While Tesla is most famous for its electric vehicles (EVs), the company believes its future lies in total clean, renewable energy integration. This one-step carbon reduction process involves pairing a solar panel system with your Tesla EV. The Tesla Solar Roof provides an enticing alternative for homeowners who want the benefits of solar without the "look" of solar. But is this luxury roof the right option for you?
In October 2019, Tesla Motors announced the launch of the Tesla Solar Roof V3, the company's third version of its integrated solar glass shingle. Among several updates, version three included larger tiles, lower production costs, increased power density, and a more straightforward installation process.
Additionally, the total number of parts in the product decreased. Tesla predicted that these changes would significantly reduce the cost of the product; however, the company has continued to struggle with expediting its solar roof installations.
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The Tesla Solar Roof: EnergySage’s take
The Tesla Solar Roof has experienced significant setbacks that have delayed its design, production, and deployment.
Tesla continues to be opaque in its approach when discussing its solar roof; it has yet to announce the efficiency of its solar shingles, even after four years.
The cost of the Tesla Solar Roof varies substantially depending on the size and complexity of your roof.
You may be a good candidate for the Tesla Solar Roof if you are building a new home, need a new roof, or are set on the look and have the capital.
Solar shingles are essentially small solar panels designed to look and act like shingles made from traditional materials. They are made from photovoltaic materials like silicon and can generate electricity while blending in with your roof. If you want to learn more, we compare traditional solar photovoltaic panels to solar shingles in this article.
The Tesla Solar Roof system is a building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) product that takes the functionality of solar panels and integrates it into roof shingles. A home with Tesla solar roof tiles would have a protective and complete roof capable of generating solar energy. By installing the solar roof, you don't have to go through a solar panel installation process and have a solar panel system on your roof to generate electricity, which some property owners find visually unappealing.
Some solar industry stakeholders believe that solar needs to be rebranded as an aesthetic and technical improvement that can be a part of a home renovation rather than a hefty module affixed to your rooftop. That sentiment was emphasized in Elon Musk's October 2016 launch of Tesla's first roofing product. With the Solar Roof, the company aims to bring solar further into the mainstream by removing any aesthetic concerns that homeowners may have.
"I think there's quite a radical difference between having solar panels on your roof that actually make your house look better versus ones that do not, I think it's going to be a night-and-day difference," said Musk in a statement before the official launch of Tesla's first solar roof. Two months later, he unveiled the solar roof at a crowded suburban event in California. He demonstrated that Tesla's panel design was so seamlessly integrated that the entire press audience needed to be altered to its presence on the house in front of them.
Tesla has now installed Solar Roofs nationwide, though the exact number of installations is unclear. This solar product has been gaining popularity among some consumers, leading to long installation wait times for customers who sign contracts. In April 2021, many of these customers were shocked when they received emails from Tesla quoting higher installation costs than their contract prices. The lack of explanation and transparency caused confusion and frustration among consumers, especially if they could no longer afford the hefty price tag.
During Tesla's quarterly earnings call in April 2021, CEO Elon Musk affirmed that demand "remains strong" for the Tesla Solar Roof despite increases in Solar Roof pricing. He did concede that Tesla "basically made some significant mistakes in assessing the difficulty of certain roofs." Tesla has added roof complexity information to its website and a roof complexity disclaimer to its Solar Roof calculator; however, Tesla notes that your roof complexity won't be determined until you order a Solar Roof. Tesla divides the complexity into three categories–simple, intermediate, and complex–based on the following criteria:
Simple: single-level roof, uncrowded mounting planes, few obstructions (pipes, chimneys, skylights), low pitch
Intermediate: multi-level roof (roof sections built on multiple stories of your house), more crowded mounting plane, more obstructions (pipes, chimneys, skylights), higher pitch
Complex: multi-level roof (roof sections built on multiple stories of your house), heavily crowded mounting plane, many obstructions (pipes, chimneys, skylights), steep pitch
Based on previous reports, the price of a Tesla Solar Roof varies substantially depending on your roof's complexity.
Tesla seems to have a pattern of overpromising and underdelivering regarding its solar roof. Here's a breakdown of what the past several years have looked like for the company and its customers.
April 2016: Tesla purchases Solarcity and begins production on solar panels and the solar roof.
May 2017: Tesla began taking orders for its Tesla solar tiles
August 2017: Elon Musk revealed that he and another Tesla executive already installed the roof on their respective properties.
January 2018: The company announced it was ramping up production of the roof product at its Buffalo Gigafactory. Tesla then started initial installations with customers at the top of its waitlist in the California area in mid-March, roughly eight months after its initial estimate.
