For those asking themselves, “should I wait for the Tesla solar roof?”, you are not alone. Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO of Tesla Motors, has a well-earned reputation for creating innovative 21st-century products that combine attractive designs with exceptional performance – and generate high levels of consumer interest as a result. The latest Musk technology to make a splash is the Tesla solar roof, which he revealed to great fanfare in October 2016. Here’s everything you should consider before making your decision, including what Tesla roof rivals you should consider.
*Update – Tesla has begun taking orders for their Tesla solar glass roof as of May, 2017. The pre-order requires a $1,000 deposit that can be paid online with a credit card. Tesla’s roof is now expected to begin installation in June, 2017 in California. The roof will then be slowly rolled out across the country and installations will be administered by SolarCity. Some estimates suggest the roof will not be available nationwide until mid-2018. Tesla has also revealed a standard solar panel product that it will begin producing in 2017 in addition to its solar roof – a black Panasonic solar panel with no mounting apparatus. Tesla has launched a calculator that provides estimates for its solar roof and has released the pricing information of $21.85 per square foot.
Should you wait for the Tesla solar roof? It depends on your priorities
Standard solar panel technologies are typically evaluated based on their performance, durability, and warranties. However, there are relatively few technical details available for Tesla’s solar roof shingles. Tesla has not revealed how efficiently the panels will generate power, what kind of warranty the company will offer, or how they will be installed.
The company has also claimed that their tiles are significantly stronger than a traditional roof tile, and even shared video footage during the launch to demonstrate their durability. That being said, Tesla hasn’t provided any information about durability or stress tests – standard information that is publicly available from most solar panel manufacturers.
One thing is for certain: Tesla solar roof shingles look great. The shingles, which are made of glass, come in four different patterns that have the look of a standard roof, with one key difference – they generate electricity for your home. The solar cell embedded in Tesla roof tiles isn’t visible from the street, unlike a traditional solar panel.
What are Tesla’s solar roof rivals?
Though the buzz around Tesla’s illustrious roof product has made it appear like its a new concept, it is merely the continued repackaging brilliance that some call the “Musk effect”. Just as Tesla motors did not invent the electric car or the lithium ion battery, the concept of integrated solar roof tiles is nothing new – Tesla has just brought it to the world’s attention thanks to the company’s mastery of product design. Here are some of the former competitors and now rivals of Tesla’s solar roof:
- Dow powerhouse – this solar manufacturer was one of the first to ever offer an integrated solar roof product. Unfortunately, the company declared bankruptcy in 2016 and no longer offers their solar shingle product
- Suntegra – this Northeast solar manufacturer is on the forefront of the solar roof product line. The company hails from New York and began offering its two solar roof products just a few months before the announcement of Tesla’s shingles
- CertainTeed – originally a roofing company, this contractor now offers solar shingle installation as well. This product cannot compete with Tesla in terms of aesthetics or subtlety and should not be considered a true “solar roof” but the thin apparatus offers quasi-integration nonetheless.
Tesla solar roof pricing is unclear, but experts expect it will be expensive
Tesla has stated on their company blog that their solar glass roof will be priced at $21.85 – the explanation that they give is that their roof product will be slightly below the figure Consumer Reports provided in an article in which they estimated what the roof would need to cost to be price-competitive with a typical new roof installation.
Multiple journalists have attempted to come up with price estimates based on Tesla’s guidance, and they’ve all come to the same conclusion: the Tesla solar roof, like most of Tesla’s other products, will be a high-end purchase that comes with a premium price tag.
Consumer Reports crunched the numbers and determined that a Tesla solar roof would cost somewhere between $70,000 and $100,000, based on Tesla’s own pricing guidance. This is much more expensive than a standard asphalt roof replacement, which should cost homeowners between $8,000 and $16,000 depending on their roof size and property location. Labor and installation costs could add an additional premium to the price of the Tesla solar roof, although the lack of information about its technical design makes this price premium difficult to estimate. But think of it this way: roofers aren’t trained as electricians and vice versa, so it’s likely that more highly-specialized contractors will be needed to install the Tesla roof shingles, increasing costs further.
Timeline and release date: when will the Tesla solar roof come to market?
Tesla solar roof technology isn’t available on the market yet. According to the latest reports from Tesla, the solar roof will be rolled out sometime in 2017. Though Tesla has released its waiting list for the roof shingle product (similar to its Model S car), it’s unclear exactly when the product will be ready for consumers.
Tesla has indicated that they will manufacture the tiles in partnership with Panasonic at the company’s factory in New York, which won’t be open until mid 2017. However, the auto manufacturer is notorious for production delays across its line of luxury electric vehicles, most famously on the Tesla Model X crossover SUV. Whether Tesla solar shingles will face the same production delays as Tesla cars remains to be seen. Our own estimate is that homeowners shouldn’t expect the Tesla solar roof to be available nationwide until mid-2018.
Not every home is a good candidate for the Tesla solar roof
Price is a serious consideration if you’re deciding whether to wait for the Tesla solar roof. However, an equally important factor to keep in mind is whether your home is a good candidate for solar roof tiles.
Most existing solar shingle technologies are also known as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) because they are integrated with your existing roof, and are a similar size and shape to standard roof tiles. Tesla has created something different.
In August 2016, Musk first explained the difference between solar shingles and Tesla’s solar roof: “It’s not a thing on the roof. It is the roof.” Unlike other solar shingles, Tesla’s roof tiles are designed to completely replace your existing roof. As a result, the most cost-effective way to install them is when your home is being built, which means that they are best suited for homebuyers who have a say in the design and materials of their newly constructed home.
While this doesn’t mean that they can’t be used on existing homes, retrofitting your roof with Tesla solar tiles will come at an additional expense, because you’ll need to pay contractors to remove your old roof first. As a result, retrofitting your roof with Tesla solar tiles is only practical when your roof is already due to be replaced.
Learn how much solar can save you today before you make your decision
Just as Tesla Motors doesn’t make electric vehicles for the masses, Tesla Energy isn’t developing a solar roof that belongs on every home. In many ways, the company’s solar roof product is similar to its first electric car. If you are an early adopter of new technologies, don’t care about price, and are prepared to wait for a product with an uncertain manufacturing timeline, then waiting for Tesla solar roof tiles could be the right decision for your home.
However, there are always risks associated with installing a brand-new, untested technology. Unlike Tesla’s solar roof tiles, many of the premium solar panels currently available on the market today are produced by well-known consumer electronics manufacturers (such as Hyundai, Panasonic, Kyocera and LG) that have been producing solar panels for a decade or more.
Additionally, waiting to go solar has its risks, even if you’re interested in a brand-new technology. The cost of going solar is falling every year, and there are premium solar panels already available today that come with high efficiency ratings and a sleek black design. If you wait years for the Tesla solar roof, you will lose out on years of savings on your electricity bill. You also run the risk of missing out on financial incentives for solar – many state tax credits have already expired, and the federal investment tax credit for solar will be phased out starting in 2020.
Before you make the decision to wait for the Tesla solar roof, use a solar calculator to learn how much you can save today by going solar. If you’re ready to explore the solar options for your home, join the EnergySage Solar Marketplace and get custom quotes from solar installers in your area. You might be surprised by just how much you can save now by installing traditional solar panels on your roof today.