anaTesla’s brand positioning has been remarkable, and the company has become a household name around the world. The Tesla solar roof was first announced in 2017, as an alternative to traditional solar panels.
Instead of installing photovoltaic modules on top of a roof, the solar cells become part of the roof – this concept is called building integrated photovoltaics or BIPV.
From a technical and aesthetic standpoint, the Tesla solar roof is an excellent product, covered by a 25-year warranty that ensures electricity production in the long run.
The Tesla solar roof also has a completely invisible design, where roof shingles with PV cells look identical to the shingles without them. This is a great design feature for homeowners who want to generate their own electricity, but don’t like the appearance of traditional solar panels.
Despite the product’s great features, bringing the solar tile roof to the mainstream market has been a challenge for Tesla. Manufacturing and installations have been unable to keep up with demand and challenging realities of what it takes to install a complex product like the solar tile roof. These realities mean you can expect a very, very long wait time.
Many homeowners have also reported major price hikes after their initial quote, even after a contract had already been signed.
Tesla, arguably, deserves credit for making solar roofs known among the general public, but keep in mind they are not the only provider in the market. That said, in many if not most cases, you can lower costs and significantly shorten the delivery time (current real-world ballpark estimate is well over 12 months of wait time or longer) by using a solar roof from another provider.
Challenge #1: Unpredictable Pricing
According to EnergySage, the Tesla solar roof has an average price of $6.40 per watt of installed capacity. This means you can expect to pay around $51,200 for an 8-kW solar roof.
For comparison, EnergySage reports an average price of $2.77 per watt through its marketplace when installing traditional solar panels, which means you would only have to pay around $22,160 for an 8-kW system.
Note that solar prices quoted through the EnergySage marketplace tend to be lower than the national average cost per watt reported by SEIA.
A solar shingle roof is more expensive than a traditional solar panel system, but you’re also getting a brand-new roof for your home.
From a financial standpoint, the extra cost of solar shingles might make sense if your home already needs a roof replacement. On the other hand, if your existing roof is in good condition, the additional cost of a solar roof has two negative effects:
- The payback period of your solar energy investment becomes longer.
- The return per dollar spent upfront is reduced.
The cost of a Tesla solar roof can be broken down into two main items. The solar shingles themselves have an installed cost of around $1.80/watt, while the roofing cost ranges from $15.30 to $21.27 per square foot.
Compared with the average cost of solar panels ($2.77 per watt installed), the price of the Tesla solar shingles by themselves seems low. Unfortunately, Tesla will not sell solar shingles as a stand-alone product; they only sell complete solar roofs.
Shortly after launching the solar roof, Tesla developed an online calculator where you could estimate the cost of their system based on your location.
- Using high-resolution satellite images, Tesla was estimating solar roof prices based on overhead roof pictures.
- Thanks to this innovative tool, Tesla was able to send a large number of solar roofs offers in a short time, but this came at the expense of accuracy.
Elon Musk admitted that the solar roof calculator would often underestimate the real product cost. It’s not clear whether that was an intentional and overly-aggressive marketing gimmick or simply a short-sighted and overly optimistic view of what it takes to deliver a solar tile roof.
Unfortunately, Many homeowners who had already received an offer started getting updated quotes, and in some cases the price was doubled.
According to Business Insider, one customer reported a price hike from $71,000 to $146,000, and a class-action lawsuit was filed against Tesla in 2021.
In November 2021, Tesla announced a more efficient version of their roof shingles. Unlike the first solar shingle design, which can only be purchased as part of a complete roof, the second version can also be used on existing roofs without full replacement. — This is the same product strategy used by Luma Solar, CertainTeed and SunTegra. When (and if) Tesla solar shingles ever become available for partial roof upgrade, much lower prices can be expected.
Challenge #2: Availability and Wait Times
When the Tesla solar roof was first launched in 2017, you could place a pre-order for $1,000, and the company even announced international installations by 2018. However, keeping up with demand soon became a challenge, and some customers have reported wait times of several months or even years.
