Skip to content
Tesla residential solar panels. What is the difference between the Tesla solar roof and panels?

Tesla residential solar panels. What is the difference between the Tesla solar roof and panels?

    Can You Get Tesla Solar Panels for Free?

    With a mission to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy,” Tesla has been a major player in the rooftop solar industry since 2016.

    During that time, Tesla has offered a handful of leasing, renting, and financing options to reduce the solar panel cost barrier and increase adoption of its home solar and battery systems. Somewhere along the way, rumors sprung up that the company was offering free solar panels.

    In this article, we’ll debunk the myth that homeowners can get free solar and battery equipment from Tesla and explore its origins.

    Is Tesla solar free?

    There’s no sense in beating around the bush: No, neither Elon Musk nor Tesla are giving away solar products for free,

    In fact, it’s pretty easy to pinpoint where this misinformation began. In February 2023, at least two pages – operating under the names Solar Panel Rate and Adam Andersson – started running ads claiming that Elon Musk and/or Tesla was not only giving away free solar systems, but paying a certain amount of people to install and test new solar technology.

    These claims have been debunked by Reuters and Lead Stories, a third-party fact checker for Both instances are believed to be schemes for collecting personal information from social media users.

    The Solar Panel Rate post mimicked a live breaking news broadcast that claimed Elon Musk was paying 100 homeowners to test free Tesla Home Technology. When clicked, it directed users to a website where they are asked to input their zip code to see if they qualify.

    According to the transparency report, the Solar Panel Rate page was created in October 2022 and is run by three page managers located in Indonesia. It had, at one time, 31 separate ads featuring the fake news broadcast.

    Adam Andersson had several false ads circulating, including a staged “Dox News” broadcast featuring Elon Musk’s face and claims that homeowners are getting paid 5000,591 to test solar technology as part of the the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

    These are not the first or only bogus social media ads for free solar panels, nor will they be the last.

    Solar incentives vs free solar panels

    It’s worth noting that the Inflation Reduction Act did strengthen the 30% solar tax credit and other home electrification incentives. However, there is a big difference between incentives that reduce solar panel cost and giving away “free solar panels.”

    There are also solar incentives offered through local governments and utility providers that can reduce the cost of solar. However, only a small number of niche programs for low-income and underserved communities cover the cost of solar entirely.

    Is the Tesla Powerwall really free?

    There’s another myth floating around the internet (especially YouTube) that homeowners can get a free Tesla Powerwall. This too is false: The Powerwall is not free, and neither Elon Musk nor Tesla are giving them away.

    However, this myth is based more in reality than the free solar panels scam. That’s because, in the past, Tesla actually has given away free Powerwalls in two different ways.

    First, in previous versions of Tesla’s solar panel referral program it would give away one Powerwall per referrer that made 10 or more referrals. This program applies only to Tesla customers that ordered solar panels between July 15, 2020 and September 17, 2021.

    Second, Tesla offered free Powerwalls to Solar Roof customers that experienced sudden price increases in 2021 in an attempt to prevent them from canceling their contracts. This was a very niche scenario and, in many cases, the value of the Powerwall was less than the price increase of the Solar Roof.

    Finally, it is possible for eligible Californian’s to use the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) rebate to cover part or all of the cost of buying home battery storage, including the Tesla Powerwall.

    This rebate is worth up to 450,000 per kilowatt-hour of battery storage installed for homeowners that meet certain criteria, such as living in a Tier 2 or 3 firezone and having a life-threatening condition that requires a qualifying medical device. So, in theory, a 13.5 kWh Powerwall 2 could qualify for a 13,500 rebate which may or may not cover the entire cost of the battery and installation.

    Does that mean Tesla is giving away free Powerwalls? No. Because the SGIP rebate applies to many brands of energy storage systems and is distributed through a government program.

    The bottom line

    As a rule of thumb, Tesla does not give away free products. And if it did, it probably would not recruit random pages and YouTubers to distribute such promotions.

    There countless ads and scams promising free solar panels on the internet, and if you haven’t seen one yet, you certainly will after reading this article.

    Some of these scams, like the ones mentioned above, are designed to collect and sell your information. Others twist the truth about government incentives to lure homeowners into signing lengthy solar lease agreements that aren’t as favorable as owning the system.

    The best way to avoid free solar scams is to get multiple quotes from solar companies with good standing in your community. By comparing multiple quotes, you’ll get a sense of a fair price and easily be able to weed out scams.

    Tesla Solar Panel Features

    Knowing what features Tesla solar panels have can help you determine if they’re worth it for you. It would be best to examine everything from the panels’ design to their installation and other features before deciding on the Tesla solar panels.

    Designers at Tesla wanted to ensure that you could hide the panels easily, so it doesn’t disturb your home’s curb appeal. They blend seamlessly into your roof so that they’re not as obvious.

    They managed to create a sleek finish with a concealed edge.

