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

  1. AvatarEdward Dijeau

    I needed a new roof and some repair work and priced an asphalt roof with added 8 kW solar panels on top and the estimate was $42,000.00. I then placed a $100.00 deposit on a Tesla Solar Glass Roof and get a quote of $32,594.00 for the whole roofing job with 7.84 kW of active solar tiles on a 2,000 sq ft roof. When they show up to do the work, here come all the extras. A new topper roof needs to be installed on the existing roofing planks. $5,750.00 bringing the total to $38,344.00 that is still less than the traditional roof plus solar panels. Roofing repairs, that would be needed on any roof at $75.00 per hour plus materials and then because the old roof had two layers or lifts of asphalt shingles, they give another add on of $2,254.00 bringing the total to $40,598.00 plus repairs. Still under the $42,000.00 estimate plus needed repairs. This is an actual job in Union City, California in the greater San Francisco Bay Area where everything is so much higher than much of the rest of the Country. I believe I am getting a superior roofing system plus solar with better trims, parts and materials than tradition asphalt jobs would give and an added value to a 49 year old house.

  2. AvatarDavid

    I’m with you. The article author decided a 3,000 sq ft home has to be two stories. No, 3,000 sq ft means 3,000 sq ft! And for $77,00 they should be knocking down my door!

    I did go ahead and pay the $100 (I have $100 riding on the Cybertruck, too) on 8/3/2020. Now we’ll see what happens. 🙂

  3. AvatarPaul

    This is the first time I have ever commented on an article.
    First, in this article it states that the California home has a 3,000 Sq Ft. Roof, but with the second estimate, they only calculate for 1,600 Sq Ft of roof shingle. That would make the 2nd estimate incorrect and more favorable for traditional solar.
    Secondly, I fit into Scenario 2 and love the look of the Tesla roof so I contacted then to see about a replacement and installation of their power walls. They will not send anyone out to give me an accurate estimate. You must first commit to the estimate on the website and then pay $100 for someone to then come out. I already know that my roof will need some sheathing replaced and that is NOT included in the original estimate. For a 3,200 Sq. Ft. roof using Tesla solar and their recommendation of 3 power walls, the estimate already tops $77k. I think that anyone making such a huge investment should be granted an in-person visit with a proper evaluation. That said, I am currently leaning towards traditional solar.

    1. AvatarJosh

      You are slightly mistaken, however the point of traditional solar being the more cost effect still remains. In scenario 1 they say the home is 3,000 sq ft not the roof. That said it would be more square footage for the roof than what the house has. The roof covers the square footage of the house while angling up. So the roof would have a grater square footage than the house. How much so depends on the pitch. That means none of the scenarios are correct.

    2. AvatarJacob John

      Great that you commented. I was leaning towards the tesla tiles as well. But if this is situation, I would also go for normal tiles and traditional solar.

      1. AvatarClarence

        For the solar panel scenario with 25-40 year life, consider the solar panels are installed over 15-20 year life asphalt shingles. This scenario needs to include one entire asphalt shingle replacement cost event plus the extra specialized labor to remove and reinstall the solar panels to accomplish the shingle replacement. Also, solar panels require holes in the roof that could leak over time causing additional repairs.

      2. AvatarDayna

        We had Tesla panels put(as we share a roof with a neighbor couldn’t do the tiles which we are bummed about) You order online and can backup at anytime. Someone does come to your home to measure the roof and check it out before you commit to the whole thing. After they check a design team works on it and only after everything is clear l. They come to install it. And after everything is Installed you start paying for it. The $100 is just to show your commitment. I even think you can get that money back if you decide to not come to check your roof but I am not sure about that.

    3. AvatarThe Greek

      glad to hear from you all…

      currently in central Nj burbs on NYC
      planning and preparing to have a total home remodel on a mother-daughter home (bi-level)
      Main theme is changing roof design (inside and out)
      adding 5ft each side/bump out front/ adding detached garage (with solor roof)
      had a home model design done (looks great)
      I just threw $100 to see if they ll come out and tell me what/how/best way to have my New roof ready for them to install their total solar roof etc ..
      Have a meeting w/local planning zoning board for approval next week.
      my architect is on stand by as well as GC.

      happy holidays all and lets make it threw the winter

  4. AvatarEric Parks

    Don’t use Tesla for solar. I’ve had nothing but abysmal experiences with them. Not one thing has gone well.

    – They lied about the value – I basically pay about the same or more than without solar
    – They our a hole in my roof and did nothing about it
    -Most homes in Massachusetts with Tesla solar are down due to an electrical issue and they have a four month repair window (so no solar generation all summer)

    Choose anyone else.

    1. Avatar~

      As a representative of “Anyone else” I appreciate this comment. They seem like such a giant company that it’s hard to compete with them, but hopefully just doing a better job will be enough to keep us in business 🙂


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