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.
Everything you Need to Know About Modern Residential Solar Panel Roofs
Solar power is a renewable energy source that can offer a wide range of benefits for homeowners. Until fairly recently homeowners had to choose between an appealing roof that was attractive but that did not offer the ability to capture solar energy or a roof that provided solar power using large solar panels that stood out and detracted from the home architecture and aesthetics though.
That is no longer the case with the development of residential solar panel roofing though. Today it can be difficult to tell which homes utilize solar panel because new panel models are designed to flawlessly blend with the rest of the roof instead of standing out and detracting from the appearance of the home.
How do Solar Panel Roofs Work?
Solar panels have photovoltaic cells embedded in them. These PV cells have the ability to convert sunlight into electricity, or more specifically into direct current or DC power. An inverter is then used to convert the DC power collected into alternating current or AC electricity that can be used to power the electrical components of your home. An electrical panel controls the power that has been collected, sending electricity to appliances, lights, and other electrical components when power is needed.
Batteries can be used to store any excess electricity that is not needed at the time of collection. This energy can be used at a later time or even sold back to a local utility company for credits on future energy bills so that the energy can be used on the grid for other customers. A utility meter will measure energy that is drawn by the solar panels and fed back to the grid to keep track of what you are using and supplying.
Traditional Solar Panels Versus Solar Panel Roofing Materials
Traditional solar panels can be effective but they have many drawbacks. The panels can be large and bulky, they are installed over the roof so they are highly visible, the panels may not stand up well to adverse or extreme weather conditions, and they can detract from the overall look and beauty of the home.
Solar panel roofing materials eliminate many of the drawbacks that traditional solar panels have. Solar shingles with photovoltaic cells have been developed which get rid of the panels that sit on top of the roof. These specialized shingles are strategically placed on the surface of the roof to provide protection and collect solar energy when sunlight is available. Areas where PV shingles can not be placed are covered with shingles that do not contain the special PV cells, providing a roof that is attractive and that seamlessly blends both shingle types while still capturing any solar energy available.
Home Design and Solar Panel Roof Integration
Modern residential solar panel roofs combine architecture and home design with innovative solar panel technology, providing products that look great, that blend well into the roof and complement neighboring residences, and that are highly effective. Since the PV cells are embedded in the shingles there is nothing to stick up, leaving the roof flat and attractive. Solar roofing panels will collect sunlight without making the residence stand out from the rest of the neighborhood or lowering the property value of the home. You no longer have to choose between going green and using renewable solar energy or a home that is attractive and comfortable.
Solar panel roofs can be installed on any type of architecture. These roofs are becoming increasingly popular, and they can be found on residences, commercial buildings, industrial structures, and even on government buildings in some areas. Home design and architecture plans for new residences will typically consider alternative renewable energy sources as well as conventional energy sources from the very beginning of the planning stage. Many architects and home designers are integrating solar panel roofs into residential design from the start today because of the energy efficiency they provide and the beauty that they offer to any home.
New Homes Versus Existing Residences
Solar panel roofs can be installed on both new homes and existing homes, but the costs and requirements may be different depending on a number of variables. Some variables include:
A new residence does not have an existing roof that may need to be removed, and the roof deck and other roofing structures can be planned for almost any weight load or design element.
Wiring in new homes can be designed to support any necessary components for solar energy conversion and other energy factors.
Older homes may require upgrades before solar panel roofing can be installed.
Installing a solar panel roof on an existing home can significantly cut energy costs as long as the home is well insulated and other energy conservation and weatherization efforts have been made as well.
Solar panel roofing can be easily implemented in the planning stage for a new residence. Adding this element to an existing home can be more challenging but it is still possible and usually very affordable as well.
Costs Associated with Installing Solar Panel Roofs
Solar panel roofs have come down considerably in price since the first PV panels were introduced. Today solar energy can be both affordable and effective, providing beauty and energy efficiency to your home at the same time. Tesla offers a solar panel roof that looks identical to the roof on neighboring residences by using specially designed glass tiles. Some of these glass tiles are embedded with advanced technology PV cells and some that do not have these specialized cells. The result is a roof that is consistent in appearance.
The cost of installing a solar panel roof can vary widely, depending on many factors and considerations. Some considerations include:
The cost of the solar energy technology used. A Tesla solar panel roof and a traditional roof with added solar panels may have comparable costs when the entire roof is replaced or a roof is installed on a new residence.