    These solar panels are sealed well to prevent any moisture from damaging them. The official name of the panels is the QPeak Duo Black Solar Panels. You can use their 3D modeling system on their website to see how they’ll look on your roof.

    Tesla Powerwall

    Powerwall is the rechargeable battery system that comes with Tesla solar panels. The Tesla app helps you track your usage and has various controls.

    You have the choice between the Powerwall or Powerwall model. They both have the same basic features, but the Powerwall has some upgrades like increased power and capacity. Below you’ll find a chart outlining the differences.

    While the sun shines on your roof throughout the day, the Powerwall will charge and store power. The best thing about Powerwall is that it can power your home in the case of a power outage.

    Steepest Tesla Solar Roof EVER?! #shorts

    Tesla provides information on operating the Powerwall system, as you’ll see in the table below. You can adjust the settings as you see fit.

    Installation Process

    Before installing Tesla solar panels, several things need to happen first.

    First, you need to survey the site. You can do this by using Tesla’s self-survey option or hiring a site surveyor. This process will determine if your home has enough electrical output or requires upgrades. You or the surveyor will determine the number of Powerwalls needed during the survey.

    After the survey, you’ll need to clear a path for installation so the technicians can work safely and efficiently. For setting up the Tesla app, you’ll need an internet connection.

    Finally, you can get to installation day. You or someone over 18 will need to be home during the installation. How long the process will be depends on the size of your home and the number of panels getting installed.

    Something important about the installation process is that you will be without power for most of the day. You’ll want to prepare accordingly. After installing the panels, the technicians will help you understand operating the system via the app.

    How are Tesla solar panels so cheap?

    The most straightforward answer to this question—the Tesla brand and model drives down cost.

    Tesla has a simple online ordering process and relies on organic search as well as brand recognition to drive traffic to their site. And, Tesla’s model drastically differs from most contemporary solar companies to their benefit.

    By offering four standard system sizes and having the whole process online, they’ve cut out the need for salespeople to go over specifications and detailed information with homeowners.

    Tesla offers neither customized nor tailored solar solutions.

    All of this practically eliminates overhead costs that many other solar companies face. Not to mention, Tesla’s overarching scale allows them to undercharge for their panels and take a slight loss at the front end of the deal.

    What makes Tesla solar panels different?

    Arguably, the biggest difference between Tesla’s solar modules and others is how they look on the roof. Installation photos demonstrate a product with a sleek all-black finish, consistent with Tesla’s impeccable reputation for design. However, Tesla is neither the first nor only only company to offer all-black solar panels. Many major brands in solar have offered similar black-on-black design for years, including LG, Panasonic, Solaria and more!

    Considering that, the overall system design still differs between Tesla and its competition.

    The Tesla website states, “Our solar panels blend into your roof with integrated front skirts and no visible mounting hardware.”

    The included skirts create a beveled edge, wrapping around the roof-mounted modules. This causes the solar array to appear almost integrated into the roof, as with the Solar Roof. While Tesla does not have exclusive rights to this technology, they have prioritized its use in order to maintain clean designs across the board.


    Elon Musk’s Solar Roof was first unveiled in October 2016. Around two years later, Reuters reported that Tesla had only activated 12 roofs in California. Installations remained extremely limited in the U.S. until October 2019, when Tesla unveiled a tweaked version of the roof tiles to enable faster installation.

    Ironically, CEO Elon Musk told an audience in 2019 that it would be the “year of the solar roof” — the year when solar deployments reached their lowest point since the roof’s launch.

    In 2020, Musk claimed he wants Tesla’s energy business to expand from less than 10 percent of the company to 50 percent. Evidence suggests, however, that Tesla’s solar installs remain relatively limited.

    Tesla’s solar deployments — which include its retrofit solar panels and the Solar Roof — in the fourth quarter of 2021 were effectively the same as the fourth quarter of 2020.

    Tesla remains the second-largest residential solar installer in the U.S., behind first-placed Sunrun. Tesla’s 2021 total of 345 megawatts was an impressive 68 percent improvement over the previous year, but solar panel supplier Sunrun installed 792 megawatts of capacity that same year. Wood Mackenzie claims Sunrun accounts for 13 percent of the total residential solar market.

    A chart depicting Tesla’s solar deployments over the past year.

    In April 2021, Tesla announced plans to raise roof based on a given installation’s complexity. Musk admitted the company made “significant mistakes” in assessing how hard it would be to install certain roofs in an earnings call that month.

    tesla, residential, solar, panels

    Musk’s long-term vision for the future is one where it’s “odd” for a roof not to collect energy to power the building within.

    But how does an early adopter feel about Tesla’s roof? We asked.

