Are the Tesla solar roof tiles worth it?

Published on 03 Jun, 2018 by Andrew Sendy

5 minutes read

Categories: Solar 101, Solar incentives, Solar panels, Solar power, Tesla

Tesla - Slate roof

Image source: Tesla

The development of residential and commercial solar products has undergone innovative developments for decades. The technology behind the first solar roof tiles was developed in the 1970s. Since then, several companies have attempted to produce a solar medium that would look like genuine roofing materials, yet work to replace traditional solar add-ons. While building integrated photovoltaics (known as BIPV) options aren’t a new concept, the production of a solar roof is now becoming widely available to residential clients thanks to the debut of Tesla’s Solar Roof products.

The Tesla solar tiles are a premium product. They’re constructed of thin layers of quartz that are virtually unbreakable. While price estimates may eventually vary depending on location and installation costs, Tesla insists that the roofing tiles will be sold at a price of $21.85 per square foot.

While the upfront costs are expensive compared to other solar options, if the claims by Tesla,  that the solar roof tiles will last a lot longer than conventional roofing materials prove to be true the gap in pricing may not be as big as it first appears.

What are Tesla solar roof panels?

Tesla roof panels are unlike traditional solar panels in that every tile contains one solar cell. They not only look like, and function as, conventional roofing materials, such as terracotta, slate, or asphalt, they also produce electricity. The Solar Roof line of products is unique among other solar options because it doesn’t resemble a typical solar installation. Every solar cell is embedded invisibly within every glass tile, which is installed like traditional roofing shingles or tiles. If you didn't know the roof was a Tesla product, you’d probably never realize it was any different than any other roof.

Unlike other solar products, Tesla systems are designed to collect up to 98 percent of the solar energy that traditional arrays collect. The unique type of louvered glass tile works in much the same way as window blinds by reflecting sunlight to appear opaque while still absorbing the rays of the sun.

The electricity generated by the solar roof tiles is then used to power your house and possibly also to charge the Powerwall battery if you choose to also install a solar battery for energy storage. Tesla tiles can be installed on new construction, as part of a re-roofing project. For the pros and cons of installing energy storage with your solar panels check out our blog.

What are the savings and investment return for a Tesla solar roof in states with different power costs?

There’s a 30 percent Solar Investment Tax Credit that homeowners can qualify for that applies not only to the cost of the tiles, but also any associated equipment and the cost of one or more Powerwall batteries for your system. To qualify for the full tax credit, it’s a must to have federal income tax liability equal to the value of the amount of the tax credit. Luckily, this can be carried over to subsequent tax years. Additional utility, local, or state tax and solar incentives may apply.

Early estimates say the average return for a 1,800 square foot home in California is nearly $88,000 in saved energy costs over 25 years. However, this is an average and the actual result will vary a lot from house to house. To find out the potential solar savings at your house based on your location, power use, utility rates for power and roof you can use our solar savings calculator.

What are the advantages of Tesla solar roof tiles?

Once the imposing initial cost is assessed, there are several advantages to installing Tesla solar tiles on your roof.

  • Aesthetically, Tesla solar tiles put traditional solar arrays to shame. There are no bulky frameworks or visible wiring and junction boxes. The tiles look like regular roofing tiles. This alone can greatly increase the value of your home.
  • While the initial purchase and installation costs for Tesla tiles are impressive, like other solar options, this product will pay for itself.
  • Because the design of these tiles makes them nearly indestructible, Tesla offers to replace tiles as long as you own your home – without time limits.

While the Tesla solar roof tiles are expensive compared to conventional solar panels, why can it be argued investment return is still attractive?

One of the reasons investing in Tesla roofing tiles is attractive is because it’s not necessary to reshingle your entire roof to take advantage of the solar benefits. If your roof does need replacing, Tesla recommends only investing in replacing between 35 through 50 percent of your roof with solar tiles. While the initial price of Tesla's Solar Roof may look intimidating, it’s estimated that the owner of an average 3,000 square foot home would pay slightly more than $60,000 for a Tesla solar roof, compared to a traditional installation of around $26,000.


How much can you save by going solar?


What discounts can be applied to Tesla solar roof tiles?

Tesla solar tiles are currently only available for purchase and installation in the United States. Until 2019, homeowners who choose to install a partial replacement or full roof may qualify to deduct 30 percent of the costs from their taxes. Unless Congress extends the deadlines, after 2019, the credit drops to 26 percent. Starting in 2020, it drops to 22 percent and after 2021, residential solar investors will receive no credits.

Who installs Tesla roof tiles?

While it's always tempting to save on any type of solar installation costs, professionals rarely recommend that homeowners try to install solar panels, much less these new shingles. The effectiveness of all types of solar systems depends primarily on proper installation. Because Tesla solar tiles are a new product that aren’t scheduled to be released to the public until August 2018, professional installers will only be able to provide consultations and information regarding the installation process for these at this time. However, once released, certified installers will be able to properly install the right type of tile in the correct area(s) of your roof. Tesla is already taking solar roof pre-orders.

How do you find the best local Tesla roof tile installer?

Initial trial installations for Tesla employees have been completed and installations for those who made reservations are already underway. Eventually, local and national solar installers will begin installations. As rollouts become more active across the country, reserved installations will begin depending on the time of reservation.

Is the Tesla solar roof the only solar panels Tesla sells?

The array of offering from Tesla in the solar energy space has become a bit confusing for customers.

In 2017 Tesla undertook a merger with SolarCity (the largest residential solar installer in the country) to create Tesla Energy. What has made things confusing is that Tesla have made two large announcements about their ambitions in terms of solar offerings, but neither of these products is what you are likely to get quoted if you ring Tesla and ask for a quote to put solar panels on your house.

As of May 2018 if you ring Tesla (actually I believe you have to fill in a form online) and ask for a quote to put solar panels on your home, they will most likely not quote you either the Tesla solar roof, or the Tesla made solar modules they announced they would build using Panasonic cells at their factory in Buffalo. Generally speaking, they will quote you a third party solar panel and inverter. A friend of mine got a quote for their home just last week and their initial quote did not specify a panel or an inverter but when he probed them for this information then they told him the solar panel was a QCells/Hahnwa panel and a SolarEdge inverter.

It seems that Tesla’s announcements of the solar roof and their own solar panel manufacturing is working to create free advertising for Tesla but they are not selling these products all that often, they are mainly selling third party solar panels as inverters at this point.

Still, I admire Tesla’s vision and their solar roof is a beautiful product that will undoubtedly be a feature of some of the best new homes built in the next 5 years.



Are the Tesla solar roof tiles worth it?

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Author: Andrew Sendy

As chairman of Solar Investments Inc and chairman of the largest solar panel installation company in South Australia, Andy is passionate about solar power. With his unique working background he writes on the residential solar industry in America from a unique perspective.