Tesla roof tiles turn solar shingles into a complete solar roof
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).
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What are solar roof shingles?
Solar shingles 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 $14.54 per square foot.
At a cost of $14.54, the total cost of putting a 10 kW Tesla solar roof on a 2,500 square foot home is about $36,350, including the cost of installation. When you take the 26% federal tax credit into account, the cost drops to around $12.45 per square foot installed, or about $31,125 total.
The total cost of a Tesla solar roof will vary depending on where you live, the size of your roof, and your home’s energy consumption. Installing solar shingles may also qualify for additional local solar incentives, which can further drop the total price.
Solar shingles cost compared to a conventional roof cost
While the total cost of Tesla’s solar shingles seems a bit high compared to a traditional rooftop replacement, it’s important to keep in mind that Tesla’s roof includes the value of solar power.
When Tesla installs a solar roof, they are actually installing both active and non-active shingles. The active shingles convert sunlight into energy for your home. The non-active shingles do not convert sunlight to energy, they are just regular shingles.
Based on Tesla’s estimates, the active solar shingles come out to about $2.01 per watt. This comes in at the low end of the cost of solar, with the average for traditional solar panels costing around $2.64 per watt.
The cost of the non-active Tesla shingles comes out to around $7.65 per square foot installed. This is slightly higher than the national average for traditional shingles, which is somewhere between $3.50 and $5.50 per square foot.
Based on those quotes, the cost to replace your normal roof would come to $11,250 and the cost to install a 10 kW solar system would be $26,400. That brings you to a grand total of $37,650. That’s about the same price as Tesla’s solar roof, which comes in at a total of about $36,350.
If you are looking to install solar panels and you also need a roof replacement, Tesla solar shingles could be a great choice. In some cases, it might even be the cheaper option for roofing materials! However, if you don’t need a new roof and just want to go solar, you’re better off installing a new solar panel system.
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.
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 26 percent federal solar tax credit until the end of 2020.
- 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 of solar roof shingles?
Solar shingles do have a few drawbacks:
- Solar roof cost: As a roofing material, the total cost of solar roof tiles are about three times the cost of conventional roofing materials; and as solar panels, the total cost of solar shingles is almost double the cost of a conventional residential solar power system for the same production capacity.
- Limited styles available: The Tesla roof tiles come in one sleek, low-profile texture glass style, which might not match the aesthetic of all homes.
- 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 Tesla solar 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 SolarReviews 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 26% federal solar tax credit steps down at the end of 2020 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.
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.