The True Costs Of A Tesla Roof


Tesla’s solar roof tiles are an exciting innovation that has increased in sales in the past year thanks to Tesla’s efforts to lower the cost. With the release of version 3 of their solar tiles, the cost of a Tesla roof has lessened. However, it is still an extensive and expensive project that requires some careful number crunching. How much does a Tesla roof cost?

According to Tesla, their solar tiles cost on average $2.01 per watt for solar tiles and $7.65 per square foot for normal tiles. Other items such as removing the old roof and installation obstacles will increase this estimate while tax incentives and energy savings will decrease it.

These numbers mean very little to the average homeowner by themselves. Comparing the cost of a Tesla solar roof to other roofing and solar energy options is the best way to understand its true cost. Keep reading for an explanation of the unseen costs and savings of a Tesla roof and to see how the overall price compares to other roofing options.

The Cost of the Tesla Roof System

How exactly is the cost of the Tesla roof system calculated? There are several different aspects that need to be taken into consideration when figuring how much a Tesla solar roof will cost.

Size

Like with any roof, the number one factor in calculating cost is the square footage of your roof. This will determine how much material is needed to cover the roof. As the area of the roof increases the number of tiles needed increases and the cost with it.

The size of your roof can be estimated using the square footage of your house, but there are other factors to take into account for roof square footage. Additional stories add square footage to your house but not to the roof. Overhangs and eaves add square footage to the roof but not to your home.

Power Needs

Of course, with Tesla’s solar roof there is another large factor besides square footage: power. Tesla’s roof is meant to provide energy, and thus how much energy you need greatly affects how much the roof will cost.

Tesla’s solar roof does not consist entirely of solar tiles. Inactive tiles are also present in a solar roof to cut the cost. As your energy needs increase so too does the amount of solar tiles you will need, which in turn increases the cost.

Taking Tesla’s price of $2.01 per watt, we can estimate the cost of the solar tiles for a roof. If a home requires a roof that has a 10kW capacity, the solar part of the roofing system will cost around $20,100. If a home needs 12kW capacity, this number jumps to $24,120.

Remember this number does not represent the total cost of the roof, but only the solar aspect. You would still need to add in the cost of the inactive tiles which Tesla estimates at $7.65 per square foot for a total roof estimate.

Pitch

Although pitch, or the steepness of your roof, is not something that can be easily calculated in initial cost estimates, it can have a large impact on the cost and should be considered. Essentially the steeper your roof the more the Tesla roof will cost. This price increase with pitch increase is due to several reasons.

Higher Pitch Means More Material

The steeper the roof the larger its overall area will be. As you make an incline steeper, you decrease how far it travels horizontally, which means that it requires more material to cover the same distance at a steeper angle.

Roofing refers to pitch not by angle but by rise/run. An 8/12 roof rises 8 feet vertically for every 12 feet horizontally. If we use this to calculate material needed, an 8/12 roof requires 144.2 square feet of material for an area 10 feet wide, while a 16/12 roof would require 200 square feet of material for a 10 feet wide area.

The calculations on an actual roof with varying sections will quickly become complicated, but this should give you an idea of how much roof pitch can increase the amount of material you need.

More Labor Intensive

Pitch also increases cost through labor. If a roof passes a pitch that is deemed walkable, a roofer will charge more because they tend to take longer and often require additional equipment for safety.

Less Energy

Pitch can also affect the cost of your Tesla roof on the energy side as well. As the angle increases, the solar tiles will catch less and less sunlight. The energy production of your roof will suffer, and you will need more solar tiles to make up for their lowered efficiency.

The exact difference in terms of energy production with different roof pitches is hard to calculate and will need to be determined by Tesla. Simply know that if your roof is steep, you will be facing a less productive solar system.

Calculating the Cost of a Tesla Roof System: A Test Case

How do you use all this information to get an initial estimate for a Tesla roof? Let’s walk through an example. A 2000 square foot one-story home needs a solar roof with a 12kW capacity.

Because very few houses have flat roofs, we can assume that the roof square footage will be greater than the house square footage. We will estimate a 2500 square foot roof.