    Tesla Solar Roof: How it all came together

    In January 2021, Nochta switched on his new roof. His 1,175-square-foot roof has enough solar-harvesting tiles to generate 7.6 kilowatts of power. The Tesla Solar Roof uses a mix of solar tiles and dummy tiles; the latter used at the edge of the installation to enable teams to more easily cut edge tiles down to size and fit the roof seamlessly to the house.

    Nochta first installed solar panels on his house in 2016, supplied by SolarCity. SolarCity merged with Tesla later that year.

    The first installation was less than three kilowatts — not much energy, which meant the couple was using slightly more than they produced. But as the household grew to add children and parents, Nochta discovered it was surprisingly difficult to expand the existing solar panel system to add more capacity. The new panels would have to work as part of a dual system, with two inverters feeding into the house.

    These inverters are vital for getting solar power into the home. As explains, they convert the panels’ direct current electricity — with a single voltage in one direction — into the alternating current used in homes where the voltage moves between positive and negative.

    Nochta had “a couple of friends that do roofs” and they estimated it would cost 8,000 to 10,000 to replace the roof. Including new solar panels would cost another 10,000 to 15,000.

    When Inverse checked Tesla’s retrofit solar panel website, these estimates seemed accurate. For a home in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, Tesla charges:

    • 10,128 for a 4.8-kilowatt solar panel installation
    • 20,256 for a 9.6-kilowatt installation
    • 11,000 for one Powerwall battery

    A 9.6-kilowatt installation with a battery would come to 31,256 total. Still, Tesla’s website notes that customers could benefit from a 6,205 Federal Tax Credit, plus a 7,392 Solar Renewable Energy Credit that could bring the total cost down to as low as 17,659.

    That figure was close to the amount Nochta had already guessed he would spend on a new roof — so he took the plunge.

    “At that point, it’s just, don’t do it, just get a Solar Roof done,” Nochta says.

    Nochta’s project came to 42,000, including 14,500 for battery storage. It may have been cheaper for Nochta to get a new roof and solar panels — but he’s satisfied with the final installation and doesn’t regret the purchase.

    See a video of Nochta’s installation below:

    tesla, residential, solar, panels

    Nochta is one of a slowly growing number of happy Solar Roof owners. Inverse also spoke with:

    • Amanda Tobler in California, who was an early adopter back in January 2018 with her 9.85-kilowatt roof
    • Jason Lassen in Wisconsin, whose 15.9-kilowatt roof braved the cold weather in early 2021
    • Tony Cho in Florida, whose giant 44-kilowatt installation went viral in December 2021
    • Richard and Beth Parrish’s California project in March 2022, which powered two Tesla electric vehicles

    How to get Tesla’s Solar Roof

    Nochta ordered his roof in July 2020, months after Musk announced new third-generation tiles that would enable faster installations. But Nochta says he also did “a lot of research” to try and move the project along.

    “I was an asshole, I’ll tell you that!” he says. “I think the people hate me at Tesla.”

    Nochta organized the permits for building the roof himself. He contacted people to get the correct permissions, chased up the utility company to get approval, and stayed home to ensure every inspection went smoothly. A previous contact from the utility company, who had helped with his 2016 installation, pitched in again to support Nochta’s mission.

    The people at Tesla may hate him, but Nochta says a “super nice” employee from Tesla Solar also contacted him to see if he could help them get the project off the ground faster.

    Nochta’s install midway through.

    The installation process took place over a couple of weeks in late 2020. It didn’t start well: Nochta had planned to remove the skylight from his roof. But the installer’s plans retained the feature. The mistake would have reduced Nochta’s Solar Roof down to 7.07 kilowatts.

    “I would advise every single person to stay home on the first day and look at the plans of the installer,” he says.

    But by November 2020, the roof was fully installed. After another month of waiting for final approval from the utility company, Nochta switched on the roof in January 2021.

    Tomas Nochta’s roof fully completed.

    Nochta says his roof has produced 8,148 kilowatt-hours of energy in his first year of usage — more than enough to cover the family’s energy usage, even with an electric vehicle.

    But he still has to pay a 5 per month connection fee to keep his home on the grid, however — just in case.

    “Our main reasons were to go green and use the Sun to produce our own electricity,” Nochta says. Objective achieved.

    Nochta’s reality is fast becoming other Americans’ dreams. In a Pew Research report, 65 percent of U.S. adults in 2017 said the most important priority for addressing the country’s energy supply should be developing alternatives to coal, oil, and gas — like wind and solar. This was ranked above expanding production of existing sources like coal and gas.

    tesla, residential, solar, panels

    Tesla Solar Roof: 2023 Expert Review

    In 2020, that figure had jumped from 65 percent to 79 percent of Americans who believe solar and wind — and other green alternatives — are the priority.

    Musk said in 2019 that the goal of the Solar Roof was to “make roofs come alive.” With the surging interest in renewables, that vision might finally be just around the corner.

    HORIZONS is an Inverse newsletter on the innovations of today that will shape the world of tomorrow. Forecast the future by signing up for free.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *