tesla solar roof shingles

Tesla Solar Roof: the complete review

In October 2019, Tesla Motors announced the launch of Tesla Solar Roof V3, the company’s third version of its integrated solar glass shingle. Among several updates, version three included larger tiles, lower production costs, increased power density, and an easier installation process. Additionally, the total number of parts in the product was decreased. Tesla predicted that these changes would significantly reduce the cost of the product; however, the company has continued to struggle with expediting its solar roof installations.

This is an unbiased review: EnergySage is not paid to review brands or products, nor do we earn money from affiliate advertising in this article. The content of this blog is based on research and information available at the time of writing. Learn more about our mission and how we make money as a company.


The Tesla Solar Roof: EnergySage’s take


  • The Tesla Solar Roof has experienced significant setbacks that have delayed its design, production, and deployment
  • Tesla continues to be opaque in its approach when discussing its solar roof; it has yet to announce the efficiency of its solar shingles, even after four years
  • The cost of the Tesla Solar Roof varies substantially depending on the size and complexity of your roof
  • You may be a good candidate for the Tesla Solar Roof if you are building a new home, are replacing an old roof, or are set on the look and have the capital

While Tesla is most famous for its electric vehicles (EVs), the company’s future lies in total clean energy integration – a one-step carbon reduction process that involves pairing solar panels with your Tesla EV. For home owners who want the benefits of solar without the “look” of solar, the Tesla Solar Roof provides an enticing alternative: but is this luxury roof the right option for you? 

There’s a lot in here, and we’ll try to speak to every aspect of the solar roof. Skip ahead to any of the sections below:

What are solar shingles?

Solar shingles are essentially small solar panels that are designed to look and act like shingles made from traditional materials.They are made from photovoltaic materials like silicon and are able to generate electricity while blending in with your roof. 

The Tesla Solar Roof: what you need to know

The Tesla Solar Roof is a building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) product that takes the functionality of solar panels and integrates it into roof shingles. A home with Tesla solar roof tiles installed would have a protective and complete roof with the capacity to generate solar energy. By installing the solar roof, you don’t have to install solar panels to generate electricity, which some property owners find visually unappealing. 

Some solar industry stakeholders believe that solar needs to be rebranded as an aesthetic and technical improvement that can be a part of a home renovation rather than a hefty module affixed to your rooftop. That sentiment was emphasized in Elon Musk’s October 2016 launch of Tesla’s first roofing product. With the solar roof, the company aims to bring solar further into the mainstream by removing any sort of aesthetic concerns that homeowners may have. 

“I think there’s quite a radical difference between having solar panels on your roof that actually make your house look better versus ones that do not, I think it’s going to be a night-and-day difference,” said Musk in a statement before the official launch of Tesla’s first solar roof. Two months later, he unveiled the solar roof using a crowded, suburban event in California to demonstrate that his panel design was so seamlessly integrated that the entire audience of press needed to be altered to its presence on the house in front of them. 

What’s the latest news on the Tesla Solar Roof tiles?

Tesla has now installed solar roof tiles across the country, though the exact number of installations is unclear. The product has been gaining popularity among some consumers, leading to long installation wait times for customers who sign contracts. In April 2021, many of these customers were shocked when they received emails from Tesla quoting higher costs than their contract prices. The lack of explanation and transparency caused confusion and frustration among consumers, especially if they could no longer afford the hefty price tag. 

During Tesla’s quarterly earnings call in April 2021, Elon Musk affirmed that demand “remains strong” for the Tesla Solar Roof, despite the price increases. He did concede that Tesla “basically made some significant mistakes in assessing the difficulty of certain roofs.” Tesla added roof complexity information to its website and a roof complexity disclaimer to its Solar Roof calculator; however, Tesla notes that your roof complexity won’t be determined until after you place an order for a Solar Roof. Tesla divides the complexity into three categories–simple, intermediate, and complex–based on the following criteria:

  • Simple: single-level roof, uncrowded mounting planes, few obstructions (pipes, chimneys, skylights), low pitch
  • Intermediate: multi-level roof (roof sections built on multiple stories of your house), more crowded mounting plane, more obstructions (pipes, chimneys, skylights), higher pitch
  • Complex: multi-level roof (roof sections built on multiple stories of your house), heavily crowded mounting plane, many obstructions (pipes, chimneys, skylights), steep pitch

Based on previous reports, the price of a Tesla Solar Roof varies substantially depending on your roof’s complexity

Timeline of key Tesla Solar Roof news and announcements

Tesla seems to have a pattern of overpromising and underdelivering in regard to its solar roof. Here’s a breakdown of what the past several years have looked like for the company and its customers. 