First, let us consider the cost from the perspective of energy needs. A 12kW solar system at Tesla’s rate of $2.01 per watt will cost $24,120. To that, you will need to add the cost of the roofing.

Let’s say that Tesla says that the roof should be around 35% solar panels (a number they use in their own examples). Thus 875 square feet of the roof is devoted to the solar tiles leaving 1625 feet for the inactive tiles. We know that the inactive tiles cost $7.65 per square foot, so it should cost $12,431.25 for the non-solar roofing.

Adding the cost of the solar and non-solar tiles we get the total cost for the roof at $36,551.25. However, Tesla’s website calculated the cost of a 2500 square foot roof at 12kW as $43,223. Why the difference? Tesla includes the price of installation in the estimates for their website. Looking at our calculations alongside Tesla’s estimates, installation costs around $7000.

The Next Step

With the price estimates for the solar tiles, inactive tiles, and installation, we should be able to get a fairly accurate idea of how much a Tesla roof costs right? Unfortunately, we are not quite there yet.

There are some limitations to calculating the cost of a Tesla roof this way. The first is that the cost depends on the percentage of the roof covered in the solar versus inactive tiles. Tesla will only give you these recommendations with an actual quote, so all you can do on your own is play around with different percentage numbers.

However, larger obstacles to assuming that these calculations represent an exact cost are both the unseen costs and unseen deductions a Tesla solar roof will provide. Tesla’s pricing puts its solar roof at around $17 to $21 per square foot on paper, but what happens in reality? 

Unseen Costs

Unfortunately, many homeowners learn that when it comes to large projects, unexpected costs should be expected. When the roofers get down to the gritty process of replacing your roof they may find problems that need to be fixed or face unexpected obstacles. Both of these things will increase your Tesla roof’s price tag.

How much will unseen costs hurt? Potentially quite a lot. One Tesla roof customer ended up paying an extra $10,000 for roof and site repairs, which was around a 15% increase on the initial cost of their Tesla roof.

Of course, this is an instance in which things went wrong. There is also the chance that you will not face significant unseen costs. Unfortunately, these costs will not reveal themselves until Tesla has done an inspection, and some may not appear till the job is underway. It is best to budget several thousand dollars for unexpected circumstances when considering the cost of a Tesla roof.

The likelihood of having to deal with extensive repair costs does depend on your house. If you are building a new house and installing a Tesla roof, unseen costs could be minimal. However, if you have an older home with a roof that needs to be removed, chances are there will be some unforeseen expenses.

Powerwalls

There is something else that can add quite a bit to your Tesla roof bill: powerwalls. Your Tesla roof will make energy through the solar tiles, but your home is still powered through the grid. Your solar tiles feed energy into your grid connection, powering your home.

What does this mean? There is nowhere for your solar tiles to store energy. In the event of a grid outage, your solar tiles will be unable to power your home. Tesla Powerwall batteries give your solar tiles a place to store energy that you can access during an outage.

The Tesla Powerwall battery is not cheap though. One unit costs $7000 plus an installation fee of $4500 and depending on the size of your house and solar roof, you will likely need more than one. For our 2500 square foot roof with a 12kW solar roof Tesla recommend 3 powerwalls.

Tesla will give you a deal if you buy powerwalls with the solar roof. Tesla offered 3 powerwalls with our solar roof for $17,390 which comes to about $6000 a battery, including installation. Still, this is adding thousands of dollars to our Tesla roof. If we got the roof and batteries in our test case the total would be $60,613.

The good news is that you do not have to buy powewalls. Your Tesla roof will operate fine without them, just not during power outages. If you live in an area that has net metering, then you will still get savings from the extra energy your Tesla roof produces. If not, then without a powerwall you will simply be losing extra energy.

Potential Savings

Hidden costs need to be taken seriously, but there are also potential savings that a Tesla roof boasts through its solar energy ability. Tesla makes much of these savings, claiming that the money saved on power bills result in their roof making financial sense for homeowners. Is the payoff really worth the hefty initial cost?

Federal Tax Incentive

Before turning to the all-important question of how much a Tesla roof will save you on your electricity bill, you should first consider a more immediate form of payout: federal tax incentive.

