Tesla solar roof review: is it worth the hype?
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. Plus, it comes at a much cheaper price.
But, are Tesla’s solar shingles actually worth the hype they’ve been getting in the media for the past four years?
On this page:
- What is the Tesla solar roof?
- How much does it cost?
- How does it compare to solar panels?
- How do the savings compare to solar panels?
- How to get a Tesla roof installation
- Are Tesla tiles worth it?
Tesla’s solar roof has been making headlines for years, but is it worth getting excited over? Image source: Tesla
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 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:
- Active solar shingles
- 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 has regular shingles, and do not produce any electricity.
How much does the Tesla solar panel roof cost?
According to Tesla, the active solar roof tiles cost $2.01 per watt. The inactive shingles cost $7.65 per square foot. The actual total cost of a Tesla solar roof will depend on how much energy your home uses and the size of your home.
We used Tesla’s cost estimator to get an estimate of the total costs of a solar roof for an 1,800 square foot roof in Long Beach, California, with an electric bill of $150 per month. Based on the needs of the home, Tesla suggested a 6.2 kilowatt (kW) solar roof at a total cost of $26,628.58.
The active solar shingles cost $12,460.18. The cost to replace the remaining roofing materials is $14,167.80.
The federal tax credit can be applied to the cost of the active shingles, which would bring the cost down to $23,388.20. The 6.2 kW roof is predicted to save $31,843 on utility bills over the lifetime of the system.
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, $2.01 per watt, it’s actually quite comparable to the average cost of solar in the United States, which is around $2.49 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 US, it would cost around $7,400 to replace the home’s 1,850 square foot roof.
So, how much would a traditional solar panel system cost? By using the average cost per watt of solar in the US, a 6.2 kW solar panel installation would cost $15,438, before the federal tax credit.
That brings the total cost of installing a traditional solar system and replacing the roof to $22,838. After the federal tax credit, this would come out to $18,824.12.
So how did this compare to the cost of Tesla’s solar roof? It’s actually a pretty tight race:
|Tesla solar roof||Traditional solar install + roof replacement|
|Cost of solar after tax credit||$9,220.40||$11,424.12|
|Cost of roof replacement||$14,167.80||$7,400|
How do the savings of the Tesla solar roof compare to traditional solar panels?
While the cost of Tesla’s solar roof is comparable to the cost of a traditional solar installation and roof replacement, how do the savings stack up?
A traditional 6.2 kW solar system in California will produce around 10,180 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year. By using the average price of electricity of California listed by Tesla, this would bring the 25-year savings to $48,356.90.
With the solar roof, Tesla estimates you would only save $31,843, breaking even after 12 years.
So, you will get greater long-term savings with a traditional solar panel system.
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:
|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 mile-per-hour 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 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.
2. Get a virtual assessment
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.
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?
When you look at the economics, the Tesla solar roof tiles have almost the same cost and savings as a conventional solar panel system with a roof replacement. However, if your existing roof doesn’t need to be replaced, you’re better off just getting a traditional rooftop solar panel installation.
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 consistently low customer reviews for Tesla Energy suggest they aren’t the best solar option out there.
In fact, it took almost two years from when the solar shingles were announced to when the first ones were installed. It’s also believed that as few as 100 Tesla solar roofs have been installed in total. Plus, with Panasonic ending their partnership with Tesla Energy, there’s no telling if the Gigafactory in Buffalo, New York will be able to produce enough solar shingles to meet demand.
Tesla has also begun cancelling some orders for solar roof systems, claiming that the homes weren’t in Tesla’s service territory. So, it’s up to you to decide if the unreliable service from Tesla when it comes to the solar roof and their low customer reviews makes the solar roof 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 for solar panels.
- 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.
- Tesla’s active solar shingles cost $2.01 per watt, while the inactive shingles cost $7.65 per square foot. The actual cost of an entire Tesla solar roof varies depending on the size of your home and your energy usage.
- A Tesla solar roof is comparable to the cost of getting your roof replaced and getting solar panels installed. However, if you do not need a new roof, you’re better off getting traditional solar panels.
- Tesla has a history of being unreliable when it comes to installing the solar roof, even cancelling orders made years ago.
Author: Andrew Sendy | Home Solar Journalist
Andy is deeply concerned about climate change but is also concerned about cost of living pressures on American families. He advocates for solar energy and solar battery storage only to the extent that they make financial sense for homeowners. He is not affiliated with any particular solar company in the United States.