  • May 2017: Tesla began taking orders for its Tesla solar tiles 
  • August 2017: Elon Musk revealed that he and another Tesla executive already had the roof installed on their respective properties. 
  • January 2018: The company announced it was ramping up production of the roof product at its Buffalo Gigafactory. Tesla then started initial installations with customers at the top of its waitlist in the California area in mid-March, roughly eight months after its initial estimate. 
  • May 2018: Tesla had about 11,000 orders for the solar roof and it was struggling to meet the demand. 
  • August 2018: Only 12 solar roofs had been installed in California, the leading state in the country for solar. 
  • September 2018: A report was released stating that solar roofs may not be widely installed for a long time. According to CNBC, Musk said they needed more time to work out all the details. “There’s only so much accelerated life testing that you can do on a roof. So before we can deploy it at 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. The statement lacked both commitment and a clear timeline. 
  • November 2018: According to a Bloomberg report, the company began ramping up production, implementing 24/7 operating hours with about 80 employees per shirt for solar roof shingle production alone. Tesla’s head of energy operations, Sanjay Shah, stated that Tesla was gearing up for the solar roof side of its business to see “tremendous growth in 2019.” Musk himself tweeted that the first solar roof deployments would begin around summer 2019. 
  • June 2019: Despite continued delays and earnings losses, Musk tweeted that he hoped to manufacture about 1,000 solar roofs per week by the end of 2019. 
  • October 2019: Tesla announced the Tesla Solar Roof V3, which featured updates to increase manufacturing and deployment, and reduce prices. 
  • Late 2020: Tesla experienced some achievements for its solar roofs throughout the year, almost tripling its installations between quarter one and quarter two. In quarter four, Tesla announced that it had “made great progress growing [its] solar roof deployments,” but didn’t provide date to back up its claim. 
  • April 2021: Tesla Solar Roof customers have continued to experience delays and a lack of transparency from Tesla. 
  • May 2021: Some customers sued Tesla over unexpected prices hikes. 
  • June 2021: electrek confirmed that Tesla’s head of energy operations had left the company after months of rumors.
  • October 2021: Tesla expanded solar roof installations to anywhere in the United States.
  • November 2021: electrek announced that Solar Roof tiles will be more efficient, have higher capacity, and might be able to be installed over existing roofs.

Solar Roof specifications: what are you getting?

If you’re interested in installing a Tesla Solar Roof, you’re probably wondering what you’re getting of each solar shingle. We’ll explain some of the specifications of the Solar Roof:

Design

Despite previous announcements about multiple design offerings–including tuscan glass tile, slate glass tile, textured glass tile, and smooth glass tile–the Tesla Solar Roof is only currently available in one shingle design. According to Tesla’s website, each shingle has a dimension of 15 inches by 45 inches, is 5 mm thick, and is made of glass, polymers, fiberglass, and silicon. The shingle is designed to resemble a traditional asphalt shingle. 

Output

While all of the shingles look the same, only some actually produce energy. Tesla designs the system to meet your energy needs and will only install as many energy-producing shingles as needed. According to the newest Solar Roof datasheet, each shingle is 71.67 Watts – meaning you’d need about five shingles to get the same output as one 350 Watt panel.

Warranty

Tesla provides 25-year product, weatherization, and module warranties, comparable to leading solar panel brands. The warranty also guarantees that your Solar Roof will be at least 95 percent of its “Rated Peak Power” at five years following installation and that it will decline by no more than 0.5 percent per year for the following 20 years –essentially guaranteeing 85 percent output in year 25. Its inverter has a 12.5-year warranty, which aligns with warranties for other string inverter brands; however, this warranty is lower than warranties for many microinverters, which are often 20 to 25 years. 

How much does the Tesla Solar Roof cost?

With the new complexity categories explained above, it’s a bit difficult to fully estimate the cost of a Tesla Solar Roof. The cost varies significantly depending on whether your roof is “simple” or “complex” and depending on the square footage of your roof. If you have a fairly small – and not too complex – roof that you already need to replace, the price of a Solar Roof will probably be fairly comparable to that of a new asphalt roof installation plus solar panels. However, as you increase the size and/or complexity of your roof, you can expect this number quickly skyrocket. 

