tesla solar roof vs solar panels

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

In the spring of 2017, Tesla announced pricing for their new solar roof product (the Tesla Solar Roof), a roof replacement for your home. And as of January 2019, Tesla is producing the solar roof at their Buffalo Gigafactory, albeit slowly. Installations have begun for the top of their waitlist though mass-market availability still remains unclear.

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, and due to its immense popularity, we wanted to explore the question: 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 “not yet.” Unless you’re in the market for a roof replacement, Tesla’s new solar roof is simply too expensive for the average American homeowner to justify as a home energy upgrade.

Key takeaways

  • You’ll pay a premium over traditional solar panels to install the Tesla Solar Roof – they come in at about $21.85 per square foot, according to Tesla
  • Tesla’s solar shingles are less efficient than normal solar panels
  • Explore your home solar options are on the EnergySage Marketplace

Tesla Solar Roof cost

According to Tesla, the average Tesla Solar Roof cost a property owner can expect to pay is around $21.85 per square foot. This estimate was made based on a roof made of 35 percent solar tiles. As an estimate, if you need 2,000 square feet of roofing on your home, a Tesla Solar Roof will cost a little less than $44,000 (according to Tesla themselves).

However, according to an Electrek report that references an actual Solar Roof quote, the roof tiles alone cost about $35 per square foot, which added up to over $64,000 on the roof tile installation alone on a 1,862 square foot roof.

You can see a more accurate estimate of the cost of the Tesla Solar Roof for your property by using Tesla’s Solar Roof calculator.

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Tesla solar roof cost: 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 3,000 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. Additionally, we’ll be using cost data from Tesla’s own cost calculator, even though real-world quotes have shown those numbers to be perhaps unreliable.

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 3,000 sq. ft. home in California would typically install an 8.5 kW solar panel system for $26,030 before rebates, Tesla’s roof calculator shows that only a 6.25 kW 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 percent 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

[Note: The numbers in this section were revised to incorporate the asphalt roofing costs provided by Tesla.]

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 Tesla’s own estimate of $5 per square foot for an asphalt shingle roof replacement and assumed 1,600 square feet of roof space, which comes out to a total of $8,000 in roofing costs.

When we add that to our initial $26,030 gross cost of a solar panel installation from Scenario 1, a new asphalt shingle roof and solar panels will cost $34,080 altogether. Tesla’s Solar Roof costs an extra $16,870 for our California homeowner, equivalent to a 33 percent price premium for Tesla’s attractive glass tiles. 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 their 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 spend

There are certainly homeowners out there who simply want the newest technology possible regardless of the price tag. For shoppers in this category who are considering solar or even a new roof, the Tesla Solar Roof could be a good 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. Although Tesla has shown to be hit or miss on the initial quality of some of its products, they are also known for working with their early adopters to correct these quality issues over time. We hope that if quality problems do arise, Tesla takes the same action here and resolves them quickly.

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 EnergySage’s 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 500+ 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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90 thoughts on “Tesla solar roof cost vs. solar panels: worth the premium?

  1. R Landrigan

    I have had a 9.88 kw Tesla solar system in place since August 2015, Order Number EN7104764, 22 Deacon Lane, Sudbury, MA. My solar system stopped producing electricity at the beginning of April 2019. As of late August 2019 it still is not functioning. The peak sun months of 2019 have been missed. Tesla has made several technician visits during the five months including installing a new inverter, having a few guys up on the roof checking the system. The system still doesn’t work. Blame it on lack of sustained interest or incompetence, or both. Per the system lease contract, paragraph 4(c), I am not to be “…charged for Estimated Production when the System is not producing electricity due to Solar City’s (Tesla) fault”. I cut Tesla off from automatic debit billing from my bank account and refuse to pay their “Estimated Production” bills on the basis that it amounts to consumer fraud. They just billed me $237.42 for the month of July when no electricity was produced. In my estimation as an attorney their “Estimated Production” billing while a system is down due to Tesla’s fault is fraudulent and is clearly subject to challenge, perhaps as a class action.

  2. Joe

    $200 power bill on 3000 square feet in Southern California seems extremely low.

    Comparing the cost of a basic asphalt roof to a Tesla roof is not right. Shingles last 20 years, the Tesla tiles hopefully a lot longer.

    Price comparison needs to be made with at least metal or other upgraded roof.

    $8500 for 3000 square foot roof? Good luck getting that done at that price.

  3. Jeff

    Joe, asphalt shingles can last a lot longer than 20 years- that is the minimum lifetime for the cheapest shingles. There are many 30 year and 50 year asphalt shingles. The quality of installation and the maintenance effort by the homeowner also matter, especially in areas like the PNW where lots of pine needles and moss require annual maintenance and sometimes more often.

  4. walt brukwinski

    I agree, getting a new composite shingle roof 20 years ago cost us 10k for 1,100 sq ft. roof So your roofing costs are false. My electric bill is closer to 250/month to 300 a month. So relook at your numbers.

  5. Jeremy Williams

    You may have overpaid for that roof then Walt or prices haven’t changed much. I’m in CA and paid under $12,000 for a 1800 sq ft just this year with new plywood sheathing. The quote for the 3000 sq ft roof does seem quite low though. I’d expect that to be closer to $18,000-20,000

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