Solar energy was once the wave of the future, but now it has become commonplace to drive through your neighborhood and see solar panels on the roofs of many houses. In the last decade, Tesla, created by billionaire Elon Musk, introduced their solar panel products. Then, in 2016 they decided to develop an entire solar replacement roof.
The Solar Roof is more aesthetically pleasing than solar panels, and the Powerwall 2 battery system provides power during an outage. The solar shingles are durable in hail, wind, and fire, but the cost of the shingles, battery, and installation could be cost-prohibitive.
Tesla’s Solar Roof shingles were slow to catch on, but individuals are now looking into replacing their standard roof with the Tesla Solar Roofs. In lieu of solar panels, Tesla offers a brand new rooftop that has solar panels embedded right into the shingles. Tesla is not only offering solar panels for your roof – the solar panels are your roof. Read on to learn more about the Tesla Solar Roof and how its shingles stack up.
Why Choose a Solar Roof?
Tesla’s Solar Roof consists of building-integrated photovoltaic shingles that generate solar power in lieu of solar panels placed on top of the roof.
- These photovoltaic shingles are mixed with inactive, non-solar shingles that together make up a sleek and stylish new roof with solar energy generating capabilities without unattractive solar panels.
- It is impossible to tell from standing on the street or driveway which shingles contain the solar and which do not.
- The photovoltaic shingles are used in conjunction with traditional shingles, such as metal or asphalt, and offer their own weatherproofing in addition to the other layers underneath the shingles themselves.
The major benefit of getting Solar Roof shingles over solar panels – the shingles provide weather protection and the power to generate solar.
Below it will be discussed how durable the shingles are, and they are quite impressive when it comes to protecting one’s home from hail, wind, and fire. However, those durability standards are only for the actual Solar Roof shingles. Since they are intermixed with standard shingles, those may need to be replaced after severe weather hits.
When a customer decides to get the Tesla roof shingles, they are essentially getting a brand new roof in that Tesla replaces the old roof with a new, solar-activated roof. This new solar roof consists of both active and inactive shingles. The active shingles are visually appealing and produce solar energy in the same manner as solar panels.
The Solar Roof Installation Process
According to Tesla, the company has installed approximately 400,000 solar roofs and nearly 4 gigawatts of solar energy – an impressive number that is equal to 10 million traditional solar panels. On the surface, Tesla states that the process from visualization to roof removal, to installation, and finally, solar energy enjoyment is simple:
- Tesla consultants do aerial imagery and create three-dimensional modeling to determine the custom design of your Solar Roof.
- Once your roof is purchased, laborers will come to remove your original roof.
- Then, they will put down what they call “waterproofing,” which is a standard underlayment that is used with both traditional and Solar Roofs to protect the home from water leaks.
- Lastly, installers will install the active and inactive tiles on your roof.
This four-step process seems simple and illustrates that you should have a brand new Tesla Solar Roof in about a week or two. However, some customers have not been so lucky, with one being left without a roof for months. There are pros and cons to reviewing a Tesla Solar Roof, and they should be balanced before a contract is signed.
The Solar Roof Wins in Aesthetics
One of the main complaints about solar panels is that they are aesthetically pleasing on the roof. Many homeowners have even said they do not care about the money they would save with solar energy because they dislike the look of solar panels so much. A Tesla roof alleviates this concern by giving homeowners a sleek, stunning new roof.
Tesla’s Solar Roof shingles actually look like traditional shingles since the solar system is fully integrated into the shingles themselves. Although this also makes the roof more expensive than their standard solar panels, the four styles in which to choose are visually pleasing compared to even the standard, traditional roof designs:
- Textured glass tile
- Smooth glass tile
- Tuscan glass tile
- Slate glass tile
The four choices are different enough to give homeowners a variety of aesthetic looks depending on their type of home. From terra cotta roofs to a smooth, glassy look, the Tesla shingles meet any look and climate. Elon Musk himself explained that the glass tiles are made of quartz, so they have what he called a “quasi-infinite” lifetime.
The different shingle choices should be determined by what type of appearance you desire and the climate in which you live. For example, if you live in a snowy area, you may want the smooth glass tile since the snow should slide right off of the smooth surface. You would not want slate because it would hold the snow and block the solar.
