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.
What’s the latest news on the Tesla solar roof? (updated November 2019)
At the end of October, Elon Musk announced the official launch of the Tesla Solar Roof V3. Among the several updates, version three of the product has larger tiles, lower production costs, increased power density, and easier installation. Additionally, the total number of parts in the product has been reduced.
New price estimates for the Solar Roof come in at $33,950, a number that includes a new roof and all estimated solar incentives you would claim upon installation. The Tesla website pegs the Solar Roof at $1.99 per watt (W), a number far below the national average cost of solar panels ($2.99/W). It will be interesting to see how prices end up looking in real quotes if and when the Solar Roof actually ends up rolling out in large numbers soon.
Complete timeline of the Tesla Solar Roof
Tesla began taking orders for their Tesla solar tiles as of May 2017. The pre-order requires a $1,000 deposit that can be paid online with a credit card. Timeline information offered on Tesla’s website suggested that installations would begin in June on the west coast starting in California. In January 2018, the company announced they were ramping up production of the roof product at their Buffalo Gigafactory. They then started initial installations with customers at the top of their waitlist in the California area in mid-March, roughly eight months after their initial estimate.
Elon Musk revealed in August 2017 that he and another Tesla executive already have the roof installed on their respective properties. While the company has begun installations for their waitlist, it’s unclear when Tesla will be installing the roof at a national, mass-market scale. As of August 2018, only 12 solar roofs have been installed in California, the leading state in the country for solar. Tesla had blamed the slow rollout of the solar roof on production delays at its Buffalo Gigafactory. Some estimates suggested large-scale installation wouldn’t start until late-2018 or early 2019.
September 2018 brought more news coverage, this time a report that we may not see solar roofs widely installed for a long time. According to CNBC, Musk has said there is more time to take to make sure all of the details are right. “There’s only so much accelerated life testing that you do on a roof. So before we can deploy it to a large number of houses we need to make sure that it’s that all elements of the roof are going to last for at least three decades,” said Musk in a summer 2018 meeting. This kind of statement lacks commitment, let alone a clear timeline.
Tesla also revealed a standard solar panel product that it began producing in 2017 in addition to its solar roof – a black Panasonic solar panel without a mounting apparatus. Tesla launched a calculator that provides estimates for its solar roof and has released the pricing information of $21.85 per square foot. To compare the cost of the Tesla solar roof to a traditional solar system, check out our price comparison or the related analysis done by Consumer Reports.
According to a Bloomberg report, work Tesla’s Buffalo Gigafactory was on the rise due to the implementation of 24/7 operating hours and around 80 employees per shift working on Solar Roof shingle production. The company was working through around 11,000 orders for the Solar Roof that have been taken through May 2018. Solar shoppers looking to finally install a Tesla Solar Roof could see light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel may still be long. Tesla hadn’t said any specific production numbers, but several reports say that Tesla worked out manufacturing kinks that previously hindered solar roof production on a large scale. The company’s SVP of Energy Operations, Sanjay Shah, said Tesla is gearing up for the Solar Roof side of their business to see “tremendous growth in 2019”. Musk himself tweeted that the first solar roof deployments will begin around summer 2019.
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. In May 2018, RGS Energy bought the exclusive rights to manufacture Powerhouse 3.0 shingles.
- Suntegra – this Northeast solar manufacturer is at 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 tile 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.
Not every home is a good candidate for the Tesla solar tile 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.