Development in solar power has accelerated significantly during the past decade, partly due to the pressing need to reduce emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases and partly due to the contribution of considerable names in the industry. Elon Musk and his Tesla, Inc. are just one relevant example.
The solar shingles designed by Tesla, for instance, have taken the world by storm. Many believe that these solar roof tiles are the best option out there in terms of integrated solar panels, while others remark that they are, at this point, far too costly.
But how much does the Tesla solar roof cost, exactly? How do these solar shingles compare to traditional solar panels and to traditional roof tiles? Can you actually buy Tesla’s solar roof tiles in 2019 and is the end result worth the wait? For answers to these questions and much more, read on.
Tesla, Inc.: The Company and the Aims
Founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, Tesla Motors was initially a manufacturer of electric cars set out to prove that driving electric is not necessarily a compromise. Led by Elon Musk since 2008, the company recently became Tesla, Inc. and greatly broadened its scope to include not only sustainable cars, but also a complete sustainable energy ecosystem.
Primarily marketed as an expensive, but environmentally-friendly and high quality brand, Tesla incorporated SolarCity in 2016. Since then, it has offered homeowners and businesses the possibility to manage the generation, storage, and consumption of renewable energy through two main products – the Powerwall, an energy storage solution, and the Tesla solar roof, an innovative approach to integrated solar panels.
Although Tesla is currently working to meet demands for a more affordable electric car, the Model 3, two things are more or less certain when you buy from this manufacturer. First, that the product you acquire, whether a car or a solar power system, will observe the highest industry standards for quality. Second, that the price you pay will reflect Tesla’s reputation for excellence.
When it comes to Tesla solar roof tiles, the equation is the same. You can count on high-end quality, but only for a considerable financial cost.
The Tesla Solar Roof: An Introduction
What exactly are Tesla solar shingles, then, and why is the world so hyped about them at present? Certainly, much of the publicity surrounding all Tesla products is partly generated by the controversial figure of the company CEO, Elon Musk. However, there are actually some features that make Tesla’s solar roof tiles unique and even somewhat extraordinary.
These solar roof shingles by Tesla are essentially solar panels in that they work to absorb solar energy and transform it into electricity for your home or business. The difference is that, unlike solar panels, solar shingles are meant to double as, well, conventional roof shingles.
Each tile contains one solar cell and is designed to look just like traditional roofing materials, including asphalt, terracotta, or slate. Instead of requiring you to mount your solar panels on top of your roof, Tesla solar tiles generate the same kind of solar electricity while also emulating the architectural properties of roof shingles.
The idea behind the Tesla solar roof is, therefore, to integrate the generation of renewable energy in the construction of homes and businesses, both from an architectural and an aesthetic point of view. But how did Tesla come up with this idea and how do the solar shingles themselves hold up against traditional solar panels and roofing materials?
The Timeline of the Elon Musk Solar Roof
Elon Musk and the engineers at Tesla are actually not the first to have come up with the idea of integrating solar panels into roof shingles. In fact, the concept itself is as old as the 1970s, but in early 2017, Musk revealed Tesla’s plans to take solar shingles to a whole new level of utility and aesthetics.
Deposits made by people with the intention to purchase the Tesla solar roof for their homes were made beginning with May 2017, yet by August 2018, only 12 such installations were made, all in or around California. Though Musk added that he had already equipped his home with Tesla solar shingles back in August 2017, progress in the mass production of the new technology continued to be slow.
In September 2018, more news coverage revealed that it might be quite some time before all or most of the people on the waiting list for the Tesla solar roof would benefit from the technology. At present, it is uncertain how many of the latter actually own solar shingles, but also how long it might take for a new buyer to have the roof installed from the moment they make the initial deposit.
Solar Shingles vs. Solar Panels
Certainly, the high cost and low availability of the Tesla solar roof makes it seem as if the technology is so extraordinary and in such high demand that the manufacturer simply cannot keep up in terms of production. Just how good are these solar shingles, however, when compared to traditional solar panels?
We’ve looked at three essential aspects of solar roof tiles vs. solar panels and these are our conclusions:
- Tesla solar shingles are much more expensive. Take, for instance, the average 3000 square foot household in California. To install solar panels on its roof, you’d have to invest upwards of $26,000 before claiming the federal tax credit. To refit the house with a Tesla solar roof, however, you’re looking at an investment of no less than $50,900, which is an increase of approximately 100%.
- Tesla solar roof tiles will not generate more power than traditional solar panels. In fact, it will likely generate only up to 70% of the output of a conventional solar power system. For example, solar panels would generate 8.5kW in the configuration described above, while the Tesla solar roof would generate a bit over 6kW.