Solar Roof Shingles Are Extra Durable
One of Tesla’s strongest claims is that the tiles that are used to power the home are three times stronger than traditional roof tiles. This information is backed up by some of the leading associations that test roofs for hail, wind, and fire. For example, Tesla earned high marks from three of the groups and their respective categories listed below:
- American National Standards Institute (ANSI) – hail
- American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) – wind
- Underwriter Laboratories (UL) – fire
Tesla’s Solar Roof V3 has a 30-year weatherization warranty and has earned an ANSI Class 3 hail rating. The Class 3 rating means the shingle must be able to withstand a one and ¾-inch steel ball that is dropped from twenty feet. Tesla’s shingles were tested to withstand one and ¾-inch hail, meeting the ANSI Class 3 hail rating standard.
As for wind protection, Tesla’s shingles are impressive in that they can withstand 166 mile-per-hour winds, which is more protection than a 140 mile-per-hour Category 4 hurricane. The shingles have also attained the highest Class A UL 790 fire rating. Similar to the weatherization warranty, there is also a 30-year power warranty.
Now, if your home does suffer a power outage that is out of Tesla’s control, your solar shingles will not be able to produce electricity since it needs to be connected to the grid to power your home. Now, if you decide to pair your solar panels with Tesla’s Powerwall 2 battery, you can bypass this issue and have continued power during a power outage.
Powerwall 2 Battery
When you purchase the Solar Roof, you also have to purchase the company’s Powerwall 2 13.5 kilowatt-hour storage device. This item stores energy during the less expensive, non-peak hours during that day so that, during peak hours when electricity is expensive, you can use the stored energy and further save money on your electric bill.
As noted above, the Powerwall 2 is also beneficial during a power outage.
- Since the roof shingles cannot produce energy for the home without a power grid, the energy stored in the Powerwall 2 can power the home during the outage.
- The Powerwall 2 is so seamless that you may not even realize the power went off and the battery clicked on.
- Because you would be pairing the Powerwall 2 with 100 percent solar, the warranty will be unlimited in both cycles and kilowatt-hours in addition to Tesla’s 10-year warranty. Those who use the Powerwall 2 without having 100 percent solar energy are capped at the 10-year warranty or 37,800 stored kilowatt-hours.
Tesla does not give as many battery options as other companies; it only has one size, and that may not be beneficial for very small or very large homes. Now, if you have a massive home that needs more energy storage, you could purchase two or more Powerwall 2 devices, but that comes at an additional substantive cost since they are $6,500 installed.
The Solar Roof Has a Substantial Warranty
Tesla offers a 25-year warranty for both power and weatherization. This protection and peace of mind may help you determine whether the upfront cost of the Solar Roof is worth the return on investment of energy savings since it is much more pricey than the standard, traditional roof that does not produce solar power for the home.
Before discussing the cost versus return on investment below, you should take a look at what these warranties cover:
- Power warranty – this protects the output capability
- Weatherized warranty – this part of the products covers the solar tiles themselves from anything weather-related, such as water damage
The glass on the tiles is covered under a lifetime warranty, which means if any of the glass panels break after the thirty years are up, they will be replaced at any time for no charge. If the array or Powerwall 2 breaks down, they are both covered for ten years. Since there is a new technology in the roof, it is positive knowing you are covered.
Upfront Cost versus Return on Investment
Replacing a roof with a Tesla Solar Roof is not cheap, but replacing a regular roof with a new, traditional roof can also run in the tens of thousands of dollars. However, if you simply purchased solar panels and placed them on an existing roof, the upfront cost would be much less. The question is, will the upfront cost be made back in savings?
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has claimed that you can install one of his company’s Solar Roofs for as much or less than the costs of a traditional roof. However, a Consumer Reports Analysis determined that a Tesla Roof should cost around $73,500 to install. That is quite a hefty number and much more than what a traditional roof could cost to install.
