Tesla Solar Explained: The Ultimate Guide


Tesla Solar Explained: The Ultimate Guide

Tesla came on the market with its electric car, and they have been taking the world by storm with their approach to clean energy and sustainability ever since. Now, Tesla is betting on their energy business, specifically with their selection of solar energy and energy storage units, and, according to their results, it is starting to pay off.

Tesla has solar products to meet personal and commercial needs, including additional energy storage batteries that can save solar energy for later use. For solar power itself, you can choose between traditional solar panels or Solar Roof tiles.

Tesla’s innovation is unmatched in the market today. From electric vehicles to the now widespread solar business, Tesla’s work on sustainable energy is taking the world by storm. Read on to learn more about the Tesla solar business and all of its facets.

Tesla’s Solar Power Options

Currently, Tesla offers two options for main solar power, as well as backup batteries that will store any overage you produce for future use. Both of these options function the same, but the main differences are the appearance and the price point.

  • Solar Panels are traditional panels that capture solar energy, which will be converted to AC power for all your household needs.
  • Solar Roof Tiles are a newer technology on Tesla’s Solar Roof, which mirrors a traditional roof. The tiles will alternate between solar power and normal shingles, and they will operate the same as traditional panels: capturing solar energy to power the home.
  • Powerwall is a backup battery for personal use, and the Megapack or Powerpack are for business use. They will store any excess solar energy you produce for later use.

Regardless of which you choose, you can finance or purchase your solar panels or Solar Roof outright, though if you finance, you will need to pay a subscription fee. Still, it will be less expensive than traditional energy, and Tesla has pledged to price match other similar companies to remain competitive in the solar energy industry. 

Solar Panels

Most people are familiar with solar panels and how they work, and Teslas are no different. Panels will be placed on your roof, and they will capture solar energy. This will then be fed through the solar inverter, which converts the DC solar energy to AC energy which will power your household appliances and other operations with ease.

The solar gateway will then capture data about your energy usage, how much you capture during the day, and more. This information will be available in the Tesla app, and you can see everything – and even control compatible appliances – all within the app. Users can then adjust their energy usage based on the insights in the Tesla app.

The number of solar panels your home or business needs depends on the size of the roof, and the more panels that you have, the more power than you can capture. If you have a larger home or business, you need more panels. Additionally, you can use the Powerwall, Megapack, or Powerpack for extra energy before accessing the power grid.

SizePowerNumber of PanelsEstimated Square Footage
Small4.08 kW12240 sq ft
Medium8.16 kW24480 sq ft
Large12.24 kW36720 sq ft
Extra Large16.32 kW48960 sq ft

The panels themselves have a low profile. They sit close to the roof with a concealed edge and no visible grid to help blend into the roof. They are quiet and durable, and the black, thin design is unobtrusive. It comes with a 25-year warranty and has been tested to withstand extreme weather conditions, and carries the highest fire and safety rating.

Solar Tiles

The Tesla solar tiles integrate the solar panel technology into what looks like traditional roof shingles. These active shingles contain solar cells, and they are alternated with inactive or just normal shingles. Even though they are made of different materials, they look the same, providing a uniform look to your roof, which is game-changing.

There are four different styles that you can choose from:

  • Textured glass tile
  • Tuscan glass tile
  • Slate glass tile
  • Smooth glass tile

This gives you the ability to customize your solar tiles to your style, much like you would when you purchase a new roof. This technology fits seamlessly into your home, and it operates just like regular solar panels.

The solar cells in the tiles will absorb the solar energy. This will then travel to the solar inverter, where the energy will be converted so that it is usable in the home. The solar gateway serves as the hub for all of the information about your home’s energy use, and your Tesla app will add an additional level of control concerning your energy use.

With the introduction of the solar tiles, Tesla is changing the solar power game. One of the most common complaints about solar power panels is that they are not aesthetically pleasing. They are practical, but customers want them to look good too. That is what they get with the tiles, so your house can look good while you do good for the environment.

Powerwall, Megapack, Powerpack

The Tesla Powerwall, Megapack, and Powerpack are batteries that you can purchase to help store excess energy. Sometimes, you will produce more solar energy than you can use in a day. If this is the case, then the backup battery will help store the energy for you to use at a later date. It will use this before accessing the normal energy grid.

The Powerwall battery is for personal use, and as of April 2021, Tesla made it mandatory to purchase a Powerwall when you are buying Tesla solar tiles or panels. Not only will it help provide more energy when you need it, but it will also ensure you are never without power, even during an outage, which is both green and convenient.

The Megapack and Powerpack batteries function exactly the same as the Powerwall battery; they are just larger and for commercial or utility use. The size you need will vary. These are giant batteries that provide massive amounts of energy storage. Tesla designed it to help power the world with clean energy at tremendous scales.

Solar Energy Production Over Time

All roofs will need to be replaced over time, and solar panels and tiles are no different. Each carries a 25-year warranty, which is pretty standard when compared with the typical roof lifespan of between 20-30 years. This degradation is because of the exposure to the elements and is not an indication of the quality of your Solar Roof.