May 2018: Tesla had about 11,000 orders for the solar roof, struggling to meet the demand.
August 2018: Only 12 solar roofs had been installed in California, the leading state in the country for solar.
September 2018: A report was released stating that solar roofs may not be widely installed for a long time. According to CNBC, Musk said they needed more time to work out all the details. "There's only so much accelerated life testing that you can do on a roof. So before we can deploy it at a large number of houses, we need to make sure that it's that all elements of the roof are going to last for at least three decades," said Musk in a summer 2018 meeting. The statement lacked both commitment and a clear timeline.
November 2018: According to a Bloomberg report, the company began ramping production, implementing 24/7 operating hours with about 80 employees per shirt for solar roof shingle production alone. Tesla's head of energy operations, Sanjay Shah, stated that Tesla was gearing up for the solar roof side of its business to see "tremendous growth in 2019." Musk tweeted that the first solar roof deployments would begin around the summer of 2019.
June 2019: Despite continued delays and earnings losses, Musk tweeted that he hoped to manufacture about 1,000 solar roofs per week by the end of 2019.
October 2019: Tesla announced the Tesla Solar Roof V3, which featured updates to increase manufacturing and deployment and reduce prices.
Late 2020: Tesla experienced some achievements for its solar roofs throughout the year, almost tripling its installations between quarters one and two. In quarter four, Tesla announced that it had "made great progress growing [its] solar roof deployments" but didn’t provide a date to back up its claim.
April 2021: Tesla Solar Roof customers have continued to experience delays and a lack of transparency from Tesla.
May 2021: Some customers sued Tesla over unexpected price hikes.
June 2021: Electrek confirmed that Tesla's head of energy operations had left the company after months of rumors.
October 2021: Tesla expanded solar roof installations to anywhere in the United States.
November 2021: Electrek announced that Solar Roof tiles will be more efficient, have higher capacity, and might be able to be installed over existing roofs.
If you're interested in installing a Tesla Solar Roof, you probably wonder what you'll get from each solar shingle. We'll explain some of the specifications of the Solar Roof:
Despite previous announcements about multiple design offerings–including Tuscan glass tile, slate glass tile, textured glass tile, and smooth glass tile–the Tesla Solar Roof is only currently available in one shingle design. According to Tesla's website, each shingle has a dimension of 15 inches by 45 inches, is 5 mm thick, and is made of glass, polymers, fiberglass, and silicon. The shingle is designed to resemble a traditional asphalt shingle.
While all the shingles look the same, only some produce energy. Tesla designs the system to meet your energy needs and will only install as many energy-producing shingles as needed. According to the newest Solar Roof datasheet, each shingle is 71.67 watts – meaning you'd need about five shingles to get the same output as one 350-watt panel.
Tesla provides 25-year product, weatherization, and module warranties comparable to leading solar panel brands. The warranty guarantees that your Solar Roof will be at least 95% of its "Rated Peak Power" at five years following installation and will decline by no more than 0.5% per year for the following 20 years – essentially guaranteeing 85% output in year 25. Its inverter has a 12.5-year warranty, which aligns with warranties for other string inverter brands; however, this warranty is lower than warranties for many microinverters, often 20 to 25 years.
With the new complexity categories explained above, it's a bit difficult to estimate the cost of a Tesla Solar Roof fully. The cost varies significantly depending on whether your roof is "simple" or "complex" and depending on the square footage of your roof. If you have a relatively small – and not too complex – roof that you already need to replace, the price of a Solar Roof will probably be pretty comparable to that of a new asphalt roof installation plus solar panels. However, you can expect this number to skyrocket quickly as you increase your roof's size and/or complexity.
For an 8.18 kilowatt (kW) system in California, Tesla estimates that the solar roof will cost $45,300 before incentives if you have a 2,000-square-foot roof. However, Tesla estimates that you could spend up to $16,095 (before incentives) more on your Solar Roof, depending on your roof's complexity. Additionally, if your roof is 2,500 square feet instead of 2,000 square feet, the price jumps to $53,000. You can dig further into these calculations in our comparison of the cost of the solar roof vs. standard panels.
Another factor that impacts the return on investment of your Tesla Solar Roof depends on the solar shingles' efficiency. Tesla has not released data on the efficiency of its shingles, but EnergySage estimates that typical solar shingle brands range from 14-18% efficiency, whereas most solar panels are 22-23% efficient. In an industry where a new record for solar panel efficiency is announced almost every month, and the cost of solar is directly tied to how well a solar panel produces electricity, the actual numbers on what this glass shingle can achieve are crucial to understanding the solar roof's actual cost over time.
