Thinking of getting a Tesla Solar Roof? Here’s everything you need to know
First launched in 2016, Elon Musk’s Solar Roof system has taken the photovoltaic (PV) world by storm. Tesla’s Solar Roof is not the only solar roof tiles on the market but is some of the most attractive and most expensive.
Solar tiles offer a completely different approach to solar PV installations, the final product is, inarguably, far superior in aesthetic terms to traditional solar PV installations, and seeks to add a cool factor to generating your own power.
While Tesla claims its Solar Roof is competitive in terms of providing a two-for-one solution (you do get a new roof after all), ultimately, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
So, is Tesla’s Solar Roof all it’s cracked up to be? Let’s take an honest look.
What is Tesla’s Solar Roof?
Tesla’s Solar Roof, like other solar roof tiles, is an innovative system of specially engineered roofing tiles or shingles. Unlike conventional solar PV panels that are mounted onto an existing roof, a solar roof acts as a direct replacement for existing roof coverings.
The system allows potential customers to benefit from generating their own power without unduly affecting the aesthetics of their homes. Win-win.
Tesla’s Solar Roof consists of two main types of textured glass tile shingles. The first is purely decorative and is termed inactive. These look exactly the same as the second kind, called Active, to ensure a uniform look of the finished roof.
The Active shingles are effectively small, shingle-sized solar panels that are integrated into the main roof surface in strategic places to maximize their efficiency. In most cases, most of the south or west-facing areas of a roof will consist of Active shingles, with the rest of the surface consisting of the visually similar Inactive shingles.
Active shingles, like conventional solar panels, will also be fitted as close to the best angle of incidence to the Sun’s rays throughout the year. In the northern hemisphere, this is as close to a 60 degrees inclination as possible, which, on most domestic homes is around 30-45 degrees, depending on the pitch of your existing roof.
Of course, if you choose to install a Solar Roof, your old roof will need to be stripped and replaced in totality.
The system can also be used with a Tesla Solar Inverter to convert the direct current generated by the shingles to useable alternating current in your home. While non-Tesla inverters can also be used, the use of Tesla‘s own proprietary equipment ensures the systems will run with fewer potential snags.
This inverter also enables you to tag on a Tesla Powerwall battery to store excess energy, if desired.
The system was developed in a collaboration between Tesla and its subsidiary SolarCity and was first announced in 2016. It wasn’t until 2018 that Tesla and SolarCity were in a position to begin the manufacture and delivery of their first Solar Roofs, however.
Since then, Tesla has continued to make improvements to the technology, with its latest variant, Solar Roof V3, boasting the best efficiency and durability to date. The product comes with a generous 25-year weatherization warranty.
Great, but what are some of the downsides? One is whether Tesla actually serves your geographical area.
For the most part, Tesla should be able to provide an installation in most of the continental United States. However, in some states, they may use authorized installers to do so.
The same is true for other parts of the world, with the rollout continuing around the world. If you are interested in finding out if they serve your area, the best thing to do is contact Tesla, or try to get a quote, and they will tell you.
How much does a Tesla solar roof cost?
According to data from actual Tesla quotes, their Solar Wall system costs approximately 1.80 per generated watt of electricity for their Active shingles. The cost of their Inactive shingles then varies depending on the complexity of the roof in question.
For simple roofs, i.e., basic pitched roofs start at around 13.30 per square foot. For more tricky roofs like hipped roofs or multiple-level roofs, these shingles should cost about 15.30 per square foot. For more complex roofs (i.e. cross-gabled, steep or variable pitched, multiple heights, or lots of obstacles), costs could be as high as 18.54 per square foot.
You will also be charged for the removal and disposal of your old roof at a rate of around 3.55 per square foot.
Just like any solar energy installation, the actual cost will vary depending on the size of roof coverage, location, and construction of the building. Smaller pitched roofs on a single-story home will be considerably cheaper than a large complex roof on a multi-story building, for example.
This is for a variety of reasons, but chief among them are additional costs for access equipment to higher roofs or increased time in labor to design and install the roof on larger and more complex roofs like cross-gabled roofs.
