a better idea of how solar shingles compare to conventional solar panels, we have to look at the price of replacing your roof versus getting solar installed.
Let’s use the same house from the earlier example. By using the average cost of asphalt shingles in the U.S., it would cost around $8,540 to replace the home’s 1,708 square-foot moderate complexity roof.
So, how much would a traditional solar panel system cost? By using the average cost per watt of solar in the U.S., a 5.7 kW solar panel installation would cost $16,245, before the federal tax credit.
That brings the total cost of installing a traditional solar system and replacing the roof to $24,785. After the federal tax credit, this would come out to about $20,561.
So how did this compare to the cost of Tesla’s solar roof? After Tesla’s most recent solar roof price hikes, the cost of a solar roof is almost double that of installing a traditional solar system and a roof replacement.
|Tesla solar roof||Traditional solar install + roof replacement|
|Cost of solar after tax credit||$8,512||$12,021|
|Cost of roof replacement||$27,328||$8,540|
Now we know the cost of a solar roof compared to a traditional solar installation and roof replacement, but how do the savings stack up?
A traditional 5.7 kW solar system in California will produce around 11,940 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year. By using the average price of electricity in California listed by Tesla, a conventional solar system would bring the 25-year savings to $52,189.33.
With the solar roof, Tesla estimates you would only save $37,800, breaking even after 19 years.
So, you will get greater long-term savings with a traditional solar panel system.
The lower solar production from the solar roof is mainly because solar shingle orientation is determined by the slope of your roof. Rack-mounted solar panels are able to be oriented for ideal solar generation, giving you more energy bill savings.
One of Tesla’s selling points for their solar roof is that they are durable and long-lasting. Here are some of the warranties and ratings for their solar shingles:
|Tile warranty||25 years|
|Power warranty||25 years|
|Weatherization warranty||25 years|
|Hail rating||Up to 1.75" diameter hail|
|Wind rating||Up to 166 mph winds|
|Fire rating||Class A UL 790 (highest fire rating)|
The 25-year warranties meet the standard for most solar panels on the market. They are a little more durable than traditional solar panels when it comes to their hail and wind ratings.
Most solar panels are tested for their strength against one-inch hail. While this is considered severe hail and is rare in many places, Tesla’s is tested to withstand 1.75-inch hail.
Most solar panels are rated to withstand wind of up to 140 miles per hour. That’s in the range of a Category 4 hurricane, which is pretty impressive. But, Tesla went the extra mile (per hour) and built their solar roof to withstand 166 mile-per-hour winds.
While the shingles will withstand some impressive weather events, they do require a grid connection to power your home.
Unfortunately, If you experience a power outage, your solar shingles will stop producing electricity until the grid is back online - unless it is paired with a solar battery. This also means you cannot install an off-grid Tesla solar roof.
The first step to getting the Tesla solar roof installed is to order it on Tesla’s website. Simply enter your address and average electric bill, and Tesla will give you a price estimate for your home. At this step, you can choose to include the Tesla Powerwall, the company’s energy storage option. However, it isn’t required to install Powerwall with the solar roof. You then pay a $100 deposit.
When you pay your deposit, Tesla will do a virtual assessment of your roof to make sure a solar roof can be installed. Tesla requires you to upload one of your electricity bills and provide some additional information about your home to complete their home assessment.
Once the assessment is complete, you must wait for the proper permitting to be approved before beginning the installation process. This can take anywhere from one to five weeks, maybe longer depending on your location.
When the permits are approved, one of Tesla’s certified solar roof installers will schedule an installation date for your new roof. It should take about one week to install the solar roof, but this can take longer depending on how complex the project is.
After the installation is complete, the roof will have to be inspected and approved to be interconnected to the grid by your utility. This can range from one to five weeks. Waiting for permitting, inspections, and interconnection could take a few months.
Once the roof is inspected, you can download the Tesla app and monitor the system’s production!
Note: There is also no way of knowing when an installer can get to your house to begin the solar roof installation. So, the complete timeline of how long it takes to get the solar roof installed ranges from one month, to possibly over a year.
Since Tesla raised their prices, installing a Tesla solar roof is much more expensive than a conventional roof replacement and solar installation. And now that you have to install the solar roof with a Powerwall, it’s even more expensive.
It really only makes sense to install the Tesla solar roof if you really want to have the Tesla product or you’re really in love with the solar roof aesthetic. Otherwise, it just doesn’t pan out financially.
If you’re looking for a way to save the most on your electric bills, you’re much better off going with a traditional solar panel installation. Even if you also have to replace your roof, you’ll end up spending less by going with a conventional roof replacement and solar installation, and you’ll get better savings out of the solar panels.
You should also keep Tesla’s reputation in mind if you’re considering the solar roof. While they are extremely popular for their electric cars, the historically low customer reviews for Tesla Energy suggest their after-sales customer service isn’t the best.
In fact, it took almost two years from when the solar shingles were announced to when the first ones were installed, and there’s no official count of how many solar roofs are currently out there.
In 2020, Tesla began canceling some orders for solar roof systems, claiming that the homes weren’t in Tesla’s service territory. More recently, they even upped the solar roof prices by over 30% for people who already signed Tesla contracts. So, it’s up to you to decide if the inconsistencies in Tesla’s customer service when it comes to the solar roof are worth it.
Before you jump into ordering their solar roof product, you should get multiple quotes from solar installers in your area to make sure you’re getting the best price and quality for your solar panel installation.
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