tesla solar roof vs solar panels

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

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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.

Find out what solar panels cost in your area in 2021

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 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.

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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112 thoughts on “Tesla solar roof cost vs. solar panels: worth the premium?

  1. AvatarHW Rutledge

    I am building a new home. I would like to put a solar roof on the house rather than a conventional one.
    Two issues I am concerned with are: 1. the cost of new roof and 2. finding roofers in my area that can install such a roof.

  2. AvatarMike M

    Your math doesn’t work out because solar roof will always deliver more Kw on the same roof as installed solar panels. In some cases 30% more. This is because they cover more of the roof and surface.

    I do agree that people should only look into the roof option if you need a new roof.

  3. AvatarThomas Ross

    The author’s argument falls apart when you veer away from asphalt shingles–actually, even before that. The lifetime of the asphalt shingle roof versus the Tesla roof was never considered. But I can see Tesla’s roofs making a ton of sense to people who are willing to pay a premium for anything but that damned, tacky asphalt stuff. For instance, if you compared Tesla’s slate roof to a real one, I think you’d save big-time.

  4. AvatarBill

    We want full battery backup in case of a power outage. Tesla said they can do that (for $40K), Can other solar companies do the same?

  5. AvatarR. Lopez

    Clever argument .You failed to incorporate the large range of roofing materials and their cost. Asfalto shingles come in a wide range prices , and that’s only de beginnings, same for metal , wood , cement , natural stone, composites stone. And don’t forget FEMA Blue.

  6. AvatarNate

    Their math seems to check out. My house is 2800sq ft. When getting roof replacement quotes I was told it was about 50 square to reshingle. 5000sq ft seemed like a gross overestimate but it turns out to be accurate. At $5/sq foot Tesla estimate for asphalt is spot on. Estimates came in at ~$25k +/-.

    I am interested in this roof if it can be purchased over a longer period of time and at $22/sq foot. At 10 years a $60k Tesla roof won’t be as hard to stomach. Especially as you should save $1700 a year or so with the electric savings. Now you go to $35/sq ft, bringing the total to $100k, and I can’t see this working out.


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