Tesla Solar Roof Shingles vs. Traditional Solar Panels: What You Need to Know

What's a Typical Cost To Install a new Roof? Average Price: $5,960 - $12,740
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Tesla has become a household name in many parts of the world, and you have probably read or heard about their solar roof shingles. They can be described as miniature photovoltaic panels that look more like the traditional asphalt shingles, and many homeowners prefer this look.

via Tesla SolarRoof

If you’re trying to decide between a Tesla solar roof and a traditional solar panel system, this buying guide will help you compare both options.

First, there is a very important difference between solar roof shingles and conventional solar panels.

  • Solar roof shingles are the combination of two products. They serve as a roof for your home, but they also generate electricity.
  • Solar panels are separate components that are installed on top of your roof, using the right type of racking system.

This difference has a very important implication for homeowners. Solar panels can be installed on almost any roof, as long as the structure is capable of carrying their weight. However, you replace your existing roof completely when using Tesla solar shingles, and this makes the project more expensive.

Based on upfront costs and return on investment, traditional solar panels are the recommended option for most homeowners. However, a Tesla solar roof can make sense financially if you’re planning to build a new home with solar panels, since you haven’t spent on a roof yet and you have the chance to combine two building elements.

Solar roof shingles are also viable economically if you have an old roof that will need replacement soon. Just keep in mind that delivery times can be long, due to the growing popularity of Tesla products in general.

Of course, personal preference is also important when deciding between different products. Installing a Tesla solar roof is a great option if you don’t like the appearance of solar panels, or if you’re loyal to the brand and prefer their products. However, keep in mind that Tesla also installs traditional solar panels as an alternative to solar tiles, and their price tag is much lower.

Price Comparison: Tesla Solar Roof Shingles vs. Solar Panels

Solar panel systems have predictable pricing, and your investment can be planned more easily. According to the latest data from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), homeowners in the US can expect to pay around $3.06 per watt of capacity, or $3,060 per kilowatt. This means a 5-kW home solar system will cost around $15,300 before deducting any incentives, and a 10-kW system will cost around $30,600.

  • These prices can be higher or lower depending on factors, like the solar panel brand you pick and skilled labor costs in your location. However, in most cases there will not be a drastic difference with respect to the average price.
  • To give you an idea of what to expect, EnergySage has estimated the average installation costs of many popular solar brands, and they range from $2.30 to $3.35 per watt as of January 2022.
  • When comparing solar installers, underpriced and overpriced quotes should be handled with suspicion!

Tesla solar roofs are custom designed for each home, and this means their prices are much less predictable. For example, the owner of a 2,500-sq.ft. home with a complex roof geometry can expect a much higher price, compared with someone who owns a 1,500-sq.ft. home with a simple roof design (even if system wattages are similar).

The Tesla website currently has a solar roof calculator, where you can input your address and energy bills to estimate costs. However, you will find major differences in pricing from home to home.

While some owners may get quotes for less than $5,000 per kilowatt of capacity, others can expect to pay over $10,000 per kilowatt. Based on this price range, a Tesla solar roof will be 2-4 times more expensive than a traditional solar panel system of the same capacity. This depends on factors like the complexity of your roof and your location.

Tesla Solar Roof Shingles: Overview of Technical Specifications

In spite of all the media hype around their products, Tesla has provided limited information about their solar roof shingles in particular. As a result, a direct comparison with traditional solar panels is difficult. However, the datasheet published for the SR72T1 roof shingle model provides some interesting facts:

  • Dimensions: 430 mm x 1140 mm x 5 mm (16.93 in x 44.88 in x 0.20 in)
  • Maximum power: 71.67 watts
  • System weight: 15 kg per m2 (3.1 lb. per sq.ft.)
  • Each Tesla solar shingle is composed of 14 photovoltaic cells.
  • Tesla solar shingles are both UL Listed and ETL Listed, which means they have been successfully tested for electrical safety and fire safety.

Keep in mind that Tesla solar roofs use a combination of photovoltaic shingles and normal shingles, and this means only some parts of your roof will generate electricity. Tesla will determine the optimal areas to install solar shingles, based on the sunlight received by your property and shading conditions.

Unfortunately, Tesla has not provided the rated efficiency of its solar tiles, and this means a direct comparison with solar panels is not possible. However, we can make a simple comparison based on wattage.

Currently, the most efficient solar panels for homes have typical power output of over 360 watts. This means that 5-6 Tesla solar shingles have roughly the same output as a high-performance solar panel.

What Is the Warranty of a Tesla Solar Roof?

The warranty conditions of a Tesla solar roof are like those offered by leading solar panel manufacturers. Tesla solar roofs have a 25-year product and weatherization warranty, combined with a 25-year power production warranty. Solar shingles lose some performance over time, just like conventional solar panels, and Tesla offers the following conditions:

  • At least 95% of rated generation capacity after five years.
  • A maximum degradation rate of 0.50% per year after this period, during the next 20 years.
  • At least 85% of rated generation capacity after 25 years.

Since a Tesla solar roof is more expensive than a traditional solar panel system, you can expect a longer payback period. However, the 25-year warranty gives you more than enough time to recover your upfront investment. Tesla solar inverters have a 12.5-year warranty, and they’re available in 3.8 kW and 7.6 kW versions.

Does Tesla Sell Traditional Solar Panels?

If you don’t want to replace your roof completely, Tesla also offers conventional solar panels. These are more affordable than their photovoltaic roof shingles, and you can expect the typical pricing of a residential installation. Tesla uses 400-watt modules, and their home systems come in four standard sizes:

PV System Size Rated Power Solar Panels Used Area Covered
Small 4.8 kW 12 260 sq.ft.
Medium 9.6 kW 24 520 sq.ft.
Large 14.4 kW 36 780 sq.ft.
Extra Large 19.2 kW 48 1,040 sq.ft.

Tesla is one of the leading solar panel providers in the US, with more than 430,000 installations completed. Their solar panels come with a 25-year performance warranty, which offers 80% of rated capacity at the end of the coverage period.

Tesla also offers a 10-year comprehensive warranty, which covers products and labor. The 10-year warranty also covers the solar inverter and mounting system, as well as the Tesla Powerwall if you decide to include it.

The latest solar roof shingles from Tesla can be installed on top of your normal roof shingles, just like traditional solar modules. This can be expected to decrease installation costs in the future, since a complete roof replacement will no longer be necessary.

Adding a Tesla Powerwall to Your Home Solar System

The Tesla Powerwall is one of the best-known home solar batteries, having an energy storage capacity of 13.5 kWh. You can connect up to 10 Powerwalls as a single energy storage system, reaching a total capacity of 135 kWh.

  • The latest version is the Powerwall+, which offers up to 7.6 kW of continuous power when connected to the grid, and 9.6 kW of backup power during a blackout.
  • The Powerwall+ can also handle short-term power peaks of up to 22 kW.

Since April 2021, Tesla is only selling the Powerwall with their own solar roof shingles or solar panels. In other words, you can no longer purchase a Tesla Powerwall by itself, and connect it to a home solar system that uses another brand. You may still be able to get a stand-alone Powerwall from third-party suppliers, but no longer from Tesla.

The Tesla Powerwall is a very popular product, but there are excellent alternatives in the market if you cannot get one. Some examples are the LG Chem RESU, Generac PWRcell, Panasonic EverVolt and sonnenCore.

Home batteries qualify for the 26% federal tax credit when they’re used as part of a home solar system. However, you must charge them exclusively with solar panels or other onsite renewable energy systems, and not with electricity from the grid!

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What's a Typical Cost To Install a new Roof? Average Price: $5,960 - $12,740
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