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

tesla solar roof vs solar panels

This past spring, Tesla 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, 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.

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 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.

 

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 a 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 in November 2017 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 costs $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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16 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
      1. Richard Driskill

        Matt –
        Of course it is impossible to “know”; that applies to almost everything. As for the rest, absolutely not true.
        (A) You can not evaluate ‘Gen 1’ against future generations when there are no future generations yet, and may never be future generations. Strawman argument.
        (B) What is furthest from the truth is a “negative” value, as the roofing tiles are supposedly warranted for the life of the home.
        (C-1) When you state that in the future (5-10 years) there will be cheaper and better systems …you can not “know” this. There is the chance that panel or battery efficiency may not increase for 20 years. Nothing beyond today can be assured.
        (C-2) When you say the “average” time people live in their homes is 5-10 years, that is a SPAN, not an average.
        (C-3) When you say the “average” time people live in their HOMES is 5-10 years, I challenge you on that figure. Most people will take out a mortgage on a home for 15 to 30 years; to say it is the AVERAGE to abandon this in 1/3 the time, simply is not true.
        (D) To comment that a benign material such as a nearly infallible glass might be as ‘toxic’ as asbestos in 30 years, is the last nail in the coffin on your level of fair and trustworthy commentary.
        If you wanted to argue efficiency or cost that would be another matter, but your words are ridiculous.
        Neither am I a supporter or customer of Tesla.

        Reply
        1. Chad

          I agree with previous comment from Matt. Over the past three years we have been building and perfecting a passive house in Ma. While we reap the benefits of our low-cost utility system, solar PVs and srec credits, we have learned, as we all do over and over, that when it seems too good to be true, it just plain is. We bought solar from the then largest solar manufacturer in the world from the area’s most reputable solar Company, both of whom have since gone out of business. And as we know from marketing and advertising (c.f. the latest smartphones that come out every few months) spin is everything when it comes to consumer confidence in this country. And value is tied directly to whatever is the most recent release whether tests show otherwise, with precious few exceptions. Whether you are correct in suggesting that Generation 1 Tesla tiles will be still functioning and delivering electricity in 50 years is sort of irrelevant. What matters is that Tesla will come out with something they claim is sleeker, more durable, more energy-producing, and infinitely better. And guess what happens then? You’re Tesla roof becomes a liability.

          My advice, NEVER ever buy things related to your home because of the value it will add. You will only be disappointed. Buy and build because of how much you value what you are doing.

          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
      1. Tom

        A lot of jurisdictions protect residents from property tax increase if they increase property value by implementing renewable energy solutions.

        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
    1. Tom

      The rooftop business model you listed is one option not the only option. I would argue that the outright purchasing model is much better economically and more fluid for all parties involved. And in some areas of the country much more popular. Lets be honest name a solar installer in the country that has made a profit selling leases ($0 down solar) to homeowners?

      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
    1. Tom

      agree 100% it would be much easier if we broke everything down into 3 working groups

      Traditional Homes:
      Small:1000sqft-2000sqft Med: 2000-3000sqft Large: 3000sqft+

      $20,000 for a new roof is higher than any number I have seen by almost double (for small to med houses)

      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
  7. Robert

    This example is a worst case. They picked perhaps the most expensive place in the country. For the rest of the country slash those prices. Also, there is yet another way to go. Build a cheap carport in the drive way and a patio cover on the house. Got a big yard? There is nothing saying that you cant put the solar panels on the ground. In the southern states it is possible with a whole house battery to never pay for electricity ever again. If you buy an electric car you will never have to buy another gallon of gas.

    Reply
  8. Stewart Gibson

    A few questions regarding installation and maintenance of a solar tile roof system.
    1). If a tile fails, how is it removed and replaced ?
    2). Can “non solar” tiles be replaced by “ solar” tiles at a later date ?
    3). How is snow removed from the roof tiles?

    Stewart

    Reply

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