Tesla Solar Roof
Tesla is best known for its electric cars but has also become one of the largest solar panel installers in the US. However, one of Tesla’s newest solar innovations, the Tesla Solar Roof provides an alternative way to get solar on your roof, by making solar part of your roof. While it doesn’t quite look like a regular roof, Tesla’s Solar Roof is definitely more discreet than traditional rooftop solar panels.
If you’re bothered by the look of solar panels on your roof (and are replacing your roof anyway), the Solar Roof is a solution. But it comes with a huge price tag. You can get the same solar power production for far less money, even when you factor in the cost of a new roof.
Tesla no longer runs a press office, so the information below is limited to what’s publicly available online. Tesla did not respond to requests for comment sent to its still-listed press email. And while we researched Tesla’s Solar Roof to the best of our ability, we did not test it in any hands-on or empirical way. Solar products are difficult to review in the traditional sense. Whenever possible, get multiple quotes from multiple installers, including those local to your area.
What do I get from a Tesla Solar Roof?
Tesla pitches the Solar Roof as a breakthrough of technology and design. And while it’s not the first time someone has incorporated solar power into a building’s design, the Solar Roof is one of the highest-profile instances. It’s also one of the better solar roof products we’ve looked at.
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A solar roof is essentially a roof made up of mini solar panels that look and function like traditional roof shingles. So when you order a Tesla Solar Roof, you aren’t getting regular solar panels to put on your roof, you’re getting a new roof made of regular and photovoltaic shingles. Not every shingle on your roof is going to be a “solar shingle” — it’ll be a mix of solar and regular shingles. The result is a covering that powers your house and keeps you dry all while looking like a normal roof to the average passerby.
But this means scrapping your current roof. While Tesla has recently said it will install Solar Roofs on top of newer, single-layer roofs of some designs, most roofs will have to be replaced to install the Tesla Solar Roof. Tesla also requires the installation of at least one Tesla Powerwall battery with the Solar Roof.
Tesla Solar Roof specs
|Wattage per shingle||71.67 W|
|Wattage per square foot||15.3 W|
|Wind rating||110 mph|
|Hail rating||Class 3|
Your Tesla Solar Roof is well covered by three warranties. You’ll get a 25-year product warranty, a 25-year weatherization warranty and a 25-year performance warranty. Of the few solar shingle manufacturers on the market, Tesla offers the best solar shingle warranties. No other solar roof company we’ve found offers a 25-year weatherization warranty. And while other companies offer 25-year performance warranties, we found Tesla’s to be a bit stronger.
|Product warranty||25||Protects against manufacturer defects in design and/or material.|
|Weatherization warranty||25||Protects against damage from wind and rain.|
|Performance warranty||25||Tesla guarantees that your Solar Roof’s performance won’t fall to less than 95% in five years and won’t decrease more than 0.5% per year for the following 20 years.|
Every individual solar shingle comes with a wattage rating, showing how much power each solar shingle can output under ideal conditions. The wattage of your solar roof determines how much power your roof will be able to generate. One of Tesla’s solar shingles is 71.67 watts, which isn’t too bad in comparison to other solar shingle products available.
But what you should really pay attention to is its wattage per square foot, which is a measure of how much power you’ll be able to generate within a specific amount of space. The higher a shingle’s wattage per square foot, the less roof space is required to meet your power needs. And you might save some money since you’ll be installing fewer shingles.
Tesla’s solar shingles generate about 15.3 watts per square foot — not the best, but certainly not the worst.
Every brand of solar shingle comes with a wind rating, telling you what wind speeds your solar roof will be able to withstand. The Tesla Solar Roof can withstand wind speeds of up to 110 mph. This is lower than what other solar roof manufacturers offer. The most common solar shingle wind rating we found is 130 mph, with the highest we found being 200 mph.
While Tesla’s wind rating is lower than competing brands, we still wouldn’t necessarily call it bad. But if you live somewhere prone to extreme weather, a solar roof with a higher wind rating might be a better option.
If you decide to install the Tesla Solar Roof, you’ll also have to purchase at least one of Tesla’s Powerwall batteries. Tesla has three Powerwall batteries: the Powerwall 2, Powerwall Plus and Powerwall 3, which was only recently announced and won’t be available until 2024.