Tesla may also require customers to upgrade their electrical systems in order to actually work with their Solar Roof system. Upgrading elements like electrical panels can cost anywhere in the region of 5,000 and up.
However, to give you a rough estimate, using Tesla’s own calculator, a good-sized family home would cost around 70,000 dollars to install an 8.05 kW system before tax incentives. This quote is based on a home in Nashville, Texas, with a floor area of 2,500 feet 2 (232 m 2 ) and using an average monthly energy bill of 115 (this was the U.S. average in 2019, according to the EIA).
This, according to Tesla’s estimates, should be able to produce for this hypothetical home, somewhere in the order of 12,800 kWh/year, or roughly 100% of the building’s electrical energy consumption. You also get the added bonus (for additional cost) of energy storage with this system, which is a considerable advantage over some conventional domestic solar panel arrays.
If this estimate is accurate, that should provide a payback period (the time taken to recover your initial investment) of about 50 years, give or take. This will likely be closer to 40 years after tax incentives are factored in to reduce your initial capital outlay.
Another estimate for a 1,700 ft 2 (158m 2 ) roof in California with an electrical bill of 150 per month came in at 39,000 before incentives for a 6.13-kilowatt system. It should be noted that this quote was generated in 2022 and for a different state, so costs likely vary for that reason.
You should also remember that energy costs from the grid are likely to rise over time, so the true payback will likely be much shorter, ignoring any maintenance and cleaning costs of course.
We’ve chosen this square footage as it is about the average size of a new family home in the United States.
To put that into perspective, installing a similarly sized conventional solar panel array would cost around 26,000 before incentives. Using the same statistics as above would give you an equitable payback of between 15 and 22 years, depending on tax incentives.
However, remember that the estimated lifespan of conventional solar panels is also roughly 25 to 30 years, so you would probably need to replace the array after a few decades.
It should be noted, however, that such estimates should be taken with a pinch of salt. The final figures will likely vary widely depending on where your home is located if you were to actually order an installation.
This is especially the case for conventional solar panel installations and you are always advised to source several quotes from recommended installers before authorizing any work.
Any and all costs for such installations should also include any planning and design work required prior to the installation. This will not only ensure the costings are as accurate as possible but also discover if your existing roof is appropriate for such an installation.
The latter is less relevant for Tesla solar roofs, as these tend to be a direct replacement for your existing roof covering.
You should also note that costs are likely to vary over time as labor, consumable, and material costs will fluctuate, given the current economic climate. There may be other costs, too, such as various local authority planning requirements, where relevant.
Solar panels vs. Tesla solar roof: which one is better?
Generally speaking, on a per watt average cost, Tesla‘s Solar Roof is actually pretty reasonable, all things considered. According to some estimates, in the United States, Tesla‘s come in at around 1.80 per watt. Traditional solar PV panels tend to cost around 3.00 per watt.
However, any direct comparison between the two is complicated by a few factors. The first is that Tesla’s Solar Roof is not just some PV solar panels but actually a new roof and some PV panels in one package.
Traditional solar PV panels are where your roof can handle it, simply mounted to an existing roof without needing to replace it. So, in order to provide a fair comparison, we’ll need to do a like-for-like summing up.
Cleaning Solar Panels: Why, When, and How You Should Do It
Panel upkeep is a necessity as dust build-up poorly affects your panel’s performance. How often your solar panels should be cleaned is influenced by many factors.
Does dust affect solar panels? The short answer is yes!
The greatest factors that contribute to dust build-up are your geographical location and the surrounding elements that might pollute your system.
While heavy rain, as some smaller studies suggest, might help to clean and clear debris and pollutants from your panels, most large studies report that dust build-up can lower the efficiency of our system in just a minute – around 5% or less.
One study found that solar panels that are properly maintained perform 3.5% more efficiently. CleanTechnica reported an analysis, gathered by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), that panels lose around 30% if not cleaned properly.
