Solar shingles have been around for a number of years. However, in 2018 the first installations of the Tesla solar shingles, also known as the Tesla solar roof, have turned the way we think about solar shingles on its head.
They are sleek glass tiles that both generate electricity and can replace an existing roof. They’ve drawn new attention to the previously unloved segment of the solar industry known as building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV).
What are solar roof shingles?
They are roof tiles that contain solar cells. They both generate solar electricity and function as a waterproof roof product.
What’s so special about the Tesla solar panel shingles?
Tesla is the first solar panel shingles manufacturer to achieve the following: make the active solar shingles (that contain the solar cells) look the same as all the other non-active roof tiles (that don’t generate power).
Many homeowners have not installed a solar power system despite the positive economics and utility bill savings because they think traditional solar panels are ugly. Elon Musk saw this as a massive opportunity to grow a new division to complement the electric cars produced by Tesla Motors. And so today we have the Tesla solar panel roof tiles.
How much do the solar shingles cost to install?
The Tesla solar shingles currently cost $21.35 per square foot.
The strange thing about the pricing of the Tesla solar panel roof shingles is that the active roof tiles containing solar cells are the same price as the non-active roof tiles. This means the cost of the solar roof won't vary depending on how much electricity your home consumes. This seems strange.
Perhaps Tesla will limit the ratio of active to non-active roof tiles in their solar roof installations. At a cost of $21.35 per square foot, the cost of putting the Tesla solar roof on a 2500 square foot home would be around $50,000.
Solar shingles cost compared to a conventional roof cost?
Conventional roof materials are much cheaper: only around $1–$2 per square foot. But to properly evaluate the value of the solar shingles, you have to add in the value of the solar system you are getting as well as the fact that the solar shingles have a lifetime warranty.
A solar system for a large home of around 8kw will cost around $25,000 — less the federal tax credit. When this is taken into account the cost of the Tesla solar shingles doesn’t seem that far out of the ballpark. However, it is not clear whether the cost of $21.35 per square foot includes the installation cost or not. If it doesn’t, then you could expect installation to be another $5,000–$8,000.
Tesla solar roof tiles vs CertainTeed solar roof tiles?
There are several other companies that make solar roof shingles. Perhaps the best known is CertainTeed who have a solar roof tile product called Apollo II. CertainTeed is a subsidiary of Saint-Gobain, a large traditional roof and building products manufacturer. The advantage of the CertainTeed product is that it is cheaper than the Tesla solar roof. The major disadvantage is that the active solar roof tiles look different to the regular roofing around them and only replace part of the roof.
The only other company who makes a product that can cover an entire roof is Luma — although they claim that their complete roof solution runs at $38 per square foot, making it even more expensive than the Tesla solar roof.
How do solar shingles compare to conventional solar panels?
Unlike traditional solar panel grids that were mounted a few inches above your roof, solar shingles replace your roof material. They're the same size and shape as normal shingles and can cover as much roof space as your home needs. Solar shingles are typically installed when other asphalt shingles on your roof need replacing.
Image source: ineedagoodroof.com
What are the advantages of solar roof shingles?
Solar roof tiles are great for the environment, your home, and your utility bills:
Reduce CO2 footprint – Leverage a clean and natural source of energy that reduces your family's carbon footprint.
Reduce energy bills – Solar shingles reduce annual energy costs, often by 40 to 60 percent.
Tax credits – Eligible homeowners who install solar power may receive tax credits or rebates. All American homeowners are eligible for the 30 percent federal solar tax credit until the end of 2019.
Aesthetics – Unlike conventional solar panels that mount to your roof, solar shingles integrate seamlessly with your roof's asphalt panels. You get the benefits of a full solar installation in an unobtrusive form that doesn't compromise your home's aesthetic.
What are the disadvantages to solar panel shingles?
Solar shingles do have a few drawbacks:
Solar roof cost – As a roofing material the solar roof tiles are about 10 times the cost of conventional roofing materials; and as solar panels, the solar roof tiles are about three times the cost of a conventional residential solar power system for the same production capacity.
Limited styles available – The Tesla roof tiles will come in a number of different styles with sleek low-profile glass tiles, terracotta- look roof tiles and slate-shingle-look tiles. However, not all styles are available yet.
Tesla solar shingles wait time – There is a long wait from ordering to installation of the Tesla solar roof, and very few trained installers.
Orientation – Shingle efficiency is subject to roof orientation. Rack-mounted grids can be installed at angles or on the ground to capture maximum amounts of sunlight, but solar shingles are limited to the natural direction of your roof. They tend to produce lower energy outputs as a result.
Entire roof needs replacing – You can’t just replace half of your roof with the Tesla solar shingles otherwise you’ll have the same aesthetic problem that existed with previous solar shingles.
Who can install solar panel shingles?
There have been so few Tesla solar roof installations that it is hard to know whether solar companies will install them or whether roofing contractors will install them.
What does Solar-Estimate recommend in relation to the Tesla solar roof shingles cost to conventional solar panels?
Our advice depends on your circumstances:
If you are building a new house, the Tesla solar shingles are definitely worth looking at. They are both a functional roof, a way to reduce electric bills and a beautiful sleek architectural feature.
If you have an existing house with a roof that does not need replacing, conventional solar panels will be only 30% of the cost of the Tesla solar shingles for the same solar energy production. You can use the following link to get a solar estimate tailored for your home.
It is important that you get your solar panels for home installed as quickly as possible. The 30% federal solar tax credit steps down at the end of 2019 and net metering, the law that allows you to export surplus energy back to the grid at the full retail rate, is under risk in many states where it is offered. Getting solar panels now would lock in the net metering rate for a fixed period — typically 20 years — thus guaranteeing your return on investment.