Tesla Solar Roof Tiles Cost, Benefits and Reviews

Tesla solar roof panels
When the concept of the Tesla solar roof was first announced, it was hailed by some as the future of environmentally conscious construction and home design. Why add solar panels to a roof retroactively when the roof itself could include the solar PV technology to generate electricity? Unfortunately, it seems that the challenge is more complex than even an engineering giant like Tesla can handle.

Although you can’t yet get Tesla solar tiles installed in the UK, other options are available:

Get Free Solar Tile Quotes:        Get quotes and compare prices.

What are solar roof tiles?

The traditional solar energy system requires solar panels to be installed on your roof where they can soak up the sunlight. The energy from the sun is then converted into usable electricity for your home. It’s better for the environment as it reduces our reliance on fossil fuels and better for your energy bills, but not necessarily for the aesthetics of your home.

There’s a limited range of panel designs and, as they sit on top of the roof tiles, they tend to protrude out. Finding panels that blend in with your roof can be a challenge.

Rather than installing solar panels on top of your existing roof, solar roof tiles could replace your entire roof so the structure of the roof has solar technology built in. They are designed to ‘complement your home’s architecture’ rather than detract from it.

While the concept of integrating solar technology into the structure of the roof itself has been developing for some time, it appeared (for some time) that it was Tesla Energy which had forged ahead with what they refer to as ‘beautiful solar’ for your home.

Tesla solar roof tiles: A publicity stunt?

The Tesla solar roof tile was initially a publicity stunt in October 2016 when Elon Musk, the Tesla CEO, unveiled them on a rooftop on the Desperate Housewives set at Universal Studios. While they looked authentic, they were actually just props.

The reason for the unveiling was to persuade Tesla shareholders to let Musk buy leading rooftop installer, SolarCity. Musk already owned some shares of SolarCity which had been founded by his cousins. Musk was trying to show his shareholders the potential money to be made by combining the engineering expertise of Tesla with the solar rooftop market leaders. The shareholders were convinced and Tesla acquired SolarCity.

Unfortunately, while many have been eagerly awaiting their official release ever since, we are now over three years later and it appears solar roof tiles are no nearer becoming a reality than they were on the set of Desperate Housewives.

Why can’t we buy Tesla solar roof tiles yet?

In May 2017, the Tesla Solar Roof Tile became available to preorder in the UK for a deposit. However, nearly over three years later, Tesla continues to delay an official launch and is evasive about committing to dates. Musk has teased several ‘official product launches’ before cancelling and changing the date at the last minute. Many in the industry and media remain highly skeptical of whether or not the Tesla solar roof will ever become a reality.

It may be that there is a legitimate reason for all of the smoke and mirrors, but it could also be that Tesla has not yet found a way to make solar tiles a viable alternative to traditional solar panels.

Although you can’t yet get Tesla solar tiles installed in the UK, other options are available:

Get Free Solar Tile Quotes:        Get quotes and compare prices.

What would Tesla solar roof tiles be like?

According to the Tesla website, there are 4 styles of tile available to pre-order: Textured, Smooth, Tuscan or Slate. They are made from tempered glass which Tesla claims to be three times stronger than the average roof tile. They’re so confident about this that they’ve included a lifetime guarantee with the tiles; this means that your roof will last for as long as your house stands. There’s also a 30 year guarantee on both the power technology and against weather damage.

A solar roof from Tesla would consist of a combination of solar tiles and non-solar tiles which both look the same from street level, the ratio of which will vary depending on your home’s energy needs. According to the Tesla website, each solar tile includes invisible solar cells that have been developed in partnership with Panasonic.

What would be the benefits of any solar roof tiles?

The key advantage that solar tiles have over solar panels is their attractive finish and seamless integration with your home’s architecture.

Many listed properties aren’t allowed to have solar panels installed but solar tiles may be a viable alternative.

In theory, the Tesla solar tiles have been designed to work in partnership with Tesla’s Powerwall 2.0 Solar Battery which, although optional, would enable you to store the energy produced by the tiles for use during the night or in the event of a power cut, bringing the ambition of energy independence a little closer to reality.

Potential problems with solar roof tiles

Many companies have tried to make solar roof tiles work on a wide scale, but none have managed to crack it as yet. Traditional solar panel design has been evolving and developing over several years to the point where they are now cheaper and easier to produce at scale than ever. Solar roof tile technology is in its infancy by comparison.