A recent study found that ‘due to the accumulation of dust the efficiency of solar modules and panels in terms of power can be reduced up to 60%’. Additionally, ‘The research inferred that the mean of the daily energy loss along a year caused by dust deposited on PV module surface is around 4.4%’
While dust is a common pollutant, leaves also block sunlight, thus affecting your panels’ efficiency. Mountain View, a solar energy provider, reports that clean panels can double the energy overnight, even after 15 months of operation.
Solar systems installed in dust-prone areas, such as near main roads and farmlands, will require more frequent and thorough maintenance. Failure to clean dust off panels installed in such areas can see a detrimental impact on solar production. Research has noted that the ‘reduction in solar efficiency due to dust on PV panel is approximately 40%’ in dust-prone areas.
Bird droppings: Enemy No. 1
Bird droppings can affect a panel’s performance to a greater to degree than dust build-up. The common string-inverter PV system might result in minimal or no energy being produced if bird droppings cover part or all of just one solar panel. A micro-inverter system might see the affected panel/s producing no or limited power. You can read more about string and micro-inverters here.
Trees situated near your panels will not only drop their leaves and branches but attract birds as well. These cause bird droppings and debris over time, which will not only require cleaning and clearing but pose a safety hazard. Hence, a monthly or annual gutter cleaning, and bird proofing, may be necessary.
Another consideration to keeping your panels performing at their best is the angle. Flat arrays will need more servicing as water can pool up, leaving muddy residue as soon as it evaporates. On the other hand, proper-angled arrays can take advantage of rain without having muddy residue. This is because rain can effortlessly slide across them, keeping them mostly free of dust and pollutants.
Why Professional Solar Cleaning Is The Most Ideal Option
Australia has more than 3 million solar power systems installed across rooftops as of January 2022. The Clean Energy Council reported that the small-scale solar sector added 3.3 GW of new capacity in 2021.
Most homeowners prefer DIY solar panel upkeep. To ensure safe solar and gutter cleaning, remember to follow safety guidelines when using this approach. To learn more about how to clean solar panels efficiently and safely, read this article here.
As much as many homeowners want to keep a tight budget and prefer a DIY approach, solar panel cleaning services provide a professional service whilst following the industry’s safety protocols. Cleaning panels isn’t as straightforward as it seems.
You can get a free quote for cleaning your solar panels via our FREE quoting service. Our network of local solar specialists will ensure that your solar panels are clean and performing at their best. Get up to 3 FREE quotes today by completing this quick quiz. Please select ‘Repairs and Maintenance’ after selecting whether you are a home or business owner.
When is the best time to ask for help from solar cleaning experts?
A bit of dust build-up may not be much of a problem and may be able to be tackled with your garden hose. However, cleaning professionals can handle difficult problems and ensure that you are free from any risk associated with getting on your roof. Coordinating with experts can guarantee you the best cleaning standards.
How to clean solar panels at home?
Most DIYers use the materials they have at home. If you prefer a DIY cleaning, we suggest you opt for clean water, detergent, and a good quality soft brush when applying soapy water. Only use a mild detergent if some parts of the panels need some extra cleaning. Wipe dirty areas with mild detergent and cloth-covered sponge safely and thoroughly. This prevents strong chemicals from marking your panels.
Solar Power Equipment and Maintenance
You can always get the job done by using solar panel equipment tools such as an extentool, rotary solar brushes, and a water hose. You can use these tools while staying on the ground. However, in some cases, going up to the roof is necessary to get the job done. We also recommend using a specific solar panel cleaning solution to get the best results.
Needless to say, safety precaution is a must when undertaking this difficult cleaning task. Always use safety equipment such as a safety harness to prevent you from falling to the ground – a method used by professional cleaning experts. Don’t forget to wear a hard hat when doing this task. Always keep these tips in mind when cleaning solar panels yourself.
Ideas To Keeping Efficient Solar Panels
While DIY ideas and professional services help keep your panels clean and maintained, the solar industry also consistently delivers new ideas for much more seamless upkeep. These ideas include:
- Special coatings for dust repellant and soil reduction.
- Robotic cleaners for dirt removal. They use soft brushes and air blowers.
- Kipp Zonen’s commercial tool for dirt measurement.
