Elon Musk put solar roofs on the map with his October 2016 reveal of the Tesla solar roof, but he isn’t the only one focused on this innovative new solar installation format. Forward Labs, a self-funded startup, offers their own solar roof product and they could give Tesla a run for their money. Here are the answers to every question you might have about one of the Tesla solar roof’s top competitors.
Update on Forward Solar Roofing (March, 2019):
Forward Labs is still a growing startup, and we’ve heard complaints of delays and miscommunication from customers who have placed an order on their website. For more information, we recommend you email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the Forward Labs solar roof, and how does it work?
Forward Labs has created a solar roof product that is unlike standard photovoltaic (PV) solar panels or even solar shingles. As with solar PV panels, Forward solar roofing produces electricity for your home or business when exposed to sunlight. However, Forward Labs’ roof product doesn’t look like traditional solar panels that are affixed with metal racking to your existing roof. Instead, the company has created a standing seam metal roof that has hidden monocrystalline solar panels integrated into its surface. From the ground, it looks like a regular metal roof, but when viewed from above, the top layer of the roof is transparent to maximize the amount of sun that each solar cell receives.
Forward solar roofing installations are comprised of both solar and non-solar roof materials. Similar to standard solar panels, the electricity-generating solar portions of the roof will be installed where they’ll produce the most electricity. The remainder of the installation uses non-solar roof materials with the same appearance.
How much does Forward Labs solar roofing cost?
The cost of installing a Forward Labs solar roof is dependent on many different factors, including your electricity needs and the size of your roof. According to the company’s website, the solar portion of the roof is priced at $3.25/Watt, which is similar to average solar prices across the U.S.
However, this price doesn’t include the cost of the non-solar roof sections. These sections are priced at $8.50 per square foot, which is comparable to a regular standing seam metal roof. Homeowners interested in a solar roof installation should take into account the additional cost of replacing one’s roof at $8.50 per square foot when comparing the Forward Labs product to traditional solar panel options.
Forward Labs has a calculator on their website offers an estimate of how much its solar roof product will cost for you, as well as the long-term savings it will generate. EnergySage used data from this calculator to conduct a pricing analysis based on a 3,000 square foot home in Southern California with a $200 monthly electric bill. We found the all-in cost of a Forward Labs solar roof is closer to $4.90/Watt when you incorporate the cost of the non-solar roofing materials. While that is significantly higher than what you would pay for a standard solar panel installation, this price may be cost-competitive if you also need to replace your roof simultaneously and are interested in a standing seam metal roof.
When will Forward Labs’ solar roof be available?
Forward Labs has received a significant amount of media attention alongside the Tesla solar roof as a new home solar innovation. However, their solar roof is not yet available for installation. The company is currently taking reservations for pilot installations in the San Francisco Bay Area, which are expected to start in 2018. Reservations require a $1,000 refundable deposit.
While the company promises that they plan to expand in the very near future, they state on their website that they “cannot commit to any orders beyond [their] current map for 2018.” Any U.S. homeowner has the option of putting down a deposit, but the Forward Labs solar roof likely won’t be available outside of the Bay Area until 2019 at the earliest.
How Forward Labs compares to the Tesla solar roof
As you already know, Forward Labs isn’t the only company out there with a new solar roof product coming to market. Tesla – manufacturer of high-end electric cars and home batteries – announced the Tesla solar roof to great fanfare in October 2016. The question on the minds of many solar-interested homeowners’ is: how do these two different solar roof options compare?
One of the most noticeable differences between Forward Labs and Tesla’s solar roof options is the design. Tesla’s solar roof option is comprised of individual glass tiles that have the appearance of high-end roof materials. Tesla solar roof tiles will be manufactured in four variations: Tuscan, slate, textured, and smooth glass. By comparison, Forward Labs’ solar roofing product looks like a standing seam metal roof. Both roofs are made of strong tempered glass, which sets them apart from traditional roofing materials. See the images below to better visualize these differences in design.
As we mentioned above, Forward Labs states that the price for their solar roof is $3.25/Watt. EnergySage’s analysis found that, when you incorporate the cost of the other roofing materials, Forward solar roofing product costs approximately $4.90/Watt. By comparison, EnergySage’s analysis of Tesla’s solar roof pricing (using the same 3,000 square foot California property) found that the all-in cost is closer to $6.40/Watt.
When you compare the two solar roof options, Forward Labs comes out ahead on price, ringing in at 33 percent less expensive than Tesla. We hypothesize the lower cost is due to the comparative ease of installation. Instead of installing and wiring individual solar glass tiles, the Forward solar roofing product can likely be installed in larger sections.
However, both of these solar roofs are significantly more expensive than simply installing a standard solar PV system on your existing roof: the average cost of solar in 2017 is $3.16/Watt. Neither solar roof option comes close to being cost-competitive unless you need to replace your existing roof in addition to installing solar.
Much has been made of the supposedly “infinite” warranty that comes with the Tesla solar roof. However, that only refers to the physical roof tiles themselves. Tesla’s warranties for power production of the solar cells and weatherization are the same as Forward Labs’ warranty offerings – 30 years.
Start the solar shopping process today with solar panel quotes on EnergySage
Solar roofs offer some of the most aesthetically pleasing home solar options on the market. However, unless you are also looking to replace your roof, a standard solar panel system is a much more cost-effective option for your home. The average EnergySage customer with a solar panel system breaks even on their solar investment in just seven years.
Whether you’re considering a solar roof or interested in standard rooftop panels, comparing all of your options can help you determine the relative costs and benefits of going solar. Join the EnergySage Solar Marketplace to solicit competitive quotes for rooftop solar PV systems from installers local to you. Whether your top priority is aesthetics, long-term savings, or initial investment, reviewing offers from multiple providers is the best way to find the right option for your home.