- Tesla solar shingles are a solar panel array and a roof. Differently put, before you judge the high price of these tiles, consider that they not only generate energy, but also act as a roof. It makes sense, for instance, to install Tesla solar shingles if you need a new roof anyway or if you’re just now building your home or business.
All in all, the Tesla solar roof is a top quality product, but given its current price, it’s more of a luxury option when compared to conventional solar panels. Of course, if money is not an issue for you or if you were going to renovate the roof anyway, Tesla solar shingles are worth serious consideration.
Solar Shingles vs. Traditional Roof Tiles
Tesla solar shingles are meant to double as solar cells and roof tiles, so how do they compare to traditional roofing materials? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The Tesla solar roof is perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing solution in terms of renewable energy. Integrated into the roof itself as opposed to being mounted on top, these solar shingles look just like conventional roofing materials. In fact, you can’t really tell them apart unless you know what you’re looking for.
- If you deduct the cost of the integrated solar cells, a Tesla solar roof is still more expensive than replacing a conventional asphalt roof, but not by much. Indeed, replacing your roof can cost anywhere between $5,000 to $25,000, depending on a number of factors such as the complexity of its layout or the pitch. On average, a new roof will likely cost you $15,000, to which you can add upwards of $26,000 for solar panels, if you intend to go solar. The total sum is close to the price of a Tesla solar roof.
- According to the manufacturer, Tesla solar shingles are made with tempered glass and are therefore three times stronger than conventional tiles. While you can expect traditional roof tiles to last anywhere from 10 to 20 years, Tesla roof tiles promise to work unhindered for upwards up 30 years.
Ultimately, Tesla solar roof shingles look like traditional roofing materials, but are much more durable than the latter and can generate renewable energy. As such, if you’re looking to redo your roof or you’re building a new home and you’re also interested in going solar, a Tesla solar roof makes sense.
How Much Does the Tesla Solar Roof Cost?
When we compared a tesla solar roof with conventional solar panels, we mentioned that the average 3000 square foot home in California could be upgraded with solar shingles for the cost of almost $51,000. But how much would a Tesla solar roof cost for your home specifically?
Until recently, it’s been difficult to tell, since Tesla only revealed an estimate price for its solar roof tiles in May 2017 and offered no further information since. To get an accurate estimate today, you’d have to get in touch with a representative of the company, but in theory, the product should cost an average of $21.85 per square foot for a medium-sized household.
To access the waitlist for the Tesla solar roof, you’ll be asked for a deposit of $1,000, while the total cost of the shingles and installation will depend primarily on the size of your home and your location. In addition, Tesla will likely recommend that you pair your new solar roof shingles with one or several dedicated Powerwall storage units. If you choose to buy them, each of these will set you back another $7,000.
Like with conventional solar panels, once the roof is installed, you’ll be able to access the federal solar tax credit for a return of up to 30% of the total cost. In the long run, you’ll be able to cover for the Tesla solar roof cost with savings on electricity in approximately 11 years vs. 6.5 years for the regular solar power system.
Can You Actually Buy the Tesla Solar Roof Today?
Even if you can afford the Tesla solar roof cost, the question of availability is perhaps the trickiest regarding this new technology. In August 2018, it was reported that only 12 of at least 1000 people who had made a deposit for the solar shingles actually benefitted from the product in their homes. Today, it is uncertain how this number has changed.
Can you buy the Tesla solar roof today? In short, no, you almost certainly cannot. What you can do is get in touch with a company representative, discuss price estimates, and make a deposit in order to be put on an already generous waitlist. How long will it take from that point in time to the moment when your home will be retrofitted with a Tesla solar roof? No one can say.
When contacted by various journalists at the end of 2018, Elon Musk commented that the Tesla solar roof shingles must be rigorously tested before being shipped to customers and, as such, it will be some time before all orders are honored. Unfortunately, the CEO was rather vague in his estimation of just how long “some time” is.
Pros and Cons of the Tesla Solar Roof: A Summary
There’s certainly been a lot of buzz surrounding Tesla’s solar roof, but when you put all the available information together, how good is this new technology? Below is a summary of what we know to be the pros and cons of these solar shingles thus far.
Advantages of the Tesla Solar Roof
As it turns out, the tesla solar roof is quite an extraordinary product. Some of its most impressive features include:
- Aesthetic qualities. Tesla solar shingles integrate conventional roofing methods with solar cell technologies for a beautiful roof that doubles as a solar panel array. The whole installation is great to look at, comes in multiple shades, and can hardly be told apart from a traditional roof.
- Durability. These solar shingles are designed to be three times stronger than conventional roof tiles. As such, a Tesla solar roof is estimated to last upwards of 30 years, whereas a traditional roof will require renovation in 10 to 20 years.