Over time, your solar energy output will also change. It is estimated that your solar power system will decrease its output by approximately 0.05 percent every year. This means that you will convert less sunlight to solar energy year over year. This could be for any number of factors, and while less than one percent does not seem like a lot, it adds up over time.

Tesla accounts for this when designing the ideal solar power system for your needs. While the panel and tiles are created using the highest quality materials, this degradation in service is normal with any technology, including solar power.

No matter what version of the tiles or panels you have, your processes will remain up to date through the gateway because it is continually upgraded with the latest technology. Even though you will have less input over time, you will not notice any significant changes in your energy bills, especially if you have a backup battery.

The Tesla Solar Power Ecosystem

The best thing about the Tesla solar power system is that it all works together cohesively to create a symbiotic power ecosystem in your home. It produces green energy, helping you reduce your carbon footprint while saving money in the long term. It puts the power in your hands, letting you make changes to conserve energy and resources.

There are three elements that help convert solar energy to usable energy in your home, and they are the same for both solar panels and solar tiles.

  • Solar cells in the panel or tiles capture the sunlight as it hits your roof. This raw energy needs to be converted before it can be used in your home.
  • Solar inverters convert the raw energy into usable energy, which is then used to power your appliances, lights, and more.
  • Solar gateway captures important information that will help you monitor your energy production and make adjustments as needed to neutralize your energy production. You can look at this information through the Tesla app.

The Tesla solar panels and tiles are made to power their electric cars as well, charging them with ease and with minimal power. When you use all of their products, you help to create, save and use renewable energy. This green energy will make a huge impact on the environment over time while still saving you money in the long term.

Solar Cells

The solar cells are what make the panels or shingles work. They capture the energy and channel it for conversion. There is not much difference in performance between the solar panels and the solar tiles. They are both highly efficient and will maintain their energy production despite extreme temperatures and other severe weather conditions.

In fact, the Solar Roof tiles have been tested to be three times more durable than traditional shingles. This also applies to the panels, which are designed to take less impact based on the sturdy installation. It also prevents leaks because all of the installation points have been sealed, so you do not have to worry about the elements:

  • Rain
  • Sleet
  • Snow
  • Ice

Because the solar tiles are newer, it is estimated that you will currently get a better value with traditional solar panels. However, this is likely to improve over time. Your roof will still pay for itself over time with cost savings. The rate you get for solar energy is much cheaper than the traditional energy grid.

Solar Inverters

The solar inverter is just as critical as the solar cells. While the solar cells capture the raw energy, it is the solar inverter that converts it to usable energy. You cannot have a fully functional solar-powered home without both of these elements. The sunlight is DC power, and the inverter takes that DC energy and converts it to AC power.

AC power is what is used throughout the home for appliances, electricity, and all other power needs. The solar inverter can be used with both the Solar Roof and the solar panels, and it comes in two different sizes. You can either get a 3.8 kW or a 7.5 kW solar inverter based on the size of your home and your energy needs.

Each Tesla solar inverter meets the highest safety requirements and includes the features like rapid shutdown and ground fault protection. These ensure that if there is a problem, you will be able to turn off the power with ease, much like you would cut the power in a traditionally wired home.

The units, like the tiles and panels, are made to withstand extreme weather conditions. You can install them indoors or outdoors, and the best part is that it will always remain updated with the latest technology because it uses Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and cellular data to stay up to date. It perfectly integrates with the Tesla app and gateway.

Solar Gateway

The Tesla solar gateway is not as essential to operations as the solar cells and the solar inverters; however, it provides critical data that can impact how you use solar power, especially if you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint in new ways. When you are reducing your energy use, you will save money that will help you in the long term.

The solar gateway will show you how your tiles or panels are performing and if there ways that you can optimize your energy production or consumption. The gateway connects with the Tesla app, and this is how you will make changes to your solar power in the palm of your hand.

It revolutionizes how you use energy, adding much-needed transparency that puts the control in your hands in new ways. The gateway is a hub for all things solar-powered.

Cost of Tesla Solar Power

The cost of your Tesla solar power system depends on several different factors. The installation will depend on the size of your home and, on average, how much energy you use. There is a tool on the Tesla website that you can use to estimate what you need to power your house and how much it may cost.

Keep in mind this will vary not just by size but also the complexity of your roof. If you are looking to install a Solar Roof, there are three levels of complexity that may impact your cost: simple, intermediate, and complex. Each solution is designed for your home. There is no one size fits all solution with Tesla Solar power.

Tesla offers a price match guarantee, so while you are still paying per watt, if you find another energy provider charging less for solar power, they will match that rate. If you produce more energy than you can use, you can get credits as it will be pumped back into the energy grid for others to use.

You can pay in full or finance the Tesla solar system over time. If you choose to finance, you will be subject to subscription fees. You pay a monthly rate to use the solar panels rather than purchasing them outright. These rates may vary based on location, and there are incentives that you can claim to help offset the cost of your new Tesla solar power system.

Tax Credit

Because solar power is a green, clean energy source, you can get money back from the government for using it. This starts with claiming the installation on your taxes, and you can claim not just the solar panels or the solar tiles but also the backup Powerwall battery. You will need to purchase before December 31 in the year you wish to claim them.