Kipp Zonen’s DustIQ monitor uses LED and a photodiode to monitor dirt build-up on the array. This tool helps solar farm operators to identify the ideal time to clean their arrays for optimum performance.
Industry experts suggest cleaning your panels at least twice a year. Doing so keeps your investment in its best shape and performing as expected.
Failing to give your panels the maintenance they deserve may also mean losing energy. Remember that losing energy means losing money.
Does cleaning solar panels make a difference? Yes, indeed. Below are energy percentages you may lose per quarter if you fail to give your panels the required maintenance.
- Year 1 Q1: 5% Energy Loss
- Year 1 Q2: 10% Energy Loss
- Year 1 Q3: 15% Energy Loss
- Year 1 Q4: 20% Energy Loss
- Year 2 Q1: 25% Energy Loss
- Year 2 Q2: 30% Energy Loss
- Year 2 Q3: 35% Energy Loss
- Year 2 Q4: 35% Energy Loss
Safety Tips For DIYers Solar Panel Cleaning
Rain can often help clean general dust away, and in this case, professional cleaners may not be necessary. However, living in a high-pollutant area may bring extra dirt and debris that will necessitate a garden hose to clean your panels effectively.
If there is too much stubborn grime on the array that will require you to go up on your roof, always follow safety precautions. Use appropriate safety equipment including wearing a safety harness and hard hat when doing a regular cleaning.
Solar panels for home Brisbane cleaning will require a clean sponge and mild detergent to effectively remove grime. If your panels require heavy upkeep, leaving the task to the professionals can never go wrong.
Find a local solar panel cleaner today with our FREE quote service. Get your free quotes by completing this quick quiz. Please select ‘Repairs and Maintenance’ after selecting whether you are a home or business owner.
Everything You Need To Know About Solar Shingles
Alora Bopray is a digital content producer for the home warranty, HVAC, and plumbing categories at Today’s Homeowner. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of St. Scholastica and her master’s degree from the University of Denver. Before becoming a writer for Today’s Homeowner, Alora wrote as a freelance writer for dozens of home improvement clients and informed homeowners about the solar industry as a writer for EcoWatch. When she’s not writing, Alora can be found planning her next DIY home improvement project or plotting her next novel.
Roxanne Downer is a commerce editor at Today’s Homeowner, where she tackles everything from foundation repair to solar panel installation. She brings more than 15 years of writing and editing experience to bear in her meticulous approach to ensuring accurate, up-to-date, and engaging content. She’s previously edited for outlets including MSN, Architectural Digest, and Better Homes Gardens. An alumna of the University of Pennsylvania, Roxanne is now an Oklahoma homeowner, DIY enthusiast, and the proud parent of a playful pug.
April 27, 2023 December 6, 2022
A Complete Guide to Solar Roof Tiles
As photovoltaic technology becomes more modernized, researchers are beginning to develop alternatives to the traditional solar panel. Solar shingles are a recent addition to the expanding line-up of new PV technologies. Solar shingles and roof tiles are intended to replace normal roofing materials with roof shingles that generate electricity. They still function as roofing materials, being fire resistant and providing protection during storms. They cost more compared to traditional solar panels, but provide the same power output. Some are opting to switch to solar shingles simply for the aesthetics, as the low profile and simple design can add a nice modern touch to a home. A major deterrent for installing Tesla’s solar roof tiles is that they necessitate the complete replacement of the roof, which adds to the cost of installation.
What are Solar Shingles?
Solar roof tiles are photovoltaics that integrated into the roof of your home. They are designed to look and act like traditional roofing materials, like asphalt or slate, while simultaneously generating power from the sun. They are part of a group of PV modules called building-integrated photovoltaics, or BIPD, a class of PVs that are built into the architecture of a structure.
Solar shingles first became commercially available in 2005, and the market today has grown to encompass several companies and manufacturers. Tesla is the most well-known provider of solar roof tiles, though other companies like Luma, SunTegra, and CertainTeed offer them as well.
How do Solar Shingles Work?