Currently, you can get the Powerwall 2 and Powerwall Plus models. The Tesla Powerwall 2 is a battery, while the Powerwall Plus is a battery with an integrated solar inverter. In terms of specs, they’re similar. The main difference is that the Powerwall Plus has a much higher backup (off-grid) power output. Both batteries can hold up to 13.5 kWh of energy storage and are covered under the same unlimited-cycle warranty.
Tesla Powerwall specs
|Category||Tesla Powerwall 2||Tesla Powerwall Plus|
|Capacity||13.5 kWh||13.5 kWh|
|How many can I stack?||Up to 10 units||Up to 10 units|
|Depth of discharge||100%||100%|
|Continuous power output (on-grid)||5 kW||5 kW|
|Continuous power output (off-grid)||NA||7 kW – 9.6 kW|
|AC- or DC-coupled?||AC||DC|
|Price||$9,000 – $14,000||NA|
How much does a Tesla Solar Roof cost?
Compared to other solar panel installations, a Solar Roof will be pricier. The price may be more or less justifiable depending on the condition of your current roof. If you’re due for a new roof, you’ll be writing a large check for that anyway.
If your goal is to generate solar for the least amount of money possible, a Solar Roof isn’t for you. Tesla’s online estimate for a house in Dallas offered 12.46 kilowatts of solar generation and a Powerwall battery for $168,400. Tesla estimates 12 kilowatts of regular solar panels and a Powerwall at the same location will cost $26,966.
Another factor that could alter the price of your system is the complexity of your roof. Steep pitches, multiple levels and a lot of obstructions could drive up the cost.
That Solar Roof estimate breaks down to $176,600 for the solar part of the roof and $29,600 for tearing off the old roof. (This house does have a large, 8,313-square-foot roof.) Optional Powerwalls are $10,500 each. The final price includes receiving $48,800 back from the federal government in tax credits. Without batteries, the system costs a whopping $12.87 per watt. This might be a function of roof size. Other estimates returned much lower costs.
A Solar Roof without batteries in Illinois had an estimated cost of $5.72 to $6.54 per watt depending on roof complexity. Another estimate from Texas ranged from $6.05 to $6.77 per watt. All of these are higher than the average cost of residential solar in the US in 2021, as reported by consulting firm Wood Mackenzie: $3 per watt for an 8-kilowatt system.
Roof size does significantly affect the overall cost of a system. A small roof (1,594 square feet) in Illinois could cost around $54,000 to $58,148 after the federal tax credit, Tesla estimates. That’s $3.78 to $4.05 per watt, much closer to the cost of solar panels, though still more expensive. (Tesla solar panels there would cost $2.54 per watt after the federal tax credit.)
Tesla recommends regular maintenance by a professional, though the details of that recommendation aren’t clear.
In December 2021, it was reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating a whistleblower complaint that alleged Tesla wasn’t honest in its efforts to replace solar panels at risk of catching fire. While it did replace them, it didn’t offer to shut off at-risk systems or provide upfront reasoning to shareholders or customers, the complaint said. In response to an April request for comment, the SEC declined to comment and Tesla, which does not operate a press office, did not respond.
Does Tesla operate in my state? How do I order?
The best way to find out if you’re in Tesla’s service area is to go to the company’s site to enter your address for an estimate. Tesla reportedly has expanded its service area for the Solar Roof to the entire US, though some addresses still say they’re unavailable when you request an estimate. Tesla is definitely expanding, however, through the use of third-party contractors. In some areas, Tesla will refer you to the website or contact information of a certified installer instead of giving you an estimate.
To order through Tesla, create an account online. Tesla then uses satellite imagery of your roof to design a system and price estimate, which will be finalized when an Tesla agent visits your home to confirm the roof complexity, size and a few other details.
After you and Tesla agree on a design, it will pull permits and put you on the schedule to install. Tesla reportedly has some in-house teams, even while bringing on more third-party installers.
Is Tesla’s Solar Roof a good deal?
As with every major purchase, it’s important to shop around. This is especially true of solar systems, where a local provider might beat national solar companies, which often have higher overhead costs. Tesla has made its solar panel installations cheaper, though the Solar Roof doesn’t have any one-to-one comparisons.