- The Tesla website reports a delivery time of up to six months, but many customers have reported far longer wait times!
- Some customers have waited for up to two years, only to receive an email from Tesla explaining that the solar roof is not available in their location, refunding the $1,000 deposit.
A solar roof can be an excellent option if you want solar energy and need a new roof for your home, since you’re combining two projects into one.
However, if you have an old roof that needs a replacement as soon as possible, Tesla’s long delivery times can be a major issue. If this is your situation, you might prefer a solar roof from another manufacturer who offers a faster delivery and installation.
A long delivery time can also make you miss the solar federal tax credit, officially called the Investment Tax Credit (ITC). If you install a home solar system during 2022, you can deduct 26% of its cost on your next tax declaration.
The solar tax credit will remain available in 2023, but it will decrease from 26% to 22%. Starting from 2024, there will only be a 10% tax credit for solar PV systems owned by companies, and homeowners will no longer be eligible.
Did you know? Solar roofs qualify for the federal tax credit, but there is caveat. You can only claim 26% of the cost of solar shingles and other components involved in power generation, but not 26% of the total project cost.
- Solar shingles are subject to the same deadlines as traditional solar panel systems.
- You can qualify for a higher tax credit if your provider can deliver the project before the end of 2022.
- By finding a solar roof installer who ensures a quick delivery, you can get the 26% federal tax credit.
The Tesla solar roof can be combined with the Powerwall home battery, achieving a power supply that is available 24/7. However, the company announced a Powerwall shortage in late 2021, which is the result of the global chip shortage.
Challenge #3: Complex Installation
Tesla solar shingles have a unique installation procedure, which means there is a learning curve for both solar panel installers and roofing installers.
In many cases, homeowners cannot purchase Tesla solar roofs simply because there are no qualified installers in their area. Even when contractors are available, some customers have reported installation times of over a week.
GAF Energy is emerging as a major player in the solar roof market. Their parent company Standard Industries has a track record of over 100 years in the roofing industry, and their products are used in around 25% of US homes. The roofing industry is also 20 times larger than the solar industry, which means solar shingles and tiles can benefit from a well-established supply chain.
According to Canary Media, GAF Energy has already installed more solar roofs than Tesla, taking advantage of the large network of roofing installers in the US. They developed the Timberline solar energy shingle, which can be easily installed with a nail gun.
- GAF Energy also benefits from Standard Industries’ huge market share: 1,000,000 roofs installed per year.
- They have an ambitious goal of installing solar shingles on 10% of roofs, which would be equivalent to 100,000 installations per year.
The Tesla solar roof is a great product when you consider its technical aspects and aesthetics. Each solar shingle has a rated power output of 71.67 watts, surpassing most competing products, and a 25-year power output warranty. These solar shingles are also identical to the non-generating shingles making up the rest of your roof – Tesla’s “invisible” design is an attractive feature for homeowners who don’t like traditional solar panels.
Most providers offer solar shingles that look similar to asphalt shingles, but not identical. These shingles don’t contrast with the rest of your roof like traditional solar panels, but anyone can tell that your roof has two types of shingles. When using the Tesla roof, the solar shingles are completely invisible.
On the downside, the Tesla solar roof has been faced with pricing and availability issues: Many homeowners have decided to cancel their orders after major price bumps, even after signing a contract.
There have also been cases where homeowners have pre-ordered the Tesla solar roof with a $1,000 deposit, only to get a message that the product is unavailable in their location (along with a refund, of course).
A solar roof can be cost-effective if your home already needs a roof replacement, since you get a clean energy system in the process. However, Tesla’s long delivery time can be an issue if you have a damaged roof that needs a replacement ASAP.
A long wait time can also make you miss the 26% federal tax credit, which drops to 22% in 2023 and 0% in 2024.
Being optimistic, you can expect to pay around $45,000 – $65,000 for a Tesla solar roof. However, pricing can vary dramatically depending on your roof design, and some homeowners have received quotes for more than $100,000.
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