This federal tax credit will cover a portion of the installation and battery, and when you get your estimate, you should be able to see how much you may be able to claim on your taxes. The rates vary over time, so you will not know how much you will get back until you file your taxes. Still, it is a great incentive to use solar power.

Money Savings with Solar Power

The Tesla solar power system will cost a lot of money, especially if you are paying for it all upfront. It may seem counterintuitive, but it will save you money over time because the energy that you produce using your Tesla solar system directly powers your home. If you have a backup battery, that can be another source of energy.

You will need to go through both of these power sources before you tap into the traditional energy grid, which is more expensive than solar power. While you may not be able to go fully off the grid, you will significantly decrease the amount of traditional energy you use by making meaningful changes in your energy consumption.

Additionally, if you have any extra energy that you do not use, you will be able to add it back to the grid. You will get a credit from your utility company for doing so as part of the Net Energy Metering process.

The rates you pay to use solar energy will be lower than that of traditional energy. And, if you are ever looking to sell your home, the solar power system will be a unique selling point that will add value to your home. The system can easily be transferred to the new owner or removed for a fee at your request.

Solar Power for All Your Energy Needs

Unfortunately, you will never be able to go fully off the grid when using Tesla solar and Powerwalls. You will need to be connected to make sure that you can power your home when you run out of solar energy, so you will always have the possibility of using traditional energy. This may change in the future, but for now, that is how the system is set up.

With that said, you may still be able to power your home solely with the solar power you generate from the Tesla solar power system, whether tiles or panels. This is especially true when you monitor the Tesla gateway and use the Tesla app to check your energy consumption and adjust your behaviors accordingly.

Ultimately, it depends on a few factors:

  • How much energy you use
  • The size of your system
  • If you have a backup battery that will store excess solar energy

Your energy use can ebb and flow on the day or the season, so even if you cannot go fully green with solar power, you can still make a positive impact on the environment if you are partially powered by solar.

Excess Solar Power

If you are lucky enough to generate excess solar power, it can be processed in one of two ways. If you have a Powerwall or one of the commercially graded batteries, the excess energy will be stored for future use. This could be during the night when your system is unable to generate new power or if you have exceeded your day’s power.

If you do not have a battery or it is full, any excess energy will go back into the power grid. You will get credit for doing so too, so this will lower your traditional energy bill if you have one or be added to your account for future use. Other homes or businesses will use this excess energy and be charged accordingly.

This adds a green source of energy to the grid while still neutralizing your carbon footprint in meaningful ways. It is a great value too, saving you money for the energy you produced but did not use.

Not Enough Solar Power

Sometimes, you will have the opposite problem. It could be that there is not a sunny day or you are using a lot more power than normal. Either way, there are ways to access more energy without any disruption in your service. This transition will be seamless, though you will be subject to different energy rates when you are using normal energy.

Your Powerwall battery can provide additional power for your use. If you have already used that or do not have an additional battery, you will simply switch to the power grid. This is why you cannot ever fully be off the grid – you need an option to get more energy should your solar power system fail or be depleted.

When you use traditional energy, your energy bill will be slightly higher than expected. Once your home generates enough solar power, it will automatically switch back. You can monitor your panels’ performance through the Tesla app.

Benefits of Using the Tesla App

The Tesla app is a convenient way to monitor your solar power system’s performance and identify ways that you can reduce your energy consumption and improve your carbon footprint. It integrates seamlessly with the solar inverter and gateway to capture important information about your system’s performance.

This will help you to make meaningful changes in your behaviors to reduce your energy consumption.

  • If you find you are exceeding your energy output, the Tesla app can help you to see why.
  • Once you identify any hidden power drains, you will save money over time. These savings will feel as if it is paying for the roof over time.

The Tesla app can seamlessly integrate with compatible appliances and your car. You can set things like peak energy rate times, which will let you choose when you want to use the grid, if at all during the day. This is because there are certain times of day that are cheaper than others to use energy, so it is more cost-efficient to use the grid.

Not all appliances can be controlled through the app, but you can see how much energy these appliances are using when you look at any spikes in your consumption. You may want to start saving for more energy-efficient appliances after seeing how much some of your most-used appliances drain your solar power.

Solar Power and Power Outages

Solar power can still be used during power outages, especially if you have a backup battery. You will notice no disruption in service unless the power is cut in your area for safety concerns. This may vary by area, as there are some federal and state regulations in place when it comes to solar power.

These rules do not apply to backup batteries, though. These function almost like generators, and there are no restrictions on those during power outages.

The Future of Tesla Solar

Tesla is betting on its solar business and is constantly innovating to make it better. It has become one of the leading solar businesses on the market today, backed by the trusted Tesla brand name. Quarterly results indicate a positive reception that is growing in popularity.

This is the third iteration of Tesla’s solar power technology, and it continues to get better over time. Much like everything Tesla does, it does change regularly, so you will want to keep an eye out for the latest news – and tweets – that may impact your Tesla solar panel or tiles.

Solar Discounts:

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.

Recent Posts