Until the end of 2021 (at which point Congress will have to renew it), the federal government has an incentive program in place which gives a tax credit for installing solar panels. The Tesla roof qualifies for this program.

In 2021 the credit received is 22% of the cost of the system. Thus for our $43,223 system from our test case, you would receive a federal tax credit of $9509.06. If we take the money we save off the initial price of the system then our Tesla roof now costs $33,713.94.

This new number is less than the $36,551.25 we calculated using the materials in our test case.  The federal tax incentive thus appears to help keep the real cost of the roof closer to Tesla’s stated average pricing.

Saving on the Energy Bill

Now let’s turn to the area most people expect to save money in when they install a solar system: the electricity bill. Tesla claims that their solar roof will save you enough on energy to make the price worth it. Is this true?

Let’s look at some numbers. Our $43,223 roof ($33,715 with the tax incentive) is a 12kW roof that Tesla recommended for a monthly power bill of $166. Tesla says that its system will reduce the electricity bill by $150 each month, resulting in a power bill that is now only $16 a month.

Version 3 of Tesla’s solar tiles last for 25 years. Over that, 25 year period saving $150 a month will result in $45,000 of savings. Looking at these numbers the roof seems to pay for itself. If you add to this the tax incentive, then the roof does appear to pay for itself and then some.

We made this calculation based on a flat rate, but the saving estimate you will get from Tesla will look quite different. Tesla uses the average electricity rates in your area as well as a predicted rate increase over 25 years to make their estimations. The result is numbers that look much nicer. On our test roof, Tesla said we would be in the good by $22,000.

Of course, these numbers assume that the Tesla solar tiles work ideally. We are not saying that Tesla is lying about the productivity of their tiles, but remember that solar tiles rely on sunlight and the amount of sunlight different roofs get varies a lot.

What direction your roof faces, the pitch of your roof, and even your latitude location have an impact on how many hours of sunlight your solar tiles will actually get. If you have a less than ideal sunlight situation, you will likely be getting less than ideal energy savings.

Durability

The third version of the Tesla solar tile is supposed to last for 25 years. Will it last this long, or can you be expecting to make replacements after every severe weather event?

Tesla’s version 3 solar tiles are tough stuff. They can withstand hail and hurricane-force winds. Although you could still have a breakage for numerous reasons, these tiles are not so delicate as to require constant replacements. Once your roof is in place it will stay there!

Does a Tesla Roof Pay for Itself?

In an ideal situation, the Tesla roof does appear to pay for itself. However, one cannot rely on an ideal situation. If issues arise with installation and if the solar tiles do not save you as much on your monthly power bill as Tesla predicted then you may break even, but you probably will not be celebrating with wads of extra cash after 25 years.

All of this is only half the story when looking at the price of Tesla’s roof. To truly understand the cost, we must look at how the Tesla roof compares in price to other options.

How Does a Tesla roof Compare to a Traditional Roof

Traditional roofs certainly do not cost as much as Tesla’s solar roof, but they also do not provide federal tax incentives or energy savings. Taking these into consideration, Tesla says that their roof is better than a traditional roof.

Asphalt Shingles

The most common and cheapest type of roofing material is asphalt shingles. You can reroof a house with asphalt shingles for around $8000, which includes both the cost of the material and labor. The Tesla roof is 5 to 8 times more expensive.

Of course, these asphalt shingles will not be giving you any energy savings either. If we subtract our expected energy savings of $45,000 from the cost of the Tesla roof ($43,223) then we have a net gain of $1777, which is certainly better than losing $8000 for the asphalt. 

It does therefore look as though the Tesla roof costs less in the long run than even the cheapest roof. However, these numbers are based on everything working out ideally. Large unseen costs, adding powerwalls, or not getting the predicted energy savings will all hurt the chances of the Tesla roof paying for itself.

The cost of the Tesla roof can only be described as a risk. The state of your home and energy bill will determine how large that risk is. If the project goes smoothly then the Tesla roof can save you money, but if there are issues then you will probably lose money.

