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.

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

  1. Juan Munoz

    Juan Munoz
    We had a new roof installed in late fall of 2019. The Panels had to removed for this process to be done. Tesla would not warrant the removal of panels from a second party there fore we had pay them $500 dollars to have them removed and reinstalled. We had to wait over two months for Tesla to provide installers and or removers.

    Upon getting our roof installed and have contacted Tesla to have them reinstall they tell us that they do not have personnel available to install them until April of 2020. That is almost 5 months with out production of electricity from a product that I am having to pay for and in addition having to pay electricity bills.
    I’m currently seeking legal advice to see how I can terminate my contract from them since they don’t care and or unwilling to accommodate my needs as customer. I Don’t believe I should be paying for a product to sit on back yard collecting dust when it should be installed on my roof producing electricity.

    Very dissatisfied customer. from the comments of other people it appears that Tesla does not have the best interest for its clients or values it their concerns.
    The last time I took a giant to thru the legal system for similar circumstances I won. The giant is Ford. It took me 3 years to go thru the process and lots of headaches but if I have to go thru it again I will. The social media will be playing a huge a factor this time.

  2. elder

    When something is way out of wack in major details, I question everything else. The big graph shows that you can get a new roof for $8,000? My roof cost me $22,000. If you use that number, Tesla cost looks lower? Is that possible? Please double check the details of the article. Should I question the efficiency of the Tesla stuff as well? I don’t like to pay for a brand, but this article doesn’t offer any reassurance – because of the $8k roof cost.

  3. Richard Parker

    After rebates and such the Tesla solar roof is $30,900. Solar panels with new roof is $27Kish. Solar roof is a bigger system so price wise it is about the same cost and I am talking Tar shingles vs glass tiles so better roofing material IMO.

  4. Dh

    To Juan above – so you had panels already? The story makes no sense – why would you put Tesla solar glass under used solar panels?!

    The article is full of holes too – why is scenario 2 using a 1600 sq ft house and scenario 1 using 3k sq feet?

    Of course it only makes sense for new construction or if you are getting a new roof but that will be eventually for everyone – usually in 20 years give or take so maybe 10% of existing homes and all new construction should be seriously looking at solar glass for that roofing material.

  5. Greg Christopher

    I think the article Mrs. scenario to a where you are trying to replace your roof with a roof of equivalent strength and quality and longevity as the solar roof by Tesla. in that scenario it actually comes out ahead right away.

    Apples to Apples.

    Modern economics seems to forget to account for the cost of surviving in a world where energy comes from carbon-based sources. Look at it as a life insurance policy… Only it’s ensuring life on earth. you don’t need to test the roof to do that but given how long it lasts and that you’re not using tar which is also not petroleum based substance… I think it’s win-win win .

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