Is full roof replacement necessary? If a new roof is needed then replacing the existing roof with a solar panel roof should not be much more expensive. If only minor roof repairs are necessary or the roof is still in great condition then replacing the entire structure with a solar panel roof may not be cost effective at this time.
How much energy storage do you want? Some type of energy storage technology will be used to capture any excess solar energy that the PV cells collect. It is important that you have enough energy storage capacity so that no solar energy is wasted. Batteries are typically used to store any extra energy that is not being currently used. The Tesla solar panel roof offers the Powerwall, which can efficiently store extra energy until it is needed or sent to the grid.
Roof size matters. The square footage of the roof will be a factor in calculating the costs involved in installing solar panel roofing. A larger roof will require more components and roofing materials than a smaller roof, meaning more material expenses and a higher labor cost as well.
Where can Solar Panel Roofs be Used?
Solar panel roofs can be installed almost anywhere, but they are most cost effective and efficient in areas that receive a fair amount of sun much of the year. A location that receives more sun means more solar energy will be collected, and less energy will be needed from other sources. Even homes in colder climates can benefit from solar panel roofs, because at least some of the roof will be exposed to sunshine much of the time even when the temperatures drop.
Solar panel roofs are in demand across the USA, from California to Washington to Colorado. Cities and states which see sunshine all year long started the solar energy trend but the rest of the country has caught on to the benefits of solar energy as well.
Industry Leaders in the Solar Roof Panel Industry
In the solar panel industry there are some industry leaders who really stand out, and one of the most prominent is Tesla. The solar panels, solar panel roofing options, and Powerwall energy storage options available make the move to renewable solar energy an easy one. The Tesla solar panel roof offers flawless beauty, a streamlined look and design, and a high level of energy efficiency and conservation. Gone are the ugly solar panels of the past, the unsightly devices that perch on the roof and detract from the beauty of the home.
Adding solar power to your home without drawing away from the architecture and beauty of the structure is easy and affordable today when compared to the past. The Tesla solar panel roof does not stand out in a negative way, instead it blends seamlessly so that the residence has all of the appeal that you want plus an increase in energy efficiency. Any architectural style or home design plan can benefit from a solar panel roof, as long as the right solar products are chosen from an industry leader.
Tesla Solar Roof in Florida?
We were lucky enough to have recently met with the Tesla team regarding solar roofing in Florida. Their current estimation is an availability date in 2019, unfortunately, our customers will have to wait until then. However, when you see the first Tesla solar panel roof, whether Orlando, Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, it will be a Phil Kean home!
Battery energy storage system deployment more than doubled.
The Tesla Energy business consistently grows and the fourth quarter was not an exception, with especially strong results in the battery energy storage segment.
According to the company, Tesla Energy generation and storage revenues increased 90 percent year-over-year to 1.310 billion (5.4% of the total revenues), while the cost of revenues stands at 1.151 billion.
Tesla energy storage deployed – Q4 2022
Tesla reports that its battery energy storage systems (BEES) deployment increased 152 percent year-over-year to a new quarterly record of 2,462 megawatt-hours (MWh).
That’s quite spectacular, but we guess that the number in BEES segment will escalate quickly in the near future, as there is a high demand from utilities. Tesla notes:
Demand for our storage products remains in excess of our ability to supply.
Total battery energy storage (Powerwall, Powerpack and Megapack) deployment:
A big boost for Tesla energy storage sales is the launch of the all-new Megapack factory in Lathrop, California (announced in 2021), which is expected to produce 40 GWh of Powerpack battery systems annually.
That’s an order of magnitude more than the total deployment in 2021 (3,392 MWh).
Tesla offers three main types of ESS products:
- Powerwall for home installations (13.5 kWh usable / 7 kW peak / 5 kW continuous per unit)
- Powerpack for commercial installations (Up to 232 kWh / Up to 130 kW per unit)
- Megapack (3 MWh units the largest project by utilities)
Tesla solar deployed – Q4 2022
In the case of the solar business (conventional panels and Solar Roof), the situation remains stable.
In Q4, Tesla managed to increase solar deployments by 18 percent year-over-year to 100 MW, which is one of the highest levels in recent years. Overall, the year 2022 ended marginally above the 2021 level (mostly due to the slow Q1).
In its Q4 financial report, Tesla wrote: Our solar installation team continues to improve installation efficiency, enabling higher volumes and stronger economics.
Total solar (conventional panels and Solar Roof) deployment:
Tesla remains silent in its quarterly report about the Solar Roof installation progress. The Solar Roof is produced at the Gigafactory 2 in New York.