Solar shingles work just like traditional solar panels, except the individual modules are much smaller. Sunlight strikes the solar tiles, and the semiconductor material converts light energy into electricity via a chemical process. The electricity is then used to power your home, either directly, or via a generator or system of battery storage.
The average size of a solar roof tile is 12 in x 86 in (300mm x 2180mm), and each solar roof tile can produce anywhere between 50 to 115 watts. Whereas early solar tile manufacturers used flexible CIGS as a semiconductor, more companies today are utilizing crystalline silicon solar cells. This means they can achieve higher efficiencies and be more competitive with traditional solar panels.
Solar shingles come in different types. Some can be applied directly onto existing roof tiles, while others replace the roof completely. Some are made with flexible semiconductor materials, while others are multi-layered and use traditional c-Si solar cells. Since not every part of the roof of a house faces the sun, solar installers might only place solar roof tiles where they will achieve the highest efficiency, while using similarly designed non-solar roof tiles where the sunlight doesn’t shine, as well as on the perimeters of the roof.
Are Solar Shingles Worth It?
Solar shingles tend to be quite expensive. On average, they can cost between 3.80 to 9.00 per watt. The price depends on the manufacturer, system size, and type of solar tile. Installation costs can also be a huge additive, as solar shingles that require a complete roof replacement cost much more than those which are simply layered over existing roof tiles. Although they are expensive, some states offer tax incentives for solar installations, and you can also still take advantage of net metering with solar shingles, just like your would traditional solar panels.
It’s important to remember that you’re not just getting a PV system, but a roofing material as well. Solar roof tiles have proven to be quite durable, being able to withstand strong winds and hailstorms. Some manufacturers claim that their solar roof tiles are stronger than traditional roof tiles.
Some homes might not be suitable with solar roof tiles. Those who already have expensive roofing materials might see it as an extra cost. Many solar shingles require completely removing the old roof and having it replaced, which can put off many homeowners. Solar roof tiles are best installed on homes that are still being built, where the owner has complete control over the design and building materials of the home.
Many like solar roof tiles simply for the aesthetic value. They have a dark color and a shiny, sleek look. Some might see the switch as a worthy investment, considering they get a sleek new roof along with a reduced energy bill.
Solar Shingles vs. Solar Panels
The major difference between solar shingles and solar panels are the aesthetics and the price. Solar shingles are more appealing to the eye. The sleek look adds a look of modernity. They blend in better with the home, and passersby often can’t tell that the house even has an installed PV system. Granted, solar tiles are still limited in styles. They all tend to have the same look; dark in color and completely flat. Tesla has only recently come out with new designs, like their Tuscan-inspired roof tiles, which have a dusty brown color and are shaped more like traditional roof shingles. Solar shingles also lack many of the extras required with a solar array, as the mounting racks, brackets, and external wiring are absent.
Solar panels are cheaper to install, mainly because they don’t require a complete replacement of the roof. In many cases, installing both solar panels and new non-solar roofing separately can cost less than an entire solar roof tile installation. Where installing solar panels can cost an average of 3 per watt, installing solar roof tiles can cost between 3.80 to 9 per watt.
As far as longevity goes, solar panels and solar roof tiles are about the same. Both are manufactured to last about 20 to 30 years. Sunpower, one of the highest quality manufacturers of solar panels, offers a 25 year performance warranty, while Tesla has a 30 year performance warranty on their solar roofs.
Maintenance for solar tiles is a bit easier compared to solar panels. There are fewer nooks and notches for leaves and dirt to build up, and it’s harder for bugs and birds to make a home inside. Simply spraying solar roof tiles with a garden hose is enough to keep them clean, while solar panels usually require more specialised equipment. On the contrary, solar shingles are new, so we don’t know how easy they are to service and repair when they start getting old.
Solar roof tiles also tend to be more durable than solar panels. They’re not just for generating electricity, they are actually a roof material. That means they are built to be resistant to hard impacts, like hailstorms and debris from strong winds. Solar roof tiles are also made to be fire resistant, the same of which can’t be said for solar panels.