If you hate the look of solar panels or love the look of the Solar Roof, it might be the right choice for you. You will have to pay a premium, though how much depends on the condition and layout of your roof. While the Solar Roof is an exciting product, it isn’t practical for most people. With a Solar Roof, you’ll get quality equipment backed by strong warranties, but another company may offer a greater choice among panels, batteries and inverters (including some of those that Tesla offers) at a much lower price. And, there are online concerns about Tesla’s customer service (more on that below).
Other companies have rolled out their own solar shingle products, notably GAF Energy, earlier this year. While GAF prices aren’t public, in January a spokesperson said the cost would be about half of Tesla’s Solar Roof. More recently GAF said a new roof with solar shingles will cost about the same as a new roof and solar panels. Its solar shingles look less like a regular roof than Tesla’s, however.
Tesla’s solar panel side of its energy business has a reputation online for poor customer service. There aren’t any reliable, public sources of customer service for the solar industry at this point, however. Online testimonials show that Tesla’s solar panel customer service was bad enough to make some people regret their choice, though others were happy to save money on Tesla’s cheap panel installations and put up with the service. If customer service for Solar Roofs is similarly bad, it’s even harder to accept the cost. Because there are fewer Solar Roof customers, it’s hard to get any kind of read on how customer service might differ.
There is the chance that, as Tesla tries to increase installations of Solar Roofs while its share of the solar panel market shrinks, it values customer service more for Solar Roof customers (though this is all speculation).
Tesla Solar reviews: What are customers saying?
Reading online customer reviews provides a great starting place when trying to gauge which company has better service. And while these reviews shouldn’t be taken as gospel, they can give you a good idea about the kind of customer experience you might receive. In Tesla’s case, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
We’ve pulled a small sample of positive and negative reviews from Tesla Solar’s Better Business Bureau and Trustpilot pages. These reviews have been lightly edited for spelling and grammar.
5 star reviews
“My entire experience with Tesla Energy Solar was seamless. I honestly give all that credit to (the salesperson). He was very patient with all my questions. He walked me through every single step and followed through on all elements. I received several quotes from other companies and was ignored by others. I would without a doubt recommend Tesla Solar Energy and (the salesperson)!” Rosa G. February 22, 2023
“A neighbor referred me to this firm as I had no idea where to start. Being retired, I was concerned about saving money in the now. The system that was built for me was able to save me 50% on my monthly electricity costs. Every dollar counts at my age, so I am more than happy to accept those savings.” Amirat N. August 8, 2022
1 star reviews
“We love Tesla cars and the philosophy. We made a HUGE mistake in extending that trust to the solar energy unit. It has been the single worst customer experience we’ve had in fifty years. Buy the cars. Whatever you do, don’t order their solar system or you will go months and months awaiting the smallest inevitable repair.” Owen W. August 10, 2023
“The only thing worse than Tesla service centers is the service you get from Tesla Energy. Tesla told us our system would take three days to install. After not showing up for 15 to 20 appointments, the system took 35 days to install. The system never worked the way it should. It is underproducing massively compared to what Tesla said it would. Tesla doesn’t monitor the system much at all. They installed inverters that were already so out of date that they needed to upgrade motherboards after the installation. One of my inverters stopped working later, and it takes a month or more to get Tesla to show up to fix the issue.” Adam July 4, 2023
How we evaluated the best solar shingles
CNET has not performed any form of hands-on testing with these products. Solar shingles are part of a complex PV system that’s integrated into the roof of a house or structure. This makes hand-on testing difficult. Instead, we took the most common solar shingle brands on the market, and made comparisons between them to find the best option. It’s also important to note the limited availability of solar roof products, making choices for this list limited as well. Here’s how we scored the best solar shingles.
First, we determined what categories we would use to evaluate each solar shingle. Each category was given a weight reflecting how important we felt it was to the average consumer. After examining data provided by manufacturers and speaking with subject matter experts (who did not influence the choices that were made for this list), these were the categories we chose to evaluate each solar shingle brand on.
- Product warranty: 20%
- Wind and weatherization warranty: 15%
- Power output and performance warranty: 20%
- Wind rating: 10%
- Shingle efficiency: 15%
- Shingle wattage per square foot: 20%
We looked at five of the most popular solar shingle providers on the market, collected the data for each category and compared the numbers. Each category (for every solar shingle) was given a tier-style rating to evaluate which aspects of each solar shingle were above average (among our list), just average or below average.