For an 8.18 kilowatt (kW) system in California, Tesla estimates that the solar roof will cost $45,300 before incentives if you have a 2,000 square foot roof. However, Tesla estimates that you could spend up to $16,095 (before incentives) more on your Solar Roof, depending on your roof’s complexity. Additionally, if your roof is 2,500 square feet instead of 2,000 square feet, the price jumps to $53,000. You can dig further into these calculations in our comparison of the cost of the solar roof vs. standard panels.

Another factor that impacts the return on investment of your Tesla Solar Roof depends on the solar shingles’ efficiency. Tesla has not released data on the efficiency of its shingles, but EnergySage estimates that typical solar shingle brands range from 14 to 18 percent efficiency, whereas most solar panels are 22 to 23 percent efficient. In an industry where a new record for solar panel efficiency is announced almost every month and the cost of solar is directly tied to how well a solar panel produces electricity, the real numbers on what this glass shingle can achieve is crucial to understanding the solar roof’s actual cost over time.

Should you wait for the Tesla Solar Roof? 

Standard solar panel technologies are typically evaluated based on their performance, durability, and warranties. However, Tesla’s lack of transparency makes it difficult to compare to traditional solar panels. Four years after the initial launch of Tesla’s solar roof, the company still hasn’t revealed the shingles’ efficiency and customers are still experiencing long wait times and surprise price increases. 

If you’re in dire need of a roof upgrade or if you won’t need a roof upgrade for a while, the Tesla Solar Roof may not be worth your long wait. Solar panels are extremely dependable (and we think they look great, too!). However, if you need to upgrade your roof soon (but not immediately) and your roof isn’t too complex or large, you may be a good candidate for the Tesla Solar Roof. Additionally, if you’re set on the look and have the capital to cover the cost, the system may be the best choice for you, though it may be worth your while to compare the Tesla Solar Roof to other solar roof products. 

Tesla’s solar shingles are best suited for new construction


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 (though electrek did recently report that you may soon be able to install them over existing roofs). 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 means removing your existing roof (which Tesla will do for you). As a result, retrofitting your roof with Tesla solar tiles is only practical when your roof is already due to be replaced.

Who are Tesla’s solar roof competitors?

Though the buzz around Tesla’s illustrious roof product has made it appear like it’s a new concept, it is merely the continued repackaging brilliance that some call the “Musk effect.” Development of solar roof tiles and solar shingles has been evolving for many years, and a number of companies have taken a stab at designing a versatile, subtle rooftop solar medium that could be considered a genuine roofing material rather than a module add-on. Here are some of Tesla’s solar roof competitors that offer similar BIPV products:

  • Luma – these solar shingles can be integrated with all roofing material and install similarly to traditional metal roofing. Luma markets its product as the only upgradable solar shingle system and boasts an efficiency of 22.1 percent. 
  • 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. Suntegra’s solar shingles are designed to be integrated with low-profile roof materials and are about 15.9 to 17.2 percent efficient. Its solar tiles are slightly less efficient at 13.9 to 15.1 percent and are designed to be integrated with standard flat concrete tile roofs. 
  • CertainTeed – originally a roofing company, this contractor now offers two solar roof products, with similar integration strategies to Suntegra. Its Apollo II system includes solar shingles to match low-profile roofs, which are about 15.4 percent efficient. CertainTeed’s Apollo Tile II system integrates solar tiles with flat concrete tiles roofs and its tiles are about 16 percent efficient. 

It’s important to note that the solar shingles and tiles offered by these companies do still stand out against other roofing material. None can compete with Tesla in terms of aesthetics or subtlety, but they do offer low-profile BIPV solutions that may alleviate aesthetic concerns for some solar shoppers. 

Frequently asked questions about the Tesla Solar Roof 

While the cost of switching to solar is high, and the news and information surrounding Tesla Solar Roofs can be confusing or nearly obsolete, it’s important to research each product, company, and topic before making a decision. Learn more about the Tesla Solar Roof by reading these commonly asked questions:

Is Tesla currently installing solar roofs?

Depending on your location, Tesla will send its own installers or contractors to set up your system after purchasing a Solar Roof.

Are Tesla roofs durable?

Tesla claims that their shingles are three times stronger than the average roof tile and are built to endure all weather conditions. They have the highest fire rating (Class A) and are built to withstand 110 mph winds (Class F), so you can feel confident even in extreme weather conditions.

How long will a Tesla Solar Roof last?