Standard solar panel technologies are typically evaluated based on their performance, durability, and warranties. However, Tesla's lack of transparency makes it difficult to compare to traditional solar panels. Four years after the initial launch of Tesla's solar roof, the company still hasn't revealed the shingles' efficiency, and customers are still experiencing long wait times and surprise price increases.
If you don't need a roof upgrade for a while, the Tesla Solar Roof may not be worth your long wait. Solar panels are highly dependable (and we think they look great, too!). However, if you need to upgrade your roof soon (but not immediately) and your roof isn't too complex or large, you may be a good candidate for the Tesla Solar Roof. Additionally, if you're set on the look and have the capital to cover the cost, the system may be the best choice for you, though comparing the Tesla Solar Roof to other solar roof products may be worthwhile.
Though the buzz around Tesla's illustrious roof product has made it appear like a new concept, it is merely the continued repackaging brilliance that some call the "Musk effect." The development of solar roof tiles and shingles has been evolving for many years, and several companies have taken a stab at designing a versatile, subtle rooftop solar medium that could be considered a genuine roofing material rather than a module add-on. Here are some of Tesla's solar roof competitors that offer similar BIPV products:
Luma: These solar shingles can be integrated with all roofing materials and installed similarly to traditional metal roofing. Luma markets its product as the only upgradable solar shingle system and boasts an efficiency of 22.1%.
Suntegra: This Northeast solar manufacturer is at the forefront of the solar roof product line. The company hails from New York and began offering its two solar roof products just a few months before the announcement of Tesla's shingles. Suntegra's solar shingles are designed to be integrated with low-profile roof materials and are about 15.9-17.2% efficient. Its solar tiles are slightly less efficient at 13.9-15.1% and are designed to be integrated with standard flat concrete tile roofs.
CertainTeed: Originally a roofing company, this contractor now offers two solar roof products with similar integration strategies to Suntegra. Its Apollo II system includes solar shingles to match low-profile roofs, which are about 15.4% efficient. CertainTeed's Apollo Tile II system integrates solar tiles with flat concrete tiles roofs, and its tiles are about 16% efficient.
It's important to note that these companies' solar shingles and tiles still stand out against other roofing materials. None can compete with Tesla in aesthetics or subtlety, but they offer low-profile BIPV solutions that may alleviate aesthetic concerns for some solar shoppers.
While the cost of switching to solar is high, and the news and information surrounding Tesla Solar Roofs can be confusing or nearly obsolete, it's important to research each product, company, and topic before deciding. Learn more about the Tesla Solar Roof by reading these commonly asked questions:
Is Tesla currently installing solar roofs?
Depending on your location, Tesla will send its installers or contractors to set up your system after purchasing a Solar Roof.
Are Tesla roofs durable?
Tesla claims their shingles are three times stronger than the average roof tile and are built to endure all weather conditions. They have the highest fire rating (Class A) and are built to withstand 110 mph winds (Class F), so you can feel confident even in extreme weather conditions.
How long will a Tesla Solar Roof last?
Tesla offers a 25-year warranty on the system's tiles, power, and weatherization. Plus, its inverter has a 12.5-year warranty, giving homeowners peace of mind regarding their investment.
Just as Tesla doesn't make electric vehicles for the masses, Tesla's solar roof isn't feasible for every home. In many ways, the company's solar roof product is similar to its first electric car. If you are an early adopter of newer technologies, don't care about price, and are prepared to wait for a product with an uncertain manufacturing timeline, then waiting for Tesla's solar roof could be the right decision for you.
However, installing newer technology is always associated with risks, especially when Tesla's solar roof lacks transparency. Unlike Tesla's solar shingles, many premium solar panels currently available today are sold by well-known consumer electronics manufacturers (such as Panasonic), producing solar panels for a decade or more.
Additionally, waiting to go solar has risks, even if you're interested in the solar roof. The cost of going solar is falling yearly, and premium solar panels that come with high-efficiency ratings and a sleek black design are already available today. If you wait years for the Tesla Solar Roof, you will lose out on years of savings on your electricity bill. You also risk missing out on financial incentives for solar: Many state tax credits and net metering policies have already expired.
Before you decide to wait for the Tesla Solar Roof, use our solar calculator to learn how much you can save today by going solar. If you're ready to explore solar options for your home, join the EnergySage Marketplace and get custom quotes from solar installers in your area. How much you can save by installing traditional solar panels on your roof might surprise you.
The Tesla Solar Roof can be purchased by contacting the company. To compare other options, you can visit the EnergySage buyers guide.
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