A customer in California said the total cost for the Solar Roof was $100,000, and an Electrek report gives an even higher number even though Tesla claims their Solar Roof would cost less than $44,000 at around $21.85 per square foot. It also claims that the Solar Roof is at $1.99 per watt, which is below the average cost of $2.99 a watt:
- A 9.45-kilowatt system that covers a 1,862 square foot roof = $64,634
- Powerwall battery = $10,050
- Roof and site repairs = $10,630
- Total cost for the Tesla Solar Roof = $83,314
If these large numbers are correct, the return on investment may not be worth the hefty number that comes with a Tesla solar roof. According to Consumer Reports, a non-solar roof may cost anywhere from $16,000 to $45,000, depending on the shingles installed. Consumer Reports compared those numbers to the potential savings on electricity:
- $2,000 a year in electricity savings
- Multiplied by the thirty years of Tesla’s warranty
- The return on investment would be approximately $60,000
This return on investment would still be less than the average cost of the roof, according to the Consumer Reports calculations. This also does not consider that, as noted above, the warranty on the Powerwall 2 is only 10 years, so that may need to be replaced at least once or even maybe twice over the 30-year timeframe.
Federal and (Possibly) State Tax Incentives
The federal government is offering a tax credit that allows homeowners to claim 26 percent of the cost of a solar system as a tax deduction on income taxes. This means you would receive a tax deduction and possibly money back on your taxes, depending on what you owe.
If you paid the full $73,500 that was quoted by Consumer Reports for the solar shingles, it would deduct $19,110 off the cost of your Solar Roof cost in the form of tax deductions. However, this deduction is not that plain and simple. The federal tax credit only applies to the cost of the active shingles, and that $73,500 is the total for the entire roof.
Even with the smaller amount, you may save close to $15,000 or more depending on how much the active shingles cost. Filing for this deduction is pretty simple as well, with the taxpayer just filling out Form 5695 for the taxes that occurred during the year the Solar Roof was purchased.
In addition, 20 states are also offering lucrative incentives for homeowners who are going solar:
|Maryland||Nevada||New Hampshire||New Jersey|
|New Mexico||New York||Pennsylvania||Rhode Island|
If your state is not listed above, you should still check to see if they offer Solar Renewable Energy Credits or other types of credit incentives. For example, Georgia does not offer cash back incentives but does give Georgia Power customers a Solar Buy Back Program that carries over any unused energy to the next month for free.
Potential Issues with New Technology
In 2020, reports came out that a customer who purchased a Tesla Solar Roof was left without a roof, and his home was covered with tarps for months. There were numerous reasons for the delay, and this may be one of the reasons to be wary of purchasing a Tesla Solar Roof. New technology and products could delay installation or stop working.
Tesla’s Solar Roofs are still pretty new, and with a new product comes new technology. The homeowner mentioned earlier had purchased the 24.3-kilowatt-hour Solar Roof but was left without a roof for two months even though he was told the installation would take around two weeks due to not properly testing a new product of underlayment.
This is just one example of a Tesla roof gone wrong. Even if your technology breaks down and is covered under warranty, you still need to spend the time and frustration filling out warranty paperwork and dealing with technicians while the solar may not be working. There are hundreds of solar panels on a roof that could break down.
There are also questions about the use of the building-integrated photovoltaic shingles. In the past, these products were not reliable, problematic for professionals to install on homes, yet still more expensive. It is unclear whether or not Tesla’s building-integrated photovoltaic shingles will have the same issues as its predecessors:
- They shade the roof, which means there may be a difference in degree, approximately 40 to 45-degrees in fact, between the roof’s shaded and unshaded area during the summer.
- They are known to be less durable and efficient because they are amorphous, not crystalline silicon.
- The installation of the products has been difficult at best.
These tiles are hotter when they are placed right on the roof rather than on solar panels that are mounted four to six inches off the roof (a traditional solar panel). Since solar cells are more efficient when they are cooler, you would need more solar cells on a larger surface area when having building-integrated photovoltaic shingles, not panels.
Problems with Customer Service
In 2017, Tesla started taking pre-orders for their Solar Roofs with only a $1,000 deposit with the promise that the installations would begin soon thereafter. However, as noted above, with new technology comes new problems, and Tesla had issues with the longevity of the roof. These issues led to the unveiling of the Solar Roof V3.
Problems continued to plague Tesla during the following years as they were trying to satisfy early adopters of the Tesla Solar Roof. The company ended up canceling many of these early orders stating that it was because Tesla did not cover their region or service territory. These cancellations took three years from the initial 2017 pre-orders.