A beautiful new roof is entering the market soon and it’s made of solar shingles! At a Tesla event in October last year, Elon Musk unveiled the prototypes for a solar roof, built in partnership with SolarCity. The glass tiles will be available in four designs, each replicating a standard style: Textured, Slate, Tuscan and Smooth Glass.
These solar tiles will feature tempered glass made by Tesla, a new solar film from 3M specifically designed for this project, as well as solar power technology jointly developed by Tesla, SolarCity and Panasonic. From most viewing angles, these solar tiles resemble ordinary shingles, but the design actually allows light to pass through to a standard flat solar cell at the bottom. The tiny louvers in the film are responsible for making the tile appear to be the color of slate or an earth tone when viewed from the ground. Pretty cool right? This is unique to solar tile offerings that we are aware of. It is exciting to see how far solar technology has come over the years.
Elon Musk claims that they have the best solar cell at the lowest price, but there hasn’t been much information about what the price and efficiency levels of the solar tiles are going to be. SolarCity CTO Peter Rive spoke about the company’s goals in a recent interview with Fortune. He said that the company thinks it can get to a solar cell cost of 40 cents per watt over time at large scale, which is competitive with current commodity solar panels. With any product, as long as there is a high demand for it, economies of scale can be achieved and the production cost will eventually drop.
A quote from Bloomberg New Energy Finance solar analyst Hugh Bromley describes it best: “It is the metaphoric ‘super-car’ of residential solar. It portrays cutting-edge technology with broad appeal, but … it competes in a solar market where most customers are comfortable in a family sedan.”
We have worked with building integrated (BIPV) solar tiles in the past and have found wire management and the electrical installation to be time consuming. Concealing and building the electrical interconnections underneath the tiles (with locking connections as required) will be a challenge. We are very interested to see how Tesla works through these challenges to provide a safe, simple and cost effective product.
So here’s our overall opinion on the Tesla solar tiles:
- It is an undeniably beautiful product – the most stunning BIPV solar shingle product we have seen!
- There is a market for the Tesla solar tiles but we feel it will likely be more expensive and thus limited to higher end or luxury homes.
- In communities where there are architectural constraints, it could allow for solar where otherwise not possible.
- It would possibly be a more durable roof with a longer warranty than a traditional asphalt shingle roof.
We really know very little about it including:
- Price – We believe the Tesla solar tiles are very likely to have a premium over asphalt roof plus traditional solar modules
- Electrical interconnection – Safely concealing the interconnecting electrical conductors will be a difficult design challenge for Tesla
- Building integrated solar technology has lower energy production as there is no or limited airflow beneath the modules/tiles. Solar photovoltaics produce more power when they are cold, less when they are hot.
- As the solar tiles are overlaid like regular roof tiles, it may be challenging to maintain or replace a single tile if there is an issue (again depending on the specifics of the mechanical attachment to the roof and electrical interconnection between tiles). Typically, with other solar tile products in the market, all of the tiles in that section will need to be removed in order to replace a single tile.
Only time will tell if this product is able to meet the high expectations. The final product will most likely be available for purchase in 2019 in Canada. We are keeping a close eye on it and hope to know more this summer. We look forward to installing some Tesla solar tiles in the future and remain hopeful that the product will be accessible to all consumers at an affordable price.
You can officially order Tesla’s solar roof — here’s everything you need to know
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Tesla’s solar roof has officially arrived — at least some versions of it.
Tesla began accepting orders for its smooth glass and textured glass solar shingle options Wednesday afternoon. The company’s Tuscan glass and French slate shingles, however, won’t be available for purchase until 2018.
Tesla unveiled its solar roof in late October, about a month before the company acquired SolarCity in a 2.1-billion deal.
Here’s everything we know about the new solar roof:
Tesla announced Wednesday that the typical homeowner will pay 21.85 per square foot for the solar roof. For a 3,000-square-foot home, that would amount to 65,000. Customers must place a 1,000 deposit to order the solar roof.
The solar roof will likely be more expensive than a normal roof, but owners can expect savings on their electric bill. Not to mention getting a roof that lasts much longer than a traditional one.
Solar roof is more affordable than conventional roofs because in most cases, it ultimately pays for itself by reducing or eliminating a home’s electricity bill, Tesla said Wednesday.
Installing a slate tile roof on a 3,000-square-foot home typically costs 45,000, according to Consumer Reports. As mentioned earlier, installing Tesla’s solar roof on the same home will cost roughly 65,000.
You can get a more comprehensive price breakdown here.