The Tesla solar roof and the Sunpower solar panels are two of the most popular solar energy options on the market today. With variations in size, area, availability, and price, choosing between the two can be difficult, especially for first-time solar energy users. Fortunately, there are some clear categories to consider to help paint a better picture.
Tesla’s solar roof tiles are often more expensive than Sunpower’s and require a whole new roof installation. Tesla’s solar roof has lower availability than Sunpower’s options but in some areas are much easier to install. Sunpower’s solar panels tend to be cheaper to purchase and install.
Tesla’s solar roof is often more expensive and will see less return in future years outside of special offers or a full roof replacement. However, there are plenty of other things that must be considered when looking toward solar power. Continue reading to make the most informed decision.
What to Consider When Comparing Solar Panels
Regardless of which option you end up choosing, adding solar panels to a home is an expensive investment. If you are in the right area for solar energy collection, you are likely to see that investment pay for itself within a few years while also raising the value of your home. However, that does not mean that this is an easy decision or one that should be taken lightly.
Due to the initial cost of almost any solar set up, it is essential to look at a variety of factors. Some of the most important ones for most consumers are:
- Current roof status
- Solar efficiency
- Incentives for installation or companies
Many of these categories cover multiple categories and require further thought than the initial title may suggest. Especially when comparing Tesla’s Solar Roof to Sunpower, some dramatic differences in these categories may become apparent.
The Cost and Need of Installing A New Roof
As solar panels are almost certainly going to be installed on your roof, an inspection of the roof is an essential first step. Often, your roof may require repairs or expected repairs in the next few years; if that is the case, the installation cost is likely to rise.
The roof of your home must be in good condition before any additional installation can happen. This is not the case if you will be replacing the roof with the solar panel installation, as is what happens with Tesla’s Solar Roof. Because Tesla’s solar roof requires a new roof installation regardless of its condition, it becomes a better option if it would need to be replaced soon anyway.
Otherwise, if your roof is well-kept or recently installed, the initial money put into the roof can be seen as a loss. This may influence you to choose one option over another. Talk to a local solar panel installer to figure out if your roof is in good condition for solar panels.
Source: Semper Solaris
The Effectiveness of Your House Direction
Your effective electricity rate will depend on how much solar energy your house actually receives, ultimately influencing the cost of your investment over time. Put simply, if your home is situated in a sunny area and receives direct sunlight for the majority of the day, you will see the return on your investment much quicker than someone who lives in a cloudy area and only gets sunlight for a few hours.
While your home’s direction does not directly influence the initial cost, it does affect how quickly you notice the benefits of solar energy. Consider your current energy usage and how much your home will get as a daily average. A certified solar panel installation company or electric company should be able to help you with these numbers.
Your return on energy should directly influence how much money you are willing to put into the solar panels. At some point, the solar panels will end up paying for themselves; but the location of your home determines whether that happens in a few years or fifty.
Another factor in the effectiveness of your solar energy is the efficiency of your solar panels. No panel can convert all of the solar power it receives into usable energy; in fact, most only have about a 20% efficiency rate, regardless of the manufacturer. Choosing the solar panel with the best efficiency for your area is a critical step in reducing costs.
Local and Federal Incentives
Local and federal incentives for installing solar panels have varied in recent years, but looking into them is always worthwhile. Usually, these incentives can save thousands of dollars and make installing solar panels a much more feasible project for many homes.
Federal tax credits for solar panel installation have decreased in recent years, and 2021 is the last year to see any reduction at all. Unless Congress renews the credits, solar panels installed only in 2021 will receive a 22% tax credit, saving a substantial amount of money. You can read the official source from the U.S. Department of Energy here.
Locally, your state or even town may offer additional incentives to make installation better. Some companies may also provide incentives that make one choice of a company much more feasible than the other, so it is important to research local companies and installation services.
The Tesla Solar Roof’s Benefits and Drawbacks
With some general categories defined, taking a specific look at Tesla’s Solar Roof is much easier. The solar roof is a fantastic option for those looking to:
- Replace their entire roof
- Integrate their solar panels into a larger Tesla ecosystem
- Interested in the design
However, there are some additional considerations and possible drawbacks that should be mentioned about the solar roof. Tesla’s option tends to be more expensive than other options, including Sunpower’s tile options. They can also be challenging to find, as Tesla has been experiencing long lists of people interested in the product since its release in 2016.
When comparing the Solar Roof to Sunpower’s offering, there are many things that essentially match each other. These include efficiency, investment return, and government incentives. Other aspects like the cost of panels, availability, and installation costs are likely to vary depending on location and interest.
Tesla’s Panels Are Actually the Roof
The largest thing to consider about Tesla’s Solar Roof is that it, in its entirety, is a roof. Instead of mounting solar panels to the top of a roof, this option simply looks like a standard roof at all times and charges much the same.
Tesla promises that this unique roof is just as durable, waterproof, and easy to install as other options, even including all-weather protection. While the Solar Roof can be difficult to find in regions that receive snow and cold weather, the roof does stand up to the test.
Tesla’s Solar Roof avoids the look and bulkiness of solar panels, making it a fantastic choice for those who want to be environmentally friendly without sacrificing the look of their home. The roof truly looks like a sleek choice that blends in entirely with other traditional asphalt or tile options.
The cost of roof removal and new installation tends to drive up price significantly, however. This is especially true for hopeful solar users who recently redid their roof or have no need to replace their current one. Essentially, the cost of the old roof can be factored in as a loss.
On the flip side, roofs that already need to be replaced can look at the Solar Roof as an option that kills two birds with one stone, providing a great replacement without the need to also find and install solar panels. Installation is meant to be quick and utilizes tiles that spread across the roof in various styles.