This may be an illustration of some problems with Tesla’s customer service. One of the ways Tesla was able to bring down their prices for their solar panel business was by stopping their consultative solar sales. However, losing this one-on-one may be hurting their customer service for customers purchasing such a big-ticket item.
It has also been reported that Tesla raised the price of their Solar Roofs for individuals who had already signed a contract with Tesla. These discrepancies with Tesla’s customer service should make any individual wary of the large ticket price of Tesla’s solar roof versus any potential aggravation. Just look at the process to install a Tesla Solar Roof:
- Order the roof on Tesla’s Web site and pay a deposit.
- Get an assessment virtually by uploading a copy of your electric bill and some additional information that is required to assess your house.
- Wait to receive the proper permitting approvals so that Tesla can begin the installation of the Solar Roof.
- Schedule the actual installation (they say the installation should take about a week).
- Have the roof inspected and approved for interconnection to the utility grid.
The above process may not seem too complicated, but you will notice you are not speaking with a live individual, face-to-face, throughout most of the process.
Tesla Solar Panels versus the Solar Roof
The aesthetics of Tesla’s solar roof is one of the main sellpoints of its shingles versus solar panels. Many individuals have voiced that they simply do not like the look of solar panels on their roof, even with the energy savings they bring over time. However, if cost is an issue after reviewing the numbers, Tesla’s solar panels may be the way to go.
Tesla’s cost for solar panels (before incentives) differ depending on the size of the solar panels system you require to fully power your home:
- $8,200 for a 4 kW system size = $2.04 per watt
- $16,400 for a 8 kW system size = $2.01 per watt
- $24,600 for a 12 kW system size = $2.01 per watt
- $32,800 for a much larger 16 kW system size = $2.01 per watt
After the federal government’s 26 percent tax deduction incentive, these numbers go down even more:
- $6,068 for a 4 kW system size
- $12,136 for a 8 kW system size
- $18,204 for a 12 kW system size
- $24,272 for a much larger 16 kW system size
As seen above, the entire price of the system is covered under the federal tax incentive because it is the price of the solar panels. These numbers also do not take into account the twenty states that offer additional incentives for going solar in their state. If you do not need a new roof and do not mind the look, panels may be the choice.
Finally, if you live in one of the five states below, you could even rent solar panels from Tesla for as little as $50 a month and see if using solar is right for you:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
This would give you a non-committal way to try solar with no upfront costs as long as you live in one of these lucky areas in which Tesla offers the renting of solar panels.
Tesla Roof Shingles Compared to Competitors
Tesla is not the only company on the market pushing Solar Roof installation, but they are known to be the slickest and most stunning when it comes to aesthetics. However, as with any large purchase, you should compare everything Tesla has to offer with other companies that also offer competitive Solar Roofs:
- CertainTeed – A contractor that was originally a roofing company but now offers solar shingle installation.
- Dow Powerhouse – A solar manufacturer that was one of the original companies to offer integrated Solar Roofs.
- Suntegra – Another solar manufacturer offering solar shingle installation.
After researching the other companies, you may realize that the look of a Tesla Solar Roof outweighs the benefits of the competition. Their product is exciting, it looks great, and it tells the world you care about the environment and want to use clean energy to power your home. This innovation may be the final factor in purchasing a Tesla Solar Roof.
Remember that production is still limited with Tesla, so you should see what your timeframe is and whether or not another company could complete your project sooner. Tesla Solar Roofs are gorgeous, covered by a solid warranty, and are durable. But they are expensive and have had questionable customer service and unreliable components.
If you have the money to spend and can hold out for years to get your return on investment, purchasing a Tesla Solar roof may be a lucrative choice for your home. It produces clean energy, which means you are helping the environment and saving on your electric bill. If you check your bill and think there’s savings potential, it could work.
There are things to consider, however, before signing a contract with Tesla and replacing your entire roof versus purchasing (or renting) their solar panels. A Tesla Solar Roof will make you the envy of the neighborhood, but this envy comes at a pretty hefty cost. Just make sure the aesthetics is coupled with additional benefits for your home.