- Sustainability. This is not so much an advantage compared to solar panels, but it is something to consider if you’re looking to replace your current roof or build a custom home. Yes, going solar with Tesla’s solar shingles requires some investment, but the entire affair is not much more expensive than a conventional roof and will eventually pay for itself in reduced electricity bills.
- Generous warranty. Tesla is very confident in the durability of its solar roof tiles, which is why they have extended their warranty to the lifetime of your house. In other words, so long as you own the house, the manufacturer will continue to maintain the roof and make any necessary replacements.
The Drawbacks: Tesla Solar Roof Cost and Availability
However great the technology might be, there are, of course, some drawbacks to consider. These are largely related to two main issues:
- Cost. The Tesla solar roof cost is obviously higher than that of a conventional solar power system. It makes sense if money is no object or if you need a roof replacement anyway, but will otherwise take a fairly long time to pay for itself.
- Availability. This is perhaps the most discouraging aspect about acquiring Tesla’s solar tiles. Sure, you might be able to afford the investment, but there’s no way of knowing how long it will actually take for your home to be selected for assessment and installation.
Is the Tesla Solar Roof Worth the Wait?
This one is entirely up to you. There are some obvious advantages to Tesla’s solar roof tiles, not to mention the hype of buying the brand name itself. However, the entire affair can be fairly pricy and the fact that you have to wait for an unspecified amount of time before you get the roof you were promised can be a deal-breaker.
As such, it’s important to consider your priorities. If you need the roof to be installed in the following year, then it might be a good idea to go with either traditional roofing options plus solar panels or solar shingles manufactured by a different brand. If, on the other hand, you don’t mind the wait or the cost, the Tesla solar roof is definitely one of the most advantageous, innovative renewable energy solutions out there. In short, if you can afford it, it might very well be worth the wait.
What Homeowners Say about the Tesla Solar Roof
It’s no lie that the Tesla Solar Roof has been slow to hit the market. With a waitlist already in place, and an additional stand-by period after the initial evaluation, people are eager to find out whether their down payments for Tesla’s solar roof tiles are worth the wait. Here are some impressions from Amanda Tobler and Tri Huynh, two lucky owners who have already had their solar shingles installed.
When it comes to solar power, the cost can be high for a complete system. As we have already seen above, the same stands true for the Tesla solar roof. If, like Tri Huyhn, you’re already in need of a new roof, however, switching to solar shingles might not be such a bad idea. For a roof surface of about 1000 square feet (or about 92 square meters) as well as two Powerwalls, Huynh paid around $100,000. Without the batteries, the cost goes down to $70,000, which is just 40% more than a regular roof.
The first roof to benefit from Tesla’s solar shingles was close to the company’s Freemont factory and had simple roof lines, both of which helped reduce the waiting time considerably. Two months after the initial deposit, Amanda Tobler met with an evaluation team that came over to take measurements and collect other details. Overall, it took just under 1 year for the first Tesla roof to be complete. At this point, the waiting time is much more extensive, but the company has promised to ramp up their operations.
One advantage in the case of Tri Huyhn was that Tesla obtained all the necessary licenses and permissions for the solar system as opposed to the homeowner having to do it himself. He and Amanda Tobler reported that the entire process was seamless and did not disturb their activity in any way. Including several delays due to replacing two sets of original shingles, the setup of a Powerwall 2 unit alongside 800 square feet of solar roof tiles took a total of three weeks to complete in the case of Amanda’s home.
Functionality and Maintenance
A great pro to solar roof tiles is the fact that there is no hard maintenance required. Tesla installs a handy, in-house monitoring system which shows energy produced, saved, and used. Moreover, the company also keeps track of the performance of its solar roof tiles. Whenever a loss of performance occurs due to degradation, the company has promised to optimize the system at no additional cost. No major glitches were noted by homeowners who were lucky enough to have the system delivered. One minor bug that was signaled by Amanda Tobler had to do with the Powerwall unit. Once every month or so, the battery would encounter a glitch whereby it lost connection to the grid. She reported, however, that if she didn’t restart the system herself, the unit eventually detected the anomaly and, within a couple of hours, performed an automatic restart.
Tesla Solar Roof: The Balance
Are Tesla’s solar roof tiles a solid option in terms of renewable energy? Definitely. And more. For a price that is only slightly higher than the combined cost of a new roof and a solar power system, a solar roof by Tesla will look gorgeous, perform excellently, and get regular maintenance by the manufacturer for the entire lifetime of your home.
But then there’s the catch. Can you afford the investment and how long are you willing to wait before your new roof is installed? If, all things considered, you find that the Tesla solar roof is the right option for you, the waitlist is only $1,000 and a phone call away.