Tesla solar roof cost vs. solar panels: worth the premium?

tesla solar roof vs solar panels

Tesla recently announced pricing for their new solar roof product, a roof replacement for your home. The new solution requires that you replace your existing roof with Tesla’s blend of non-solar glass tiles and solar-enabled glass tiles. It is an elegant new product, designed with great aesthetics.  But the question is ultimately does installing this new roof make financial sense for your home? After initial analysis, we’ve found that for the majority of homeowners the answer is currently “no”. Just as Tesla’s luxury sports cars are out of reach for most drivers today, Tesla’s new solar roof is simply too expensive for most American homeowners to justify spending their money on.

How much does the Tesla solar roof cost, and is it worth the premium?

To easily explain Tesla’s solar roof cost and its price premium, we’ll detail three different scenarios below –  read on to see which describes you best! We’ll be using a 3000 sq. ft. home in Southern California with a $200 monthly electric bill in our example, although we ran this analysis for several different states and home sizes and the results remained similar.

 

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Scenario 1: You are interested in going solar, but don’t need to replace your roof

This is the most common scenario for the vast majority of homeowners in the U.S. today. You’ve been interested in installing solar panels for a while, and realize that costs have come down enough for it to be an achievable home upgrade. You’ve also heard a lot of media buzz around the Tesla solar roof lately, but aren’t sure if it’s worth the cost. Most importantly, you don’t need to replace your roof in the next three to five years.

If this description sounds like you, the straightforward answer is that Tesla’s solar roof won’t make financial sense for your home. Here’s why: it is both a new roof and a solar installation. If you don’t need a new roof, you risk getting upsold on a product that you weren’t even shopping for in the first place. And the price tag of this upsell is considerable. While the owner of our 3000 sq. ft. home in California would typically install a 8.5kW solar panel system for $26,030 before rebates, Tesla’s roof calculator shows that only a 6.25kW solar roof priced at $50,900 is possible. The result is that Tesla’s solar roof will cost nearly $25,000 more than installing solar panels, and yet will only deliver 77% as much solar electricity (due to it being a smaller system size). You’re paying more for less, and that just doesn’t make good financial sense.

tesla solar roof price vs solar panels

Scenario 2: You are interested in going solar, and you also need to replace your roof

While this is a less common scenario, it may fit you if your current roof is coming up on the end of its useful life. In general, asphalt shingles tend to last 20 to 30 years, and metal and slate roofs can last over 60 years (we recommend you consult with a local roofing expert for specifics about your property). This scenario may also fit you if you’re in the process of building a new home from scratch, and haven’t picked out your roofing material yet. In this scenario, unlike the first one, you are in the market and actively shopping for both a new roof and a solar panel installation.

If this description fits you better, Tesla’s solar roof may make more financial sense. In this case, you have the option of either replacing your roof first and then installing traditional solar panels, or combining both actions with the installation of a Tesla solar roof. For our example homeowner in California, we used Consumer Reports’ estimate of a $20,000 roof replacement and added that to our initial $26,030 gross costs of installation from Scenario 1. Tesla’s solar roof is still 10% more expensive than replacing your roof and adding solar panels (in some cases it’s 20% more), but that’s the price premium you’ll have to pay for installing their attractive glass tiles on your rooftop. Lastly, just like in the first scenario, it’s worth mentioning that Tesla’s solar roof will only produce about three quarters the level of solar electricity as compared to traditional solar panels – meaning your electricity bill won’t go down as much as it could.

cost of replacing roof with solar vs tesla roof price

Scenario 3: You love new technology, want solar, and have money to burn

If you have a shiny Tesla Model S in your driveway, an Apple Watch on your wrist, and an overflowing bank account – there is now a new roof for you! All kidding aside, there are certainly homeowners out there who simply want the newest technology possible and don’t consider factors like price, value, or the risk of getting upsold a new roof they don’t need. For shoppers in this category who are considering solar, the Tesla solar roof is a natural fit. In fact, we believe that the majority of buyers for Tesla’s solar roof will come from this third category. At EnergySage, we think that more solar on rooftops is always better than less, and look forward to this group of early adopters installing this new roof product on their homes.