Solar panels do have the benefit of being able to be removed after installation. If you were to sell your house after installing a PV system, you can decide to bring your solar panels, or leave them on the home as an added feature. Solar roofs can’t be removed and molded onto another house. They are custom fitted for each installation. Although, homes with solar roofs can be sold for a 15,000 premium on average compared to similar homes without PV systems.
Solar panel cleaning – what to do, and what NOT to do!
Your solar panels will be installed with the correct amount of tilt, which will mean they will generally self-clean by taking advantage of rain running across them to keep clean. However, here in Australia, we can experience particularly long periods of drought, during which dust build-up, bird’s droppings and other air pollution will accumulate on your solar panels over time.
Also, if you have trees close by your solar panels, particularly deciduous ones, these will drop leaves onto your panels as well as attract birds.
Each of the above-mentioned build-ups can affect the electric generation of your solar panels per module. After all, it makes sense that solar panels will work most effectively when their view to the sun is not obstructed by dirt buildup and other debris.
So, to ensure that you are achieving your fullest possible solar power generation percentage, make sure to keep on top of that all-important solar panel cleaning!
How often should I clean my solar panels?
As a general rule, considering our harsh Australian climate, you want to aim to clean your solar panels at least every six months.
However, if we are experiencing extreme climate conditions for a prolonged period of time such as fires, dust storms or excessive rainstorms, then you may need to clean your panels more often.
Locations that may require more frequent cleaning
If your home is positioned within close range of a highway or a construction site – both of which will produce excess airborne debris, you will need to practice more frequent solar panel cleaning.
Also, homes within coastal areas such as many of our beautiful suburbs within the Shoalhaven should consider the buildup of marine layer residue, which can leave an obstructive film that too will require more frequent cleaning.
How to clean your solar panels
Plan for safety first
Before jumping up on your roof with your cleaning gear and good intentions, stop and consider your safety first. Basically, nobody should be up on their roof without being attached to a safety harness or wearing a hard hat. Check out some information about working safely at heights here.
TIP: Choose a cool day to get up on your roof and clean, as roofs generally hold a lot of heat which can make your task a whole lot harder!
Safe solar panel cleaning
If you are wanting to give solar panel cleaning a go yourself, you should be able to find the right materials to use at home. For best results and to ensure that you don’t scratch your solar panels in any way, simply use water and a soft, non-abrasive sponge or cloth to clean away dirt and debris.
Like you would with glass Windows or when washing your car, dry with a squeegee or chamois to avoid leaving residue behind. If you need to use soap, don’t use anything stronger or harsher than the detergent you would use to wash your dishes with.
Environmentally friendly and chemical-free soaps are best to use, as they won’t harm your plants or animals if they splash off the roof, and they also won’t leave a nasty residue that could mark your panels.
Ultimately, you may decide to leave your solar panel cleaning up to the professionals and just make spot checks yourself every now and then.
When should I call in the professionals?
As mentioned previously, the average bit of dust will be cleaned away for you by rain, and it won’t be worth getting professional cleaners in.
However, you may want to consider giving them all call if;
- You live within a heavily polluted or coastal area
- You have deciduous trees nearby your solar panels
- You notice a particularly tough buildup on your panels such as bird droppings
- You are elderly or simply not confident getting up on your roof
TIP: To prevent you from having to climb up on a ladder to inspect the condition of your solar panels, you could have a CCTV camera installed that points at the panels.
What NOT to do
To avoid damaging your panels while cleaning them yourself, make sure you use the proper supplies. Do not use:
- Harsh soaps such as strong detergents or soaps that contain chemicals as they can be corrosive to the solar panel unit’s surface
- Rough cleaning instruments such as abrasive cloths and sponges, or heavily toothed brooms, as these, can scratch the surface of your panels
It goes without saying, but also never stand on your solar panels, as the weight could cause them to crack.
Don’t forget to inspect your panels regularly
Additionally, don’t forget to give your solar panels regular inspections to ensure they’re free from damage or cracks, but also from nests which tend to be built by birds and rodents!
Inspecting your panels to make sure they’re soaking up as much sun as possible will help to keep your electricity bills down!
For more information or advice on solar panel cleaning, please contact our friendly sales team today on (02) 4464 1597!