So, you want to invest in a new roof with the latest 21st century technology and you plan to spend some serious coin doing so.
You are intrigued by solar power, but do not want to go the route of traditional solar panel roof installation — you want something a bit more pleasing to the eye.
Here is your conundrum. Would you rather go with a company that has been in the roofing business for over 100 years and cut its teeth on asphalt shingles or the company that comes from world of high tech and never put up a roof before the controversial acquisition of SolarCity.
To further complicate your decision-making the established roofing business is part of one the world’s largest home building products conglomerates that has been in business for over 350 years.
Tesla — the high-tech roofer?
It is part of one of the most eclectic organizations out there, whose owner is more interested in flying to outer space and boring long-distance subterranean tunnels than residential roofs.
Note: Tesla solar tiles are not really a viable product as of yet. Only a handful of these roofs have been installed so far. Future product availability guidance is murky at best and we don’t know if we’ll see the market ready Tesla solar tiles any time soon.
To help you divine an answer let’s take a look at the two players in question, the Apollo II Solar Shingle Roofing System from CertainTeed and the Tesla Solar Tile Roof.
Let’s address the elephant on the roof straight away. The cost of solar in 2021 has dropped to its lowest price since tracking began in 2014 — a national average of $3.06 per watt, when installed by a small local installer.
As with everything measured in the solar marketplace results can vary considerably depending on location.
In some sunny locales the cost of solar is down in the $2.80-$3.50 per installed watt ballpark. In most places homeowners can expect to spend between $15,300 and $27,000 for PV solar panels.
Tesla, whose first commercial roofs are just coming online, delivers solar for $9.60 per watt (after the recent 50% price hike)– more than three times the national average.
CertainTeed does not make pricing information public. Since the Apollo II system is more complicated to install than standard solar panels, but is not a pure roofing option like Tesla, it is safe to assume its price will fall between the two poles, probably skewing towards the higher end.
In addition to the variables of climate, final solar pricing is also dependent on house size, local public utility policies, and the existence or future continuance of solar investment tax credits.
Let’s face it, power is a utility. The only reason to pay a premium for its delivery is to avoid the look of those clunky solar panels on the roof.
Nothing in the solar marketplace can compete with the elegance of Elon Musk’s glass tiles infused with photovoltaic cells.
A Tesla roof not only generates electricity it actually performs the duty of a roof.
Consumers can choose between gray smooth glass, black textured glass, slate glass, and Tuscan glass.
Tesla solar roof is undetectable from the street level and actually looks better than most roofs clad in traditional materials.
The Apollo II system of solar shingles is also designed to give a sleek, low profile look from below. They are designed to integrate with an existing roof (shingles or concrete tiles) and lie flat.
A CertainTeed solar roof is not invisible like Tesla, but far less obtrusive than conventional solar panels that are attached to roofs with racks.
Tesla glass shingles en masse create a smaller power-generating system than the typical solar panel configuration.
As a result, we estimate that a Tesla solar roof will ding the pocketbook to the tune of an extra $25,000, while cranking out only 77 percent of a standard PV solar panel installation.
The Apollo II solar tiles, since they do not have air circulating under them to provide cooling, will also deliver lower electricity production.
If they are made too powerful, the shingles become susceptible to overheating. The output is generally 10-20 percent less than mounted solar panels, while also paying the appearance premium.
Tesla solar roof is the roof, as Elon Musk likes to say. So if you do not need a new roof, you must tear off your perfectly fine existing roof to install Tesla glass tiles. That translates to many extra dollars.
CertainTeed shingles are a BIPV (“building integrated photovoltaics”) option that is more involved than quickly mounting traditional solar panels onto brackets screwed into an existing roof, but does not require an entire new roof.
Did you know? Early Tesla roof projects are taking up to 3 weeks to install, according to many sources including Insideevs.com.
There is no contest in the comparison of the two solar roofs here. CertainTeed boasts a national network of dealers built up from its days as the leading asphalt shingle provider in the United States.
Since 1988 CertainTeed has also been part of the French multinational corporation Saint-Gobain, which has been in business since 1655.
Qualified installers are a bit harder to find, but getting an Apollo II roof is markedly easier than lining up a Tesla installation.
Ordering a Tesla solar roof starts with filling out a from online and posting a $1000 deposit. From there you are placed into a waiting queue depending on your region of the country and your roof will be installed sometime in the future.
CertainTeed stands behind its solar panels with an installation and workmanship guarantee of 15 years and a power output warranty of 25 years. The inverter and other components are covered for 10 years.
Tesla offers a power production warranty of 30 years and an “infinite” warranty on the roof itself.
Of course the difference in length of those warranties is moot if there is no company around to make it good. The future is promised to no company but the odds-makers would have to favor the 350-year old company over the 10-year old company being around to honor the agreement.
Elon Musk has run into problems attempting to amp up production on his Tesla electric cars and the full roll out of the Tesla roof has already been delayed.
When it came time to showcase his other businesses with his much-ballyhooed SpaceX flight to Mars Musk strapped a cherry red Tesla Roadster onto his Falcon rocket. Inside he put a spacesuit-clad mannequin named Starman — there wasn’t even a box of solar tiles in the back seat. 😉
No one is going to install either a Tesla solar roof or CertainTeed solar shingles on the basis of any cost factor.
Both systems cost more than standard roof-mounted solar panels and neither generates as much power. A solar roof purchase is purely an aesthetic play.
In that comparison, Tesla is a clear winner. But, Tesla roof is not designed to work with all houses and installing new and largely untested technology is always risky.
If you already have a perfectly functioning roof and just want a cleaner-looking roofline in a reasonable time frame (those federal tax credits are slated to start dissipating by 2020) the Apollo II solar roof system is a palatable option for your extra dollars.
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