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.
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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 450.80 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.
Tesla has installed very few solar roofs, despite Elon Musk’s hype
The Tesla CEO claimed a few years ago that the company would be installing 1. 000 solar roofs a week — but last year it averaged just 21 a week, a new report finds.
In 2019. Tesla CEO Elon Musk boasted, “ This is the year of the solar roof.” The next year, he said the pioneering EV company would soon be installing 1. 000 integrated solar roofs tailored to the building per week.
It turns out that 2019 absolutely was not the year of the solar roof — not even close. And neither was 2020. nor any year since. This reporter estimated in 2021 that Tesla had installed fewer than 1. 000 integrated solar roofs total — an assessment bolstered by new analysis.
A report released today by energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie estimates that Tesla has installed approximately 3. 000 solar roofs in the U.S. since the launch of the product in 2016. That’s several hundred thousand roofs short of Musk’s hallucinatory forecasts.
WoodMac analysis finds that average installations per week were a scant 21 in 2022. The best quarter for Tesla solar roof installations was the first quarter of 2022. which saw an average of 32 systems deployed per week — still a far cry from 1. 000.
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Other companies have a lead in building-integrated solar
Tesla’s solar roof product is what’s referred to as building-integrated photovoltaics ( BIPV ), which are solar-generation surfaces that are not mounted on a structure, but rather form the actual roof, Windows or building envelope. There are a number of experienced building-integrated photovoltaic designers and installers operating today, such as GAF Energy, CertainTeed, ArteZanos and Forward, but so far, BIPV remains a niche market for custom roof designs on expensive buildings in regions with generous solar subsidies. There is a long list of failed BIPV efforts.
Reaching the end customer with an integrated solar roof is not a technical or financial problem — it’s a channel problem. You’re looking to drive a completely new type of product through the very conservative roofing channel, and that’s a daunting marketing challenge. Traditional solar modules on racks may be less than aesthetically perfect, but rooftop solar installers have a distribution channel along with technical expertise.
That’s why GAF Energy, which had already installed several thousand integrated solar roofs as of a year ago, might have an advantage over Tesla. GAF Energy is a Standard Industries company and sister company to GAF. one of the world’s largest roofing companies. GAF Energy President Martin DeBono told Canary last year that GAF developed the product by thinking like a roofing company, not a solar company. He said the roofing industry is 20 times larger than the rooftop solar industry and has a huge advantage in scale.
We would have reached out to Tesla’s public-relations team for comment on WoodMac’s report — but Tesla does not have a public-relations team.
UPDATE : Tesla disputed the WoodMac study’s findings in a tweet, but offered no specifics.
Tesla Powerwall Installation in Colorado California
Increase your energy savings with a Tesla Powerwall. You can charge your solar panels during the day and then use stored energy from your home battery at night! This eliminates the need to pull energy from the grid and will reduce your power bill even more. Just two Powerwalls can power the average 2,600 sq. ft home!
Never fear a blackout again, call Photon Brothers to install a Tesla Powerwall in your home today!
Why choose a Tesla Powerwall from Photon Brothers?
The cost of your Tesla Powerwall installation will depend on a number of factors, including:
- The number of Powerwalls you install. Just two Powerwalls can power the average 2,600 sq. ft home. You can charge your solar panels during the day and then use stored energy from your home battery at night. This eliminates the need to pull energy from the grid and will reduce your power bill even more.
- Installation costs. On Tesla’s website, you’ll find the base for Powerwalls. However, it’s important to note that this does not include design, permitting, and installation costs. The installation will greatly impact your overall Powerwall costs, so it’s important to get an accurate energy assessment to determine the needs of your home. For a free in-home or virtual consultation, contact Photon Brothers today: (720) 370-3344!
- Tax rebates and incentives. Many states offer tax rebates and incentives to help make your new solar system more affordable. Depending on where you live, your cost savings will vary. But for now, nearly all customers can take advantage of the 30% discount on panels and batteries through the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). To learn more, visit our solar incentives page. One of the most important incentives includes
To learn more about how much you can save with Tesla Powerwall, as well as our available financing options, call us at (720) 370-3344.
At Photon Brothers, your comfort with the financial aspect of going solar is very important to us. That’s why we offer a variety of flexible leasing and financing options for homeowners in California and Colorado for as low as down. We’ll help you find the best option by walking you through the following:
- Our solar loan program
- Available rebates incentives
- Federal tax credits
- . and more
Tesla Solar Roof: One year on, an owner reveals what it’s really like to live on solar
Elon Musk wants to make your roof your own mini-grid.
In 1954, Bell Labs revealed an invention that would change the future of clean energy: The world’s first known practical silicon solar cell.
The New York Times reportedly hailed it as “the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams.”
That dream — to use the energy of the Sun to create electricity — is still unrealized, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been progress.
All you need to do is take a walk through a city, and you can see them everywhere: solar panels powering homes, offices, and municipal buildings. Since these panels made their way onto roofs in the 1970s, new data from the Solar Energy Industries Association suggests that installed residential capacity in the U.S. equates to 23 gigawatts in 2021. That accounts for nearly 20 percent of the U.S.’s total solar energy generated.
Today, Tesla’s Solar Roof is leading the charge with an innovation of its own: cutting out the middle step between building the roof and installing the solar panels. Tesla’s specially-designed tiles mean anyone can outfit their home with what looks like a typical (if a bit glossy) roof that provides the house with power.
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Tesla Solar Roof up close.
The roof tiles are limited in availability, which means Tesla Solar Roofs are unlikely to become as ubiquitous as the bulkier panels we see pasted onto roofs around the neighborhood. Some estimates put the cost of Solar Roofs tens of thousands of dollars above a similar, more conventional solar panel installation.
Tesla is noticeably tight-lipped about how many Solar Roofs it has sold. The company claims it has fitted solar energy systems on 400,000 roofs in the U.S., but does not reveal how many are Solar Roofs versus retrofit solar panels. Pew Research in 2019 found that six percent of U.S. homeowners have installed solar panels, and the Census Bureau found there were 83.5 million owner-occupied housing units at the end of 2021.
But the few people that do own a Solar Roof say it has changed their life — just like the New York Times predicted solar cells could.
“I would definitely recommend the Solar Roof,” Tomas Nochta tells Inverse. Nochta lives in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, works in the hospitality industry, and has a 1,175-square-foot roof with enough sunlight-harvesting tiles to generate 7.6 kilowatts of power — enough to power Nochta’s home.
WHAT IS TESLA SOLAR ROOF?
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.
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 Energy.gov 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:
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.”
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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.
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.
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