Tesla Solar Roof review: is it worth the hype?



tesla solar roof review 2022
Tesla’s Solar Roof has been making headlines for years, but is it worth getting excited over? Image source: Tesla

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 seven years?

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    What is the Tesla Solar Roof?

    Before we get into the specifics of the Tesla Solar Roof, let’s go over what exactly the Solar Roof is.

    Tesla and its 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 homes.

    Tesla’s Solar Roof consists of two types of textured glass tile shingles: 

    1. Active solar shingles
    2. Inactive, non-solar 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 as regular shingles and do not produce any electricity. 

    Tesla Solar Roof systems also include a Tesla solar inverter and a Tesla Powerwall battery.

    Check out SolarReviews Founder, Andy Sendy, give his expert review of the Tesla Solar Roof:

    How much does the Tesla Solar Panel Roof cost?

    The cost of a solar roof will depend on several factors, but in general, expect to pay anywhere from $60,000 to $85,000 for a Tesla Solar Roof. If you need a lot of solar power or you have a large roof, the cost can easily exceed $100,000.

    You can get a Tesla Solar Roof installed in two ways: Tesla’s own installation crews or a certified installer. The installation will likely be cheaper when installed by Tesla but might come with long wait times and poor service.

    Solar roof installation by Tesla

    Tesla has their own installation crews in select markets throughout the U.S. If you live in one of these areas, you’ll have access to Tesla’s solar roof pricing. The active Solar Roof tiles cost $1.80 per watt through Tesla.

    The cost of the inactive shingles and other roofing materials, like underlayment, isn’t as cut and dry. We’ve tested out a few different systems on Tesla’s locator, and it seems like the price for inactive roofing portion can be as low as $20 per square foot of total roofing space, or it can exceed $40 per square foot of total roof space.

    Why the big difference? Tesla charges different rates depending on how complex your roof is. Complexity takes into account things like how many stories you have, how steep the roof is, and how many obstructions like vents and chimneys are present.

    Then there’s the roof tear-off charge. A solar roof is a full roof replacement, so they’re going to have to remove your old shingles (in some cases, the solar shingles can be installed on top of your existing shingles). But this costs around $2.25 per square foot.

    And don’t forget, you have to install Tesla Powerwall batteries when you get the Solar Roof! One battery, with installation, through Tesla is $11,500. Sometimes when you install a battery at your home, you need to upgrade your electrical panel, so don’t be surprised if you end up having to pay for this, too.

    So, what’s the total price? Let’s say you live in an average home that needs a 6 kW solar system and has a 1,700 square-foot, moderately complex roof, and you get one Powerwall battery. In this example, the total Solar Roof cost would be roughly $77,000. Here’s a breakdown:

    Material Rate Size/quantity Total
    Active solar shingles $1.80 / watt 6 kW $10,800
    Inactive roofing materials $30 / square foot 1,700 square feet $51,000
    Roof tear-off $2.25 / square foot 1,700 square-feet $3,825
    Powerwall $11,500 1 $11,500
        Total cost $77,125

    Keep in mind, these are all just pricing estimates. The actual rates and total cost will most likely differ once Tesla makes the official design plans for your system.

    Does the Solar Roof qualify for the federal solar tax credit? Yes! Tesla Solar Roof installations can take advantage of the 30% federal tax credit. However, only costs associated with the solar and battery portion of the system are eligible. It’s hard to exactly estimate what the tax credit will be worth because it’s unclear how much of the roofing material costs are considered necessary to the active solar portion. Tesla’s price estimator does provide an approximate tax credit value for you.

    Solar roof installation through a certified installer

    Where Tesla doesn’t have installation crews, you can get a solar roof installed by one of their certified partner installers. Be warned, there aren’t very many - less than 100. So hopefully, there is one in your area.

    When you get the Solar Roof through a third-party installer, don’t be surprised if the price is higher than what Tesla offers. We can’t give you any exact specs on pricing because it will vary a lot depending on where you are and the system you need. For example, labor costs in New Jersey might be higher than they are in Iowa, causing the prices to differ.

    Some people have mentioned that the prices through third-party installers were pretty close to the pricing Tesla was offering. Others received Solar Roof quotes that were thousands, even tens of thousands, higher than that of Tesla. So, it’s a mixed bag.

    How does the cost of Tesla's Solar Roof compare to traditional solar panels?

    When you look at the cost per watt of Tesla’s Solar Roof, $1.80 per watt, it’s actually much lower than the average cost of solar in the United States of $3.00 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 plus getting solar installed. 

    Let’s use the same house from the earlier example. By using the average cost to remove asphalt shingles, the roof tear-off would cost about $1,700. To replace the 1,700-square-foot roof with new asphalt shingles, you could expect a price of about $17,000.

    So, how much would a traditional solar panel system cost? By using the average cost per watt of solar in the U.S., a 6.0 kW solar panel installation would cost $18,000 before the federal tax credit.

    That brings the total cost of installing a traditional solar system and replacing the roof to $36,700. After the federal tax credit, this would come out to about $31,300.

    So how did this compare to the cost of Tesla’s Solar Roof?

      Tesla Solar Roof Traditional solar install + roof replacement
    Cost of solar after tax credit $7,560* $12,600
    Cost of roof tear off $3,825 $1,700
    Estimated cost of roof replacement $51,000 $17,000
    Total cost $62,385 $31,300

    *Only considers the cost of the active solar shingles as qualifying for the tax credit. Additional costs may apply for the actual installation.

    Try our solar cost calculator and see how much solar panels would cost for your specific home

    The price difference may seem surprising because of how much cheaper the active solar shingles are compared to solar panels on a per-watt basis. But Tesla charges a high price for their roofing costs. You can get a regular roof replacement from a trusted roofing company for less than what Tesla is charging.

    How long is the wait time for a Tesla Solar Roof?

    The biggest issue with the Tesla Solar Roof is the wait times. People have been waiting years to get their orders fulfilled, with almost radio silence from Tesla. The main reason for the multi-year wait times is because of Tesla’s slow production.

    The issue can vary by where you are in the country, though. Orders placed in Southern California seem to be completed faster than those in, let’s say, the northeast. Basically, it’s different from order to order. You can wait over three years for work to get started, or it can happen in six months.

    Would we recommend waiting years to get the Tesla solar roof? Probably not. The best time to invest in solar is right now! The sooner you start saving on your electricity bills, the better.

    Get in touch with a local solar installer today

    How do the savings of the Tesla Solar Roof compare to traditional solar panels?

    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 9.00 kW solar system in Florida will produce around 13,100-kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year. Based on an electric rate of $0.16 per kWh, that would save close to $2,100 per year and about $52,400 over the 25-year lifetime of the system. 

    Tesla’s production estimates for the Solar Roof would bring yearly savings to around $2,000 and lifetime savings to $50,000.

    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 higher energy bill savings. So, you could actually install a smaller traditional solar panel system (which means lower costs!) and still cover your electric bill.

    Learn more: Calculate how many solar panels you need for your home

    A review of Tesla Solar Roof technical specifications 

    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: 

    Warranty/Rating type Warranty/Rating
    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)

    Tesla Solar Roof vs. hail 

    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. 

    Tesla Solar Roof vs. wind 

    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 mph winds. 

    Tesla won’t let you go off-grid 

    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.

    How to get a Tesla Solar Roof installed

    1. Order your roof + pay a deposit

    The first step to getting the Tesla Solar Roof installed is to order it on Tesla’s website. Simply enter your address and the amount of your average electric bill, and Tesla will give you a price estimate for your home. At this step, you can choose how many Powerwall batteries to include. You then pay a $400 deposit.

    2. Get a virtual assessment 

    After you submit your order, you’ll either move on to the next step with Tesla, or get paired with a certified installer.

    Either way, this is when your home will be assessed to make sure the Solar Roof can be installed. You’ll need to work with either Tesla or the installer to make sure they have enough information to properly size the system and make the design exactly what you need.

    3. Wait for permitting approvals 

    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. 

    4. Schedule the installation 

    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. 

    5. Get the roof inspected 

    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. 

    Are the Tesla Solar Roof tiles worth it?

    Since Tesla raised their prices, installing a Tesla Solar Roof is now much more expensive than it has been in recent years. From a price perspective, getting a Solar Roof could be cost-competitive with traditional solar and a roof replacement depending on where you’re located, your roof, and what companies you’re using. So if your heart is set on the look of the Solar Roof, get some quotes and see what happens.

    But you can’t just look at the cost. There are two big issues with the Solar Roof. One is that they just aren’t really getting installed. Wait times are so long, and success stories are few and far between. People have been waiting years to hear back on the status of their solar roof orders. Tesla has even canceled orders outright after these long waits.

    Then there’s the issue of customer service. Tesla is notorious for having poor customer service and has historically had low customer reviews. We’ve seen people whose solar tiles have been damaged during storms, and Tesla hasn’t reached out to help them. There have been a few cases where Tesla hasn’t gotten the proper permits, and people have been left roofless because of the delays. These issues may be mitigated by using a third-party certified installer, but it doesn’t solve the supply issue that causes long waits.

    The wait times aren’t just inconvenient; it’s losing people money. It’s better to invest money into a solar system earlier rather than later. You can start saving on your electricity bills ASAP and put money towards the things you care about! And if you’re adding a solar roof to a new construction project, forget it. The unpredictability of when the roof will come can derail your entire project timeline.

    Ultimately, the choice of if you want to install a Tesla Solar Roof is up to you. The concept is cool, and we admit they look great when they actually get installed. But you don’t want to be stuck waiting around, whether it be for the initial installation or for help from Tesla when you need something repaired. Before you hit submit on your Tesla order, we recommend getting at least a few quotes from solar installers in your area to see if you’re getting the best quality and the best price for a solar installation.

    Check whether a solar installation would be worth it for you with our calculator

    Key takeaways

    • Tesla’s Solar Roof integrates active solar shingle tiles that can produce solar energy with inactive shingles to create a roof that produces solar energy without any actual solar panels.
    • A Tesla Solar Roof will cost somewhere between $30,000 and $90,000, which is more expensive than a traditional solar panel installation and roof replacement.
    • Wait times for the Tesla Solar Roof vary across the country, but it can be as long as three years, maybe even longer.
    • Tesla has a history of being unreliable when it comes to installing the Solar Roof, even canceling orders made years ago.
     - Author of Solar Reviews

    Andrew Sendy

    Solar Industry Expert

    Andy is arguably the most qualified rooftop solar expert in America. He is in a unique position, having founded a large solar company but now being independent of any particular company. He has appeared on CNBC, has been referenced in public hearings concerning the rooftop solar industry ( such as the recent CPUC NEM 3 decision) and has been referenced by many major publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Business Week and many others.

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