Unlike traditional solar panels, which are installed on top of your roof, solar shingles are designed to become your roof. Tesla and Luma Solar are two of the best-known brands that offer solar tiles that we will be comparing in this guide. However, before we discuss what both brands have to offer, the first step is deciding if solar shingles or tiles makes sense for your home.
Solar shingles accomplish the same function as a normal roof, while having built-in photovoltaic cells to generate electricity. Depending on the current condition of your roof, this design can be an advantage or a disadvantage:
- Solar roof shingles are very convenient if you plan to build a new home, or if you have an old roof that needs a replacement soon. Instead of installing a new roof and solar panels as two separate systems, you can use a product that combines their functions.
- On the other hand, if your roof is in good condition and you don’t plan a replacement in a long time, traditional solar panels are recommended.
Personal preferences also matter when choosing between solar roof shingles and photovoltaic panels. For example, some homeowners don’t like the appearance of solar panels, while others want to show they’re generating clean electricity. Solar roofs are designed to look just like normal roofs in case you prefer a traditional home appearance.
As you might guess, solar roof shingles are more expensive than solar panels since you’re getting an entire roof. However, this also means not having to install a separate roof in new constructions and home renovations.
From a financial standpoint, solar panels will always be more cost-effective in existing homes. Solar roof shingles may achieve a lower cost than a brand-new roof with solar panels, but this only applies if you need a new roof in the first place.
- Home solar systems have an average cost of $3.06 per watt in the US, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
- The cost of a solar roof depends on its complexity but installed prices of over $5 per watt are common. In some cases, a solar roof may cost more than $10 per watt.
Solar panels and solar roofs both qualify for the 26% federal tax credit, which remains available until the end of 2022, before decreasing to 22% in 2023. However, there is an important difference in how the tax credit is calculated for each type of system:
- When using solar panels, the entire system is used to generate electricity, and its full price is considered for the tax credit.
- When using a solar roof, only the cost of power generation components is eligible for the tax credit. The rest of the installation is considered a normal roof, and you cannot deduct 26% of its value.
Having compared solar roof shingles and photovoltaic panels in general, we can move on to specific brands: Tesla and Luma Solar.
Tesla Solar Roof Shingles: Overview and Main Features
Tesla has become a very popular brand, offering products like the Powerwall home battery and the Model 3 electric vehicle. If you’re interested in a Tesla solar roof, their website has a calculator that estimates how many kilowatts are needed for your home, and how much you can expect to pay, based on the complexity of your roof. You can also add one or more Powerwalls for energy storage capacity, but it’s an optional feature.
The SR72T1 Tesla roof shingle is composed of 14 photovoltaic cells, and it has the following specifications:
- Rated power: 71.67 watts
- Dimensions: 430 mm x 1140 mm x 5 mm (16.93 in x 44.88 in x 0.20 in)
- Solar roof weight: 15 kg per m2 (3.1 lb per sq.ft)
- Certification marks: UL Listed and ETL Listed
- Tesla solar roofs also come with a 25-year warranty that covers product defects, weatherization, and power production.
Since roof shingles have a lower wattage than solar panels, you need more of them to reach a given capacity. Assume you need a 10-kW solar system for your home: you can reach that capacity with 140 SR72T1 shingles, or 28 solar panels rated at 360 W each.
Normally, the area you need to cover with solar shingles is less than your total roof area, and the rest uses normal shingles that look identical. This makes your solar power system invisible in case you prefer that appearance.
As mentioned above, the cost of solar roofs can widely vary from home to home, and this is also true for Tesla. Homeowners with simple and compact roofs may get quotes for less than $6 per watt installed, but larger and more complex roofs may result in prices of over $10 per watt.
You can only get an accurate quote with a roof assessment, but in general you can expect to pay 2-3 times more than when using traditional solar panels.
Luma Solar Roof Shingles: Overview and Main Features
Luma Solar may not have the same brand recognition as Tesla, but it does offer an excellent product. In fact, Luma is an older brand and a pioneer in solar roof technology: they developed the first solar shingle system in North America more than 10 years ago.
The LSS80 solar shingles from Luma are composed of 16 monocrystalline cells (2 x 8), and they have the following specifications:
- Rated power: 80 watts
- Exposed area: 52.5 in x 14.65 in x 2 in
- Weight: 19.8 lb.
- Certification marks: UL Listed and Miami-Dade Hurricane Rating Class 5+
- Luma solar roof shingles have a 5-year product warranty and 25-year power warranty for photovoltaic components, and a lifetime warranty for the underlying solar cells.
Using the same example of the previous section, you would need 125 Luma solar shingles to reach 10 kilowatts of capacity, and this would be equivalent to using 28 solar panels with a capacity of 360 W each.
Luma Solar also uses a combination of photovoltaic and normal shingles to cover your roof, and they look identical. However, Luma also provides solar kits that can be integrated with other roof materials.
The installed cost of Luma solar shingles also depends on the complexity of your roof. However, Luma gives you the option of a partial roof upgrade, while Tesla only offers full replacements.
- This makes Luma a great option if you prefer solar roof shingles instead of traditional panels, but don’t want to replace your entire roof.
- Under favorable conditions, a partial roof upgrade can cost you less than $5 per watt with Luma solar shingles.
If you want to add energy storage capacity to a Luma solar roof, they have business partnerships with four of the best battery manufacturers: Generac, LG Chem, Enphase, and Sonnen. This means you have many energy storage options available for Luma solar roofs.
Combining a Luma solar roof with a Tesla Powerwall is also possible in theory, but Tesla is no longer selling Powerwalls on their own (only bundled with solar panel systems or solar roofs).
Luma Solar vs Tesla Solar Roofs: Bottom Line
As you can see, Luma and Tesla both offer excellent options if you’re considering a solar roof. Each brand has its own strong points, and we can’t say that one is better than the other. However, here we will summarize their pros and cons, to make your decision easier.
Tesla offers a better product warranty for photovoltaic components, covering 25 years, while Luma only offers a 5-year warranty. However, both brands have a 25-year power production warranty, and Luma offers a lifetime warranty for the underlying shingles.
Tesla is a more popular brand, but this can actually be a problem if you’re considering a solar roof. Many customers have reported long wait times, and even cases where Tesla increased system prices with signed contracts. Since Luma Solar doesn’t have the same hype as Tesla, you can get a quicker installation.
A major advantage of Luma solar roofs is their flexible design. Tesla has an “all or nothing” policy, which means they only offer quotes for complete roof replacements. This is a limitation for homeowners who want to use solar roof shingles but are not willing to change their entire roof. On the other hand, Luma gives both options: complete roof replacements and partial upgrades.
Tesla and Luma solar roofs both have energy storage options. Tesla offers their Powerwall home battery, while Luma partners with four leading brands. Regardless of the solar roof brand you pick, energy storage will not be a problem. When charged with a solar roof or normal solar panels, these battery systems also qualify for the 26% federal tax credit.
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