This past spring, Tesla announced pricing for their new solar roof product, a roof replacement for your home. And as of January 2018, Tesla has announced they are now producing the roof product at their Buffalo Gigafactory. Installations have begun for the top of their wait list 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.
How much does the Tesla solar roof cost, and 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.
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 a 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.
Scenario 2: You are interested in going solar, and you also need to replace your roof
[Note: The numbers in this section were revised in November 2017 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 costs $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.
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.