Tesla solar roof tiles turn solar shingles into a complete solar roof


tesla solar shingles
The Tesla solar roof is one of the most popular solar shingle options. Image source: Tesla

Solar shingles have been around for a number of years. However, in 2018 Elon Musk and the first installations of the Tesla solar shingles turned the way we think about solar shingles on their head. 

The sleek glass tiles generate electricity and replace your existing roof. They’ve drawn new attention to the previously-unloved segment of the solar industry known as building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). 

However, Tesla’s solar shingles aren’t the only ones out there. In this article, we’ll go over what exactly solar shingles are, take a look at some of Tesla’s biggest competitors, and explore whether or not solar shingles are worth it. 

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    What are solar roof shingles?

    Solar shingles are roofing shingles that contain solar cells. They are designed to look and offer the same protection as traditional asphalt shingles while generating solar electricity at the same time. 

    Many homeowners are hesitant to install solar power systems on their roof, despite the positive economics, because they don’t like the look of traditional solar panels. Solar roof shingles are the answer to this dilemma - they allow homeowners to still get all of the benefits of solar without having to sacrifice the aesthetic of their home.

    What sets Tesla’s solar panel shingles apart from other solar shingles on the market?

    Tesla is the first solar shingle manufacturer to make its active solar shingles (which contain silicon solar cells) look the same as the inactive shingles (that don’t generate power). 

    This means Tesla solar shingles require you to install a whole new roof made entirely of Tesla roofing products. However, some homeowners find that it is worth the cost, as this solar roofing product is one of the best looking, since most of the shingles look almost exactly the same. 

    Plus, the price of Tesla’s solar shingles is substantially lower than the other options on the market. 

    How much do solar shingles cost to install?

    The cost to install solar shingles varies, depending on the brand you choose and how you choose to compare the costs. 

    If you’re looking strictly at the cost of solar, Tesla is the cheapest at $2.01 per watt before incentives. Other solar shingle brands will cost between $3.80 to $7.00 per watt

    However, it’s important to note that Tesla requires you to invest in a total roof replacement when you install their solar shingles. This means that the overall cost of a Tesla solar shingle installation could be much higher than that of other brands, like CertainTeed, that can be installed with your existing roof - especially because Tesla’s roofing materials can get expensive. 

    Find out which solar incentives your home could qualify for

    Solar shingles cost compared to a conventional roof replacement cost

    The cost of a solar roof is going to seem a bit high compared to a traditional roof replacement or a conventional solar installation, but it's important to keep in mind that a solar roof installation includes the value of both a roofing material and a solar panel system. 

    When you install a Tesla solar roof, you install both active and inactive shingles. The active shingles convert sunlight into energy for your home, while the inactive shingles just act as regular shingles. 

    Based on Tesla’s estimates, the solar shingles come to $2.01 per watt. This is lower than the average cost of traditional solar panels, which is around $2.85 per watt

    The cost of the inactive shingles depends on the complexity of your roof, so it will cost between $14.00 and $19.95 per square foot of inactive Tesla shingles. This is higher than the average for traditional asphalt shingles, which is somewhere between $3.50 to $5.50

    Based on these quotes, a traditional roof replacement would cost around $9,350 for a 1,700 square foot roof and a conventional 10 kW solar system would be $24,900. That brings you a grand total of $34,250. The entire Tesla solar roof for the same home, assuming it has a simple roof complexity, would come out to around $43,900

    That’s substantially higher than a traditional roof replacement and solar panel system installation. So, it doesn’t really make sense to install a Tesla solar roof unless you really love the way it looks and are not willing to install conventional solar panels. It may also make sense to install the Tesla solar roof if the roofing material you have is very expensive and in need of replacing, like slate. 

    Tesla solar roof tiles vs. competitors

    While it does seem like Tesla is the only solar shingle manufacturing company out there, they actually aren’t. Believe it or not, there are quite a few other companies that manufacture solar shingles, including Luma Solar, CertainTeed, and Suntegra.

    Luma Solar 

    luma solar shingles

    Luma Solar is one of the original solar shingle innovators. Image source: Luma Solar

    Luma Solar developed the first fully-integrated solar roof system in the U.S., with claims that their solar shingles are a luxury product that can be upgraded in the future in order to meet your needs. 

    Luma Solar offers three different options for their solar shingles: 

    • An integrated solar roof
    • Edge-to-edge sectional solar roof
    • Ultimate total roof coverage

    All of Luma’s solar shingles come with a  25-year warranty. The integrated and edge-to-edge options use 65-watt polycrystalline solar shingles that start at $4.50 per watt. 

    Their ultimate total roof coverage package uses 75-watt monocrystalline shingles. They don’t include a price for their ultimate package, but we can assume it’s higher than $4.50 per watt since it uses monocrystalline solar cells, which are more expensive. 

    CertainTeed Apollo II 

    certainteed apollo ii solar shingles

    CertainTeed’s Apollo II solar shingles don’t require you to replace your whole roof, but they are a little more noticeable on your roof than some other solar shingles on the market. Image source: CertainTeed

    CertainTeed, a leading brand of traditional roofing shingles, began offering solar products in the late 2000s. Currently, they have two solar shingle products to choose from: the Apollo II shingles and the Apollo II tiles. 

    Both are 70 watts with monocrystalline solar cells. The Apollo tiles have a slightly higher efficiency, a lower profile, and we can assume are slightly more expensive than the Apollo shingles, but CertainTeed does not list pricing on their website. 