Solar roof tiles are also less efficient at producing electricity than solar panels, which means homeowners and businesses would be paying more for a less effective product simply because they look nicer.

In addition, solar roof tiles can only be fitted if the entire roof is replaced. This means that only homeowners who are looking to replace their roof anyway are likely to consider buying them. Alternatively, a person would need to be ready to face the cost and inconvenience of replacing a roof which is perfectly functional. Solar roof tiles are also a far more complex technology to install as the installer must be both a professional roofer and an accredited solar PV installer.

All of these issues have meant that many solar companies have tried and failed to make the solar roof tile work, and while it seemed for a while that Tesla may have the answer, the continued delays leave room for doubt.

Could Tesla make the solar roof work?

Of course, Tesla is well known for succeeding in engineering and innovation where many others have failed, but the company has been taking $1,000 (£800) deposits from prospective customers for years now with only a handful of roofs installed. The roofs are significantly more expensive than traditional solar panels and Musk himself has admitted early versions of the tile were not ready for mass distribution:

“Versions 1 and 2, we were still sort of figuring things out. Version 3, I think, is finally ready for the big time,” he said. “And so we’re scaling up production of the Version 3 solar tile roof at our Buffalo Gigafactory. And I think this product is going to be incredible.”

In addition, Tesla is not a roofing company but has decided to take on both aspects of the installation. They could have joined forces with an experienced roof installation company, but instead they will have to recruit and train a whole new workforce in unfamiliar territory. Musk has essentially confirmed that the company’s priority is its car manufacturing operation and that when forced to make a choice as to where to invest resources, the car wins.

“For about a year and a half, we unfortunately stripped Tesla Energy of engineering and other resources and even took the cell production lines that were meant for Powerwall and Powerpack and redirected them to the car, because we didn’t have enough cells […] We had to do it, because if we didn’t solve Model 3, Tesla wouldn’t survive.”

How much are Tesla solar roof tiles?

See below table for a cost breakdown of Tesla’s new solar slates:

Home Square Footage Cost of Roof Value of Energy Generated Over 30 Years
2,000 $34,300 or £26,380 $49,100 or £37,760
2,500 $42,100 or £32,380 $60,300 or £46,370
3,000 $49,800 or £38,300 $71,300 or £54,830

Although you can’t yet get Tesla solar tiles installed in the UK, other options are available:

Get Free Solar Tile Quotes:        Get quotes and compare prices.

The cost of replacing your roof with Tesla’s solar tiles is currently hard to pin down. The final cost will depend on several factors including the size of your roof and the ratio of solar tiles to non-solar tiles. They have created a Solar Roof calculator for the US market which estimates the likely upfront cost. The price is estimated based on roof size, the average price of electricity and how much sunlight your area gets in a year.

We did a little research using the US calculator to try and gauge the rough costs involved. The average size home in the US is between 2,400 – 2,600 square feet. We entered each ‘home’ as being in San Francisco, California, with 2 stories and the recommended 50:50 solar to non-solar tile ratio.

However, it’s worth noting that the average size of a newly built home in the UK is between 800 – 1000 square feet which is considerably smaller than the US. Installation costs i.e. taking off your old roof before putting the new one in are not included in their calculations as far as we can tell.

Tesla themselves acknowledge that the upfront cost of a solar roof is likely to be more expensive than a standard roof replacement, but they argue that the return on your investment over time in terms of energy savings can offset this. And, they add, you get a ‘beautiful new roof that also increases the value of your home’.

Could a solar roof be right for your home?

If you are planning a roof replacement or a new build then there is a definite argument for considering a solar roof, but the difficulty may be in finding a UK company able to supply and fit solar tiles.

However, there is no denying that the cost would be prohibitive to many and until the production of the solar tiles increases and the market becomes more competitive this is likely to remain the case. Even if Tesla roof tiles become available to buy and install in the UK, the jury is still out on whether they really are the next step towards a future of sustainable solar energy, or just a passing gimmick for the very wealthy.

Although you can’t yet get Tesla solar tiles installed in the UK, other options are available:

Get Free Solar Tile Quotes:        Get quotes and compare prices.

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