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Comparing a Traditional Roof to a Tesla Solar Roof: Costs, Pros, & Cons


The Tesla Solar Roof was unveiled by Elon Musk earlier this year and has immediately polarized audiences. It comes with all the sleek, precision-manufacturing excellence we expect from Tesla’s electric cars, but also a quiet ambiguity when it comes to specific energy performance and cost.

But how does the latest top-of-the-range solar roof compared to the traditional residential roofing which has served Americans for generations? Let’s find out.

The Cost of Roof Replacement

The cost of replacing a traditional asphalt roof can be anywhere from $5k-25k depending on the pitch, layout complexity, accessibility and the cost of specific materials used. A middle-of-the-road value would be $12-15k, though you should get in touch if you ever want an accurate quote.

Some homeowners are unhappy with the choice of tiles, but most often a roof replacement comes as a result of damage or materials exceeding their sell-by date. For those looking to replace their roof, they now have a high-tech option: the Tesla Solar Roof.

What Is A “Solar Roof”

Hot from the design and manufacturing teams at Tesla, their new Solar Roof is a collection of sleek, seamlessly integrated, dark glass tiles. Around 40% of these tiles will be solar panels, though they all look identical to passersby.

Hefty Pricetag

For an average home on the West Coast, the cost of a Solar Roof installation is around $50,000. This assumes a 3000 sq. ft property which relies entirely on solar. If your solar requirements are smaller, then of course the number of “standard” tiles increases and the price drops.

Whichever way you look at it, the Tesla Solar Roof is anywhere from 2-4 times more expensive than traditional roofing.

Why Buy From Tesla?

The most obvious attraction to Elon Musk’s new product is twofold: the aesthetic appeal and the brand name, Tesla.

Photos of houses with the Tesla roofing are impressive. The roof is regular and pristine, and can be either opulent or subtle depending on your tile choice, with more design options being made available in 2018.

Of course, Tesla is a firm with global renown and an enormous following – their efforts to find technological solutions to the energy crisis has enamoured millions. Having their latest release decorating your roof is a show of status which will appeal to many buyers.

The company is too smart to rely purely on reputation and style, however. The toughened glass panels make excellent roofing tiles which will provide safe, reliable protection from the elements for decades after the solar panels give up. Of course, the solar elements will simply be replaced 20-30 years down the line.

Another big plus for potential buyers is the lifetime guarantee offered with every roof. They have 100% faith in their product, and that translates into promises of excellent maintenance.

The Downsides

Cost is the main one. Unless you have substantial savings and no major plans for investing them elsewhere, $50k is a lot of money. More importantly, this is a first generation product, and that brings all sorts of problems on its own.

Extensive in-house testing never prepares a company for the real rollout to consumers. There will be teething problems and, if you’re investing such a huge sum, you might choose to wait until Gen 2 or 3 like you would when buying an iPad.

Waiting a few years also means a bigger market, higher demand, and lower costs. We can’t predict it, but the price is likely to drop significantly once Tesla has established a sizeable market share.

Tesla Powerwall

Solar energy requires a management system to store and direct electricity as needed. The most efficient way to use solar panels is with on-site battery storage; save energy when you’re at work, use it during the evening when you’re home. Tesla’s Powerwall is their solution – and it will put you back an extra $6,000.

A Tesla Solar Roof is undoubtedly impressive and will give your house an aesthetic appeal above any of your neighbors, but the pricetag is a serious deterrent. Add in the complexity of integrating your home energy system and on-site storage, and it becomes a full energy solution – not just a roof. The future for Tesla and this technology, however, is extremely bright.

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