So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and invest in your future, and that of the planet, by powering your home with green roofing. The next step is deciding which solar technology is right for you. While photovoltaic solar panels are the industry standard, you may have recently caught wind of Tesla’s soon-to-be-released Solar Roof which promises an innovative new way to power your home. So which do you choose? Is the Solar Roof worth waiting for? This article will help you decide.
What is the Tesla Solar Roof?
While you may have heard of the solar roof in passing thanks to Tesla’s tireless PR efforts, chances are you haven’t had the opportunity to fully explore this new technology. The Solar Roof uses special tiles made from solar glass, available in a variety of styles to suit the aesthetics of your home, to generate electricity from the sun. Each individual roof tile is like a miniature solar panel. Tesla also manufactures identical non-solar tiles at a much lower cost so you need only install as much power generating surface area as is required to offset your energy needs. From the street, it looks just like a regular roof.
Things to consider when deciding on solar panels vs. solar roof
When making major, long-term decisions about your home, it is important to evaluate your priorities and inform yourself accordingly. Here are a few major touch-points for many consumers.
For most homeowners, costs are a decisive factor when considering an upgrade or constructing a new home. Much like their vehicles, Tesla has priced their Solar Roofs at a premium. The extent of the premium varies considerably on whether or not you are already planning to install a new roof. For a home with a roof in good condition that is many years from needing replacement, it is nearly 70% less expensive to simply install solar panels on top of the existing structure.
For those building a brand new home, or whose roofs are already in need of replacement, the option of a Solar Roof is much more viable. There is still, however, a 35% premium for the Tesla technology as compared with traditional solar panel installation. For a full understanding of the premiums, you can read our thorough breakdown of Tesla’s pricing here.
Tesla’s tiles are stronger and more durable than standard roofing tiles and also come with an outstanding warranty, both of which facts could offset some of these costs provided you have the initial capital. Consult your established budget to determine how these price premiums affect your decision.
Willingness to experiment with unproven technology
Becoming an early adopter of new technology is always a risk-reward proposition. Being ahead of the curve may provide some competitive advantage or cache, but you also risk being a guinea pig for future iterations of the technology. The Tesla solar roof has no operational history or established success stories. In comparison, conventional solar panels have been around for 40 years and are now installed on over 1 million homes in the US alone.
Because the solar roof technology is so new, many operational details remain unclear to the public further clouding the decision-making process. For example, Tesla hasn’t clarified how their Solar Roof is going to perform given that it is installed flush and standard air-cooling may not be possible. Without cooling, the panels will operate at higher temperatures which ultimately produces a drop in efficiency.
Indeed, Tesla has released few details in general about the installation process. If each solar tile has to be manually connected in series, complexities in installation and maintenance will arise that have not been clearly spelled out. They also haven’t specified whether their solar tiles are fire code compliant.
That said, though the Solar Roof is new, Tesla is not. The company is a well-established innovator with plenty of proven technological expertise. Given that the roof over your house and the power within it are two vital components of your basic right to shelter, consider carefully your willingness to trust this as-yet-unproven technology.
When it comes to aesthetics, Tesla is the clear frontrunner. The allure of their sleek electric cars makes it clear that design is a major component of their product development. They don’t just produce new technology, they produce beautiful new technology. For the Solar Roof, the beauty is in the simplicity. From street level, the glass tiles look just like a typical roof. Standard PV panels are clunky in comparison, though newer thin-film panels are increasingly approaching the subtlety of solar shingles. For the homeowner, the question is simply whether the aesthetic upgrade is worth the associated rise in price.
Timeframe for installation
When you want your roof finished may end up being the deciding factor as Tesla is yet to start the general installation of their solar roofs. They are currently only available for pre-order. So far, only Elon Musk, Tesla CTO JB Straubel, and a few choice employees who worked on the project are sporting a Solar Roof on their house. If you need a roof now or are looking to start saving money on your energy bills immediately, you may not have the patience to wait for the full roll-out of the Solar Roof. Your location could also impact the timeline as the Solar Roof is not yet available everywhere and will likely come to some markets sooner than others. Even Musk himself describes streamlining the installation process as a “challenging technical task” and suggests that the manufacturing of the Solar Roof would “start off very slowly and grow exponentially.”
Choosing to invest in solar technology is one of the best choices you, as a homeowner, can make. Assess your budget, evaluate your priorities, and determine your timeframe for installation in order to make an informed decision about the best solar infrastructure for your home. Whether you opt for a traditional solar panel array or the new Tesla Solar Roof, you will be saving money on your energy bills and contributing to a healthier future for our planet.