Source: Tesla Solar Roof Page
A Premium Product at An Often Higher Cost
Thanks to the premium look of Tesla’s Solar Roof, as well as its seamless integration with the Tesla app and Powerwall for storing energy, the product includes many benefits and quality of life benefits that other options lack. These extra bells and whistles firmly place the Solar Roof in the realm of a premium product, and the price tag for installation reflects that.
When compared to a traditional roof installation, the cost of the Solar Roof skyrockets, with estimated quotes around $70,000. For comparison, a typical asphalt roof tends to stay around $20,000. However, there are some additional incentives to even these prices out, including:
- Saved electricity cost
- Longer life span
- Government incentives
Depending on your location and specific situation, these aspects may actually reduce the cost of a Solar Roof within the range of a routine roof replacement and solar panel installation. However, many will have difficulty trying to stomach the high initial price.
Installation costs can also be quite high, as it requires specially trained technicians to install the roof and set up the electric wiring. While some areas of the country have a variety of technicians available, resulting in lower installation prices, those in areas without much solar popularity can expect to pay a premium. Consumer reports published a mathematical comparison of the costs based on the Solar Roof’s initial announcement here.
Low Production Numbers May Make Finding Panels Difficult
Despite the high interest and popularity of the Solar Roof, it can be extremely difficult to find available units for installation. Manufacturing of the roof tiles has simply not kept up with demand, as is often the case with Tesla’s offerings in the solar energy space. Expect to wait at least a few months after placing an order before any progress is made.
Low production numbers become even more of a difficulty in areas of the United States where solar power is not as popular as other options, such as the Northeast or Midwest. When compounded with difficulty in finding an installer, the Solar Roof can become much more difficult to find and install than Sunpower’s offerings.
With that said, the Solar Roof has many benefits, including:
- A fresh roof installation
- Full Tesla app integration
- Great design
- Ease of use
Integration of the system is especially great for those who already use Tesla products around their home and vehicles, as everything can be controlled and monitored easily from the same app. While the cost is likely to be higher than other solar panel options, it is still expected within the same ballpark, making the decision one of priorities rather than straight numbers.
What Sunpower’s Tiles Offer
Sunpower’s solar panels are some of the best on the market in a variety of factors. For those interested in the absolute best efficiency, traditional solar panels, and high-wattage options, Sunpower is tough to beat.
These solar panels are also much more available than Tesla’s Solar Roof, with installation companies and available distributors across much of the company.
Of course, no option is perfect; the Sunpower tiles do not share the same sleek design of the Tesla Solar Roof and, as such, require a good, current roof installation. The cost can be relatively high, and there is no built-in ecosystem with an inverter and app to monitor the installation. At the simplest level, the comparison between Sunpower and the Solar Roof comes down to the importance of extra options.
Sunpower Offers Cheaper Panels and More Options
Sunpower has a variety of solar panels available, each of them traditional in design. Between all of the various models, efficiency and wattage are the two aspects that change most often. These subtle differences allow consumers to make informed, specific decisions to have the best possible dollar-to-efficiency cost for solar panel installations.
For those interested in high-wattage solutions, meaning that more power comes through on a smaller scale, Sunpower makes the best in the world. They offer a 400-watt model that, when placed in a grid, is almost certainly enough to power any home.
With this top-of-the-line model comes extra efficiency, a sleek design, and easy installation. The price tag of these A-Series models comes at a premium, but not everyone will need this power. Sunpower’s X-Series is excellent for those looking for a smaller option or who require less solar energy. They also offer E-Series and P-Series options for even more customization.
Whatever your solar power needs, Sunpower can cover it. For those looking for a traditional solar panel look in a high-quality and well-priced product, the Sunpower panels are the best available.
Efficiency Is Key
Across all of their models, Sunpower focuses on creating some of the most efficient solar power panels available. Efficiency dictates how much of the energy hitting the solar panel actually gets converted into something you can use: the higher the percentage, the better. While nothing close to 100% efficiency is currently possible, Sunpower does a great job at using effective materials to make their power conversion some of the best around.
For instance, their X-Series models can deliver up to 22.7% efficiency; the Tesla Solar Roof has been found to deliver up to about 18% efficiency. While a small difference, these numbers do add up over time to make the Sunpower option pay for itself faster.
Sunpower’s focus on efficiency is not just limited to their best models, either. All of their offerings promise around a 20% efficiency rating, putting their minimum at the high end of the industry average of 15 to 20%.
General Availability Means A Quicker Timetable
One of Sunpower’s other great benefits is the general availability of their solar panels. Their manufacturing and distribution pipeline is streamlined enough that wait times are at a minimum for the industry. Certified installers are common enough to keep prices down and reasonable across the country.
Overall, this translates to a quick timetable for getting solar panels installed, especially when compared to Tesla’s Solar Roof. Additionally, the extra certified installers and technicians available mean that help is easy to find if something goes wrong or expansions are needed in the future.
While Sunpower’s panels have very few extra bells and whistles, they are incredibly efficient and great for getting solar power up and running. They are some of the best available and, if you decide to go with a more traditional approach to solar, can save you money.
Choosing between the Tesla Solar Roof and Sunpower’s solar panels is a difficult decision, as both are fantastic choices. The question mainly comes down to your preference, whether that be for the design and simplicity of Tesla’s roof or the efficiency and availability of Sunpower’s option.
Overall, Tesla’s offerings are likely to cost more, especially if you were not planning on replacing your roof before switching to solar. However, specific locations may see their options change, so be sure to get quotes for both options if you are undecided. Sunpower’s tiles keep the traditional look and feel of solar panels, which some homeowners may oppose. Both options will eventually pay for their initial cost thanks to the substantial energy savings that either can provide and are covered by long 25-year warranties.