Premium Roofing Options

If you want something fancier than asphalt shingles for your roof, then you will be paying more for a traditional roof. A slate or stone roof job will be in the $30,000 range. The chances of the Tesla roof paying off when compared to these materials is much greater.

Comparison to Traditional Roofs with Solar Panels

You are probably interested in a Tesla roof because you are interested in installing a solar system. How then does the Tesla roof compare to traditional solar panels? The average cost of solar in the United States is $2.91 per watt.

Using this average a 12kW solar panel system would cost $34,920, which is $8,313 less than the Tesla roof. Of course with the Tesla roof, you also get a new roof with that price. The gap between the Tesla roof and traditional solar panels is enough to cover the cost of a new asphalt roof.

The Tesla roof has no advantage over solar panels in terms of energy savings. It seems then that the Tesla roof is equivalent to installing a basic asphalt room with solar panels. Of course, if you do not need to replace the roof then the solar panels will always come in as cheaper than the complete roof.

Despite costing $0.90 less per watt than solar panels, Tesla’s solar roof does not come out as significantly cheaper than panels because of the price of the roofing. Asphalt shingles are simply drastically less than Tesla’s inactive tiles. If you chose a premium roofing material instead of asphalt shingles to go with your solar panels then the Tesla roof will come out as cheaper.

How Much Does a Tesla Roof Really Cost?

Here is a breakdown of all the calculations and price comparisons we have done with the Tesla roof. Remember this was for a 2500 square foot roof with a 12kW solar system. The energy savings are done using a flat rate, so it is likely that these will be greater as the rate is likely to increase over 25 years.

 Tesla RoofAsphalt Roof with Solar PanelsJust Solar PanelsAsphalt RoofPremium Roof with Solar PanelsPremium Roof
Cost$43,223$42,920$34,920$8000$74,920$40,000
Energy Savings over 25 years$45,000 +$45,000 +$45,000 +$0$45,000 +$0

Price-wise there does not seem to be any great advantage in the Tesla roof over a more traditional solar panel installation. One could argue that the solar roof is more aesthetically pleasing than panels, but that is a matter of opinion.

The only time when the Tesla roof comes out on top is against premium roofing. If you are going to spend a large sum on roofing anyway, then the Tesla roof is a comparable price option.

Large Upfront Cost versus Long Term Savings

Tesla makes much of the potential savings a person can gain with their solar roof. Indeed the numbers indicate that Tesla has some ground to stand on here as the roof does seem to at least pay for itself over its lifetime, but the large upfront cost cannot be ignored despite these savings.

Tesla says that their roof makes sense because it pays for itself, and it will, but only if you can afford the hefty initial price. Long-term savings aside Tesla’s solar roof is still more than many people are willing to spend.

Essentially the savings offered by the Tesla roof do little good for people who cannot afford to have it installed in the first place. By the end of its lifetime, Tesla’s roof makes financial sense, but it can be understandably hard to get over the initial cost. Few of us have $50,000 to spare.

If you see Tesla’s roof as a long-term investment, then the cost looks good, but if you are looking at it as a single purchase then it is quite expensive.

Tesla’s Service Record

We have mentioned that getting a Tesla roof appears to be a bit of a gamble in terms of whether it will pay off or not. Unfortunately, alongside this, we must also mention that Tesla thus far does not have an outstanding reputation for the way they have been handling the solar roof orders.

Initially, Tesla may have released their project too soon as there was a host of installation problems. Orders have been canceled, and customers have received quotes that are far more than the average pricing suggested.

Tesla may have a good product with their solar roof solution, but their lackluster service record with this project may make it more of a risky investment. Hopefully, with time Tesla will have established better routines for handling unexpected issues and costs as they arise.

Conclusion

As much as we love the technology behind the Tesla roof and the potential long term savings, the upfront cost is still hefty at well over $30,000 for most projects. There is a high likelihood of additional costs being found throughout the project, but once installed the Tesla roof is a functional and durable roof that will save you money on your electricity bill.

Pro Tip: Ordering Tesla Solar? Save $100 instantly by using a Tesla referral link from another Tesla owner.

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Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. My daily driver is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. I've learned a ton about Teslas from hands-on experience and this is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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