Early adopters of new technologies tend to be more likely to tolerate the hiccups that often occur with new products, too. While other companies have offered solar tiles before, these products have historically been hard to install and offered mixed performance results. For Tesla’s solar roof, we hope the rollout will look more like the Model S, exceeding performance expectations for its adoring fans. But the Model S was not Tesla’s first car. It’s also possible that the first solar roof will perform more like the Roadster, which Elon Musk declared a “disaster” in retrospect.

If you’re a homeowner trying to understand what all your solar options are, we always recommend you get as many different quotes as possible so you can compare the pros and cons of each offer. Try our free Solar Calculator to better understand the economics of putting solar panels for your roof, and once ready for actual quotes, join the EnergySage Solar Marketplace to receive competing solar installation offers from our network of 400+ pre-screened solar installers. Backed by the U.S. Department of Energy, our mission is to make going solar as easy as booking a flight online.

 

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9 thoughts on “Tesla solar roof cost vs. solar panels: worth the premium?

  1. Kirk

    While most people do not live in their homes very long. Average is around 4 to 5 years. For those who plan to live in the house for 30+ years will benefit from a tesla roof because they claim that it will last for ever, therefore, you would avoid replacing your roof again after 20 to 30 years, not to mention the impact resistance, the look of the roof will not fade or discolor as most new roofs do after 2+ years. Also something to think about is how much value would a buyer in the market at to a house that has a tesla roof? how much extra could you sell a house for, if it had a tesla roof?

    Reply
    1. Matt

      The incremental value of a gen1 Tesla roof for a future home sale is impossible to know, but could well be negative. There will likely be cheaper, better performing systems within 5-10 years, the average time people live in a home. There certainly will be better systems in 30 years – at which time, having a Tesla roof may be as appealing to home buyers as asbestos siding.

      Reply
    2. John

      Appraisal standards would apply to any increase in value. To get credit for the 50k Tesla Roof, you would need to have other “comparable” houses with a solar panel installed, within a reasonable distance to your home.
      It gets pretty difficult to say this is a value, long term. A roof is one of the house components that is expected to be there and in good shape. It’s just a roof at a certain level….
      Of course the buyer may choose to pay more than the value of the house (as compared to others in the immediate neighborhood) but that’s unlikely.

      Reply
  2. Brian Kullman

    The old solar rooftop business model was a long term transferrable lease, with the tax rebate going to the installer (who remains the owner of the array.) The new owner takes over the lease and associated warranties.

    The integrated roof/solar business model will be a sale, possibly financed. When the house is sold, the roof will convey with it and any financing will have to be paid off. The initial costs will be born entirely by the first owner. It will be very hard to ever determine how much of that investment will be recovered in a subsequent sale because the roof and the house itself are a single entity.

    As a side note, Tesla says the roof is warranted “forever”, but I have not seen if the warranty is transferrable to successive owner(s). This is a big issue. The average house is sold every 7 years or so.

    Reply
  3. Joseph Schlund

    I think it would be important to note how much you would save with the solar. In your example, the person spent $200/mo on electricity. Even if that person saved only 75% they would save $150/mo or $1,800/yr so in example #2 it would pay for itself over 3 years over the traditional cost (PV vs Tesla)

    Reply
  4. William B. Mosso

    On the Tesla roof panels how are wattage outputs calculated compared to solar panels so we can compare the two. If my home is calculated with regular solar panels to be 10 k will the Tesla roof be the same? We need more info on the Tesla roof capability and look for Energy Sage to provide that soon.

    Reply
  5. Sara

    What kind of solar roof options would you use on a house today? We plan to build in Colorado and want some advise on the best solar options.
    Thanks!

    Reply
  6. Robert Kenny

    Remember that a warranty is only good as long as the company stays in business . Therewas a product called fire free produced by a Canadian company . When the roofs failed, The company declared bankruptcy and re-organized . The warranty was worthless.

    Reply

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