Tesla offers a 25-year warranty on the system’s tiles, power, and weatherization. Plus, its inverter has a 12.5-year warranty, giving homeowners peace of mind regarding their investment.

Learn how much solar can save you today before you make your decision

Just as Tesla doesn’t make electric vehicles for the masses, Tesla’s solar roof isn’t feasible for 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 newer technologies, don’t care about price, and are prepared to wait for a product with an uncertain manufacturing timeline, then waiting for Tesla’s solar roof could be the right decision for you.

However, there are always risks associated with installing newer technology, especially when Tesla’s solar roof lacks so much transparency. Unlike Tesla’s solar shingles, many of the premium solar panels currently available on the market today are sold by well-known consumer electronics manufacturers (such as Panasonic 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 the solar roof. 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 as of now, the federal investment tax credit for solar will be lowered to 22 percent in 2023.

Before you make the decision to wait for the Tesla Solar Roof, use our 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 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.

Where to buy solar roof tiles

The Tesla Solar Roof can be purchased by contacting the company. If you would like to look at and compare other options, you can visit the EnergySage buyers guide

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About Emily Walker

Emily is a Content Marketer at EnergySage, where she's an expert in making energy fun and easy to learn about! She has a background in environmental consulting and has degrees in Environmental Science and Biology from Colby College. Outside of work, Emily is pursuing a Master of Science from Johns Hopkins University in Environmental Science and Policy. She also loves hiking, tending to her collection of houseplants, and trying out new restaurants and breweries whenever possible.

22 thoughts on “Tesla Solar Roof: the complete review

    1. Sara Matasci

      Tesla/SolarCity has stated that the roof panels will be manufactured at their new factory in Buffalo, NY. (See Fortune.com for more on that.

      Sara
      Content @ EnergySage

  1. Robert

    New homes should be required to have solar or wind. Why states don’t adopt it is beyond me. They already have building codes for flooding, earthquakes and wind. Why not energy?

    1. Edna

      It’s a Free country! We don’t need to be regulated into doing something before the Free market gets the pricing right! Then housing will be too high for the poor and middle classes, and you will get shanty towns.

  2. Penn Martin

    As a solar design professional with over 8 years of experience, an engineering background and over 340 installations in California, I am skeptical not only of Tesla’s rescue (not buyout) of Solar City, but also their new BIPV product offering.

    Solar City is seeing the inevitable decline of their leasing/PPA business model as consumers become more savvy to the higher expense of it. The solar financing market is transitioning toward more traditional financing methods as banks are warming up to solar as a secure collateralized investment for homeowners and business. Solar City has recently unsuccessfully courted offers from six other potential buyers, who all took a pass before Elon Musk, who owns 22% of Sthe company, stepped in to bail them out. This proposed acquisition has created a bit of an uproar among Tesla shareholders.

    If Tesla’s BIPV solar tiles are anything like the Tesla Powerwall battery storage solution debacle, then the marketing and hype are WAY out ahead of the engineering.

    The following issues haven’t been addressed yet wtih Tesla’s BIPV product:

    1. BAPV solar arrays shade the roof, creating a typical 40 to 45 degree temperature differential between the unshaded roof and the adjacent area under the array on a 95 degree summer day. BIPV does not offer this passive solar benefit because the solar tiles are the roof.

    2. So far most BIPV solutions have been amorphous rather than crystalline silicon, which is inherently less efficient and less durable, typically with a 20 year rather than a 25 year warranty life. It remains to be seen what the tesla BIPV cell material will be.

    3. BIPV is an installation and service nightmare thus far. The wiring is problematic to install and if something goes wrong with a solar tile, now you’re tearing off part of your roof.

    4. BIPV tiles are hotter than a BAPV array mounted 4 to 6 inches off the roof. Solar cells inherently operate more efficiently when cooler, so because of the temperature, BIPV will by default, operate less efficiently than BAPV. This mean you need more surface area and more solar to get the same power output.

    As mentioned in the article, who knows what this will cost?

    Also, if Solar City crews are going to be installing this, I’d be extremely wary. I have interviewed several Solar City employees and know the quality of their workmanship well. Speed and low cost installations over quality have been the driving factor for their operational protocol. These are not the people I would want ripping off and re-installing my roof.

    1. Doug uhren

      Good comments. But no one has discussed that only part of the roof is actually facing the southern direction so panels on the other roof slopes would be wasted money. I have a large ground installation and I can chart the power input based on solar angle.

