The Actual Cost of the Tesla Solar Roof

By Kyle Graycar
10 May 2017
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Today, Tesla launched the pre-ordering for their new Solar Roof Technology. Homeowners can get a quick price and savings estimate, and put $1000 down to get in line for the new Tesla Solar Roof.

We’ve been very curious to see the actual cost of Tesla’s solar tiles. Elon Musk had proudly stated that the Solar Roof would cost less than the combined cost of a new traditional roof and regular solar panel system. Using Pick My Solar’s solar calculator, let’s see if Musk’s statement makes sense:


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According to Tesla’s Solar Roof web page (see above), a typical 2,000 square foot home in California’s Bay Area would need a $52,300 Solar Roof to offset the energy needs of a $200 monthly electric bill (in this example we used PG&E as the utility provider). The cost of the Solar Roof per square foot of this system is $26.15/square foot, notably higher than the $21.85/square foot that Tesla said would be what most homeowners can expect to pay. This is because there are two different kinds of tiles in the roof, solar and non-solar tiles. The ratio of solar tiles to non-solar tiles will drastically affect the cost per square foot of the entire solar roof. Initial reports have shown that non-solar tiles cost $11/square foot, while solar tiles cost $42/square foot.

Completely offsetting a $200 electricity bill would mean that the Solar Roof is producing around 6 kW of energy. From the market average of $3.20/watt, this would be producing the same amount of energy as a solar panel system that costs $19,200 before incentives.

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A re-roofing of a composite shingle roof, which would aesthetically be the most comparable material to the two Tesla Solar Roofs available in 2017, costs around $3.50/square foot. For this example, a new roof would cost $6,905.50. Therefore, the total cost for a new roof and solar panel system would be only $26,105.50 -- HALF the cost of Tesla’s Solar Roof.

Elon later stated that the “traditional” roof he was referring to was made of ceramic or concrete tile, which would cost around $5/square foot. A new ceramic tile roof and solar panel system would still be over $20,000 less than the Tesla Solar Roof, although the roofing costs we've used assume no need to modify or replace existing framing and surfacing underneath the tiling. 

From our initial analysis, it does not appear that Tesla is remotely close to being able to support their claim that the Solar Roof will be cheaper than a new roof plus a new solar panel system. It’s an unproven technology that still has years to go before it’s fully developed and ready for wide-scale deployment.

On the flip side, the Solar Roof shingles look spectacular. It takes you one step closer to your childhood dream of living in a spaceship. The durability of the tempered-glass tiles is very impressive, too. An “Infinite Solar Tile Warranty” has a great ring to it.

**With preorders now available for the Tesla solar roof, we wanted our readers to have a surface level understanding of the actual cost of the roof. Within the next few days we will be rolling out a more elaborate and in-depth analysis of Tesla's new solar product.**

***Update: Click here to read our more elaborate, in-depth analysis.***

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