Should you buy Tesla’s solar roof in 2020?
Written by Andrew Sendy
Updated August 12, 2021
5 minutes read
There are many questions surrounding the Tesla solar roof. Will we see the Tesla solar roof cost go up or down or stay where it is? What will 2020 hold for the Tesla solar roof tiles? And most importantly, is buying the Tesla solar roof a good idea or not?
Here is a list of everything that makes the Tesla solar roof panels great, everything that makes them not so great, and everything that might make 2020, as Elon Musk likes to call it, the “year of the solar roof.”
YES: The case for buying the Tesla solar roof
Let’s start with the good, because it’s Tesla, and we can always count on them to deliver something exciting!
Solar power that looks good
The Tesla solar roof is a quintessential Tesla product. It represents everything that the Tesla and Elon Musk brand stands for: cutting-edge technology with a groundbreaking design. One that makes caring for the environment look oh so good.
I mean, look at those solar panels. Can’t see them? Exactly. Tesla has done some pathbreaking design work. As with their electric cars, they have changed the way we look at solar panels forever.
The sustainable circuit of Tesla Inc.
Generate + Storage + Transport = Solar panels/ Solar roofs + Batteries + Electric cars.
Elon Musk’s grand vision has always been to help humans transition to 100% renewable energy, which starts with generating solar energy, storing it, and then using it to power our home and vehicle. The Tesla solar roof is an important step in actualizing this vision. Tesla’s solar app depicts this circuit in a beautiful, yet simplistic way.
Imagine this: having a Tesla solar roof, with a Tesla battery pack installed in your garage, and a Tesla car parked in front of the house. Now wouldn’t that make you the most elegant looking environmentally conscious person in the neighborhood?
It's the inevitable future of solar production
Just 8000 cars were being driven in America at the turn of the 20th century. By 2015, that number had swelled to 236 million cars. We’re now seeing the same kind of adoption with solar. In the case of solar installations, 30,000 homes had solar installed in 2006, 400,000 in 2013, and 2,000,000 in 2019. Rooftop solar systems are the future.
As the cost of solar cells becomes cheaper and more competitors enter the market, we can expect that most solar systems will take the form of solar roofs. Demand will grow, making supply even cheaper, which in turn, will push demand even higher. Roofs with solar tiles are likely to one day become the norm, this future might be 10 years away, or 20 or perhaps 50, but it is inevitable.
NO: The case for not getting the Tesla solar roof
In spite of all that is inspiring and revolutionary about Tesla, there are problems that we simply cannot ignore.
Tesla’s solar shingles are too expensive
At an average cost of $21.85 per square foot, the cost of a Tesla solar roof is substantially higher than any typical solar installation. Even after accounting for a new roof, the Tesla solar roof till will cost you substantially higher than getting a standard roof and separate solar panels.
For example: to eliminate a $150 power bill, you will roughly need a 5.35 kW solar system which, after the federal solar tax credit, will cost only $14,000. If you also need a new roof, you can get asphalt shingles installed for about $5/ sq ft. That is $10,000 for the whole roof of 2000 sq ft. The final price of your roof and the solar system will be roughly $24,000. A Tesla solar roof for the same home would be $15,500 more expensive!
You can calculate the cost for a Tesla solar roof and compare it with the price of a standard solar installation here. To understand the difference in cost, read this breakdown comparing solar roof tiles versus conventional solar.
Unfulfilled promises and the financial mess
Since its grand launch in Oct 2016 Tesla’s solar roof tiles have faced production issues. Its solar panels have gone from merely being an overpriced product that few people can afford, to becoming yet another produce that Tesla failed to deliver on.
Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity has not been a smooth one or even a profitable one. Tesla had taken over SolarCity at the price tag of $2 billion, but SolarCity was also $2.9 billion in debt at the time. Which made it a $5 billion dollar acquisition. There is also the problem of delays due to technical problems and change in design plans. Inconsistent profits and excessive delays have more than dampened the buzz around the Tesla solar roof.
Tesla’s solar roof 2020 predictions
Solar roof prices about to drop?
In April 2019, Tesla slashed the cost of its standard solar panels to about 16% lower than the national average price, which has lead to a renewed interest in their solar panels. Are there reduced solar roof prices on the horizon?
Whereas this potential announcement sounds good, do not hold your breath for it. Firstly, it is unlikely that Tesla can make the roof tiles match the cost-effectiveness of standard solar panels anytime in the near future. Secondly, the financial trouble the company is going through puts in doubt the very existence of the company, forget any substantial reduction in price.
Solar panels are becoming mandatory in 2020
What could be one of the biggest game changers for the future of solar panels in general and also the Tesla roof tiles, comes in the guise of policy changes in California. The state regulators have made it mandatory for newly built single-family homes to have solar panels from 2020.
The mandate is likely to generate much interest in solar roof tiles from builders and home buyers in the state. As builders are forced to install solar, they might just spend some extra cash on the solar roof tiles for that nicer look.
Other companies offering solar roof products in 2020
The one thing which is guaranteed to help bring down rates and propel future innovation in the solar roof tiles industry is competition. And Tesla has some stiff competition coming their way.
Standard Industries Inc., one of the largest roofing companies in the world, has started offering its own version of a solar roof. PetersenDean Roofing & Solar started offering panels five years ago as well. They have already done 9,800 installations in 2018 and are on track to double that this year.
As of yet, none of these companies match Tesla’s innovation and design. But, Tesla will need to keep innovating and improving if they want to stay at the top of the heap in the near future.
VERDICT: Solar roof tiles are the future, not the present
Will 2020 be the year of the solar roof? No.
Like most other Tesla products, the coming together of exquisite design and breakthrough technology in the Tesla roof panels rekindles our belief in the human species. Tesla has shown us what is possible.
However, at this point in time, Tesla is far from ready with its product. There are little to no choices for the customers in the market. So, unless you have a couple of extra grand lying around and insist on feeling like you’re living in the future, the Tesla solar roof tiles make little practical sense.