    CertainTeed solar shingles don’t require you to replace your entire roof, and they can even be installed on top of existing asphalt shingles. This likely makes a CertainTeed solar shingle installation cheaper overall than other types of solar shingle installations, because you don’t have to pay for a total roof replacement. 

    Unfortunately, this does make CertainTeed solar shingles stand out a little more from the rest of the shingles on your roof. 


    suntegra solar panels

    Suntegra’s solar roof tiles can be installed with concrete roofing tiles and are more discreet than conventional solar panels. Image source: Suntegra 

    Suntegra is another popular brand manufacturing solar shingles. Like Certainteed, Suntegra offers a solar shingle and solar roof tile so you can choose which integrates better with your roofing material. The solar tiles are designed to integrate with concrete roofing materials. 

    The low-profile monocrystalline solar shingles are attached directly to the roofing to blend in with traditional asphalt shingles. Suntegra shingles come in three different wattages: 105 watts, 110 watts, and 114 watts. The cost varies from $3.80 to $4.25 per watt, depending on which wattage shingle you choose.

    Suntegra’s solar tiles have slightly lower power ratings, ranging from 64 to 70 watts, and a higher price. Suntegra’s solar tiles will cost between $6.16 per watt and $6.57 per watt. 

    How much will it cost to install solar panels on your specific roof?

    How do solar shingles compare to conventional solar panels?

    The appeal of solar shingles is simply that they look better than conventional solar panels. Some are installed as their own roofing material, while others can be installed on top of your existing shingles, but have an extremely low profile which allows them to blend in more with your existing roof. 

    Most solar shingles have a higher cost per watt than the average cost of solar, so if you have a tight budget, solar shingles might not be right for you. 

    In terms of performance, the solar shingles on the market today tend to have pretty decent specifications. Their power output seems low when compared to traditional solar panels side by side, but that’s because they are substantially smaller than solar panels. 

    Pros and cons of solar shingles

    Solar shingles pros and cons
    Pros Cons
    Reduce carbon footprint High cost
    Electric bill savings Limited styles
    Tax credits and rebates Dependent on roof orientation
    Aesthetically pleasing Requires entire roof replacement

    What are the advantages of solar roof shingles?

    Solar roof tiles are great for the environment, your home, and your utility bills:

    • Reduce carbon footprint: Leverage a clean and natural source of energy that reduces your family’s carbon footprint and runs your home on renewable energy
    • Save on energy bills: Solar shingles reduce annual energy costs, often by 40% to 60%
    • Tax credits and rebates: Eligible homeowners who install solar shingles will qualify for the 26% federal solar tax credit until the end of 2021, and you also may be eligible for other incentives
    • Aesthetics: Solar shingles are less noticeable than traditional solar panels because they are integrated into your roof

    What are the disadvantages of solar roof shingles? 

    Solar shingles do have a few drawbacks:

    • Solar shingle roof cost: The total costs of installing solar roof tiles are about three times the cost of conventional roofing materials and most brands of solar shingles cost more than the average cost of solar panels in the U.S.
    • Limited styles available: Solar shingles aren’t offered in as many styles as conventional roofing, so if you really love the look of your Spanish-style roof, you’re going to be disappointed by your limited solar shingle choices
    • Orientation: Solar shingle production is subject to roof orientation; rack-mounted rooftop solar panels can be installed at angles to capture maximum sunlight, but solar shingles are limited to the natural direction of your roof, so they tend to produce less energy
    • Could require entire roof replacement: You can’t just replace half your roof with Tesla solar shingles, you have to replace all of your roof material; other solar shingles might not require this, but then you’ll have an aesthetic problem similar to the one that exists with regular solar panels

    Who can install Tesla solar shingles?

    Solar shingles are usually installed by certified solar companies that partner with the solar shingle manufacturers. 

    So, if you get a Tesla solar roof, Tesla won’t be the one installing them. One of their solar roof installer partners, either a solar installer or roofing company, will be the ones putting the solar roof on your home.

    What does SolarReviews recommend when it comes to solar roof shingles vs. conventional solar panels?

    Our advice depends on your circumstances: 

    If you’re building a new house, solar photovoltaic shingles are worth considering. They are a functional roof, a way to reduce electric bills, and can be a beautiful, sleek architectural feature. They can also be a good idea if you’re in need of a roof replacement. 

    However, if your home doesn’t need a roof replacement, conventional solar panels will be substantially cheaper than some of these solar shingle options. Not to mention, traditional solar panels are more widely available than solar shingles, and the installation process will likely be faster. 

    If you’re looking to switch to solar, the sooner you get the installation done, the better. The 26% federal solar tax credit steps down at the end of 2021 and expires completely at the end of 2023. 

    Plus, net metering, the law that allows you to export excess solar energy back to the grid at the full retail electricity rate, is at risk in many states where it’s currently offered - further indicating that securing your solar panel system now is more important than ever. 

    Find out how much you can save annually by switching to solar

    Key takeaways

    • Solar shingles are a roofing material that contains solar cells to generate solar electricity.
    • Tesla solar shingles are the cheapest solar shingle option, coming in at $2.01 per watt. However, Tesla requires you to replace your whole roof with the shingle installation, which can make the total installation cost higher than other solar shingles.
    • A solar shingle installation will cost more than a traditional solar panel system and roof replacement, but actual costs will vary based on your specific home and energy needs.
    • Some of Tesla’s top solar shingle competitors are Luma Solar, Suntegra, and CertainTeed.
    • Solar shingles allow you to enjoy all of the benefits of solar without sacrificing your home’s aesthetic, but will come at a higher cost and won’t produce as much electricity as traditional solar panels.

     - Author of Solar Reviews

    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.

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