    2. B. Pearson

      Penn,

      Good explanation re these new Tesla roof tiles. Warranty issues and longevity of this new product is questionable focused as well to ROE, etc. Truss weight stresses are to be considered too. Also, have been reading small articles on new Mini Wind Turbines of recent designs are moving forward. We’ll see.

      Thanks,

  3. Joseph Constantino

    I think Tesla is on the right track, but I have solar city panels on my roof now because I had a pool put in about 3 years ago and my electric bill was running about 2-3 hundred dollars a month because I had to run my pool filter 6-8hours a day, but I am currently leasing my solar from solar city for the next 20 years because I thought it was too much to purchase it out right($45,000). I just didn’t have that kind of extra cash. I just spent about $48,000 on my pool and landscaping and I ‘m still not done. My point is I would like to buy a Tesla, but I agree with the comment above in regards to your solar roof tile being accessible to the top 1-5% of the populous. People talk about global warming and reducing the carbon foot print, but it comes with a price. I work in the operating room and listened to a conversation between a surgeon and a physicians assistant talk about his tesla SUV and solar panels and how much he paid for his Tesla. I was shocked to hear him say that he paid a whopping $160,000 plus for his vehicle. I can’t afford that. Period. I drive a honda civic to and from work. Would I like the Tesla? Absolutely, but not for that price. I would love to try one out just for the sake of saying that for a time I drove a Tesla. I don’t know if I will ever be able to afford one, but I guess I will have to continue to contribute to the carbon foot print like everyone else who doesn’t own a Tesla.

  4. Joshua

    The author states that there is no pricing information, but will only be accessible to the top 1-5%.

    Elon’s vision isn’t to cater to the top 5%, it is to revolutionize solar with a product that replaces standard roofs with something better. He repeats that the cost will be that of a standard roof plus the cost of power for a year. But I’m afraid there are some hidden costs that do limit the demographic.

    A high quote for a standard roof on my house is about $10,000. +$2,000 elec/1yr brings us to $12k.

    The real issue is that PowerWalls are very expensive. Teslas calculator recommends 3 powerwalls to fully power my 5 bedroom home which is nearly 18k. I would do two and depend on grid backup for $12,000.

    That brings total cost before installation to $24,000 for solar vs $10,000 installed for conventional.

    The savings for me would be $2,000/yr in electric plus what? Save the world?

    He’s in the process of working economies of scale on the battery sector and I could honestly see the total system cost dropping significantly in the next five years.

    1. sebastien

      Bravo Tesla! This is a great perspective. Solar energy is one of the natural resource that we should take care more right now. It is sure that solar glass tiles will find customers around the world. I will be one of them and contribute to the collective effort to reduce fossil energy. One step at the time for a better legacy to humanity!

    2. Jeff

      I have always viewed the argument for solar as similar to “do I rent or buy a home”. The rule for a while has been a 10 year or so payoff time with solar panels. Even if you do not achieve a 100 percent replacement it still reduces consumption of energy use which is a step and progress in the right direction.

    3. Chris Bungart

      I’m hoping the same thing will happen to battery development that happened earlier to cpu speed evolution – doubling every 18 months. It is a nice thought anyway.

    4. AndrewK

      The “quasi-infinite” lifetime of the product also means it’s probably better compared to tile or metal roofing than asphalt shingles. Metal roofs tend to go for a little less than twice what you would pay for a conventional asphalt roof – so a $10k roof becomes closer to $20k, which would be in the range of the the installed cost for the entire system of $24k you have above.

    5. Jacob Cooper

      in 20 years it would be 40k, this is what you ned to think of with solar integration the long haul overtime price.

  5. Leslie Baker

    A design professional, by trade, this product is exciting. I just flew back from Denver where I assisted clients in their selection of a new roof required as the result of a massive hail storm. Will this glass product hold up to that beating? Not being able to walk on it also precludes any environment with trees. I see this as an upcoming trend for new construction. As for remodels, my guess is the Home Owners Associations won’t let homeowners install it. The look would be too much of a departure from the surrounding homes.

  6. CWP

    I am in the process of building a house. It is impossible to get reliable, specific basic information about solar installations online. All I see is the usual evangelism, without even any attempt at being specific about costs and production. If this is the way your “industry” makes its sales, you have long, long, long way to go.

  7. William

    The same type of panels used in solar roadways and parking lots could be used on solar roofs. They would withstand walking on them. Lower maintenance costs. Give this some thought.

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