Tesla solar roof cost vs. solar panels: worth the premium?

tesla solar roof vs solar panels

Tesla recently announced pricing for their new solar roof product, a roof replacement for your home. The new solution requires that you replace your existing roof with Tesla’s blend of non-solar glass tiles and solar-enabled glass tiles. It is an elegant new product, designed with great aesthetics.  But the question is ultimately does installing this new roof make financial sense for your home? After initial analysis, we’ve found that for the majority of homeowners the answer is currently “no”. Just as Tesla’s luxury sports cars are out of reach for most drivers today, Tesla’s new solar roof is simply too expensive for most American homeowners to justify spending their money on.


How much does the Tesla solar roof cost, and is it worth the premium?

To easily explain Tesla’s solar roof cost and its price premium, we’ll detail three different scenarios below –  read on to see which describes you best! We’ll be using a 3000 sq. ft. home in Southern California with a $200 monthly electric bill in our example, although we ran this analysis for several different states and home sizes and the results remained similar.


Scenario 1: You are interested in going solar, but don’t need to replace your roof

This is the most common scenario for the vast majority of homeowners in the U.S. today. You’ve been interested in installing solar panels for a while, and realize that costs have come down enough for it to be an achievable home upgrade. You’ve also heard a lot of media buzz around the Tesla solar roof lately, but aren’t sure if it’s worth the cost. Most importantly, you don’t need to replace your roof in the next three to five years.

If this description sounds like you, the straightforward answer is that Tesla’s solar roof won’t make financial sense for your home. Here’s why: it is both a new roof and a solar installation. If you don’t need a new roof, you risk getting upsold on a product that you weren’t even shopping for in the first place. And the price tag of this upsell is considerable. While the owner of our 3000 sq. ft. home in California would typically install a 8.5kW solar panel system for $26,030 before rebates, Tesla’s roof calculator shows that only a 6.25kW solar roof priced at $50,900 is possible. The result is that Tesla’s solar roof will cost nearly $25,000 more than installing solar panels, and yet will only deliver 77% as much solar electricity (due to it being a smaller system size). You’re paying more for less, and that just doesn’t make good financial sense.

tesla solar roof price vs solar panels

Scenario 2: You are interested in going solar, and you also need to replace your roof

While this is a less common scenario, it may fit you if your current roof is coming up on the end of its useful life. In general, asphalt shingles tend to last 20 to 30 years, and metal and slate roofs can last over 60 years (we recommend you consult with a local roofing expert for specifics about your property). This scenario may also fit you if you’re in the process of building a new home from scratch, and haven’t picked out your roofing material yet. In this scenario, unlike the first one, you are in the market and actively shopping for both a new roof and a solar panel installation.

If this description fits you better, Tesla’s solar roof may make more financial sense. In this case, you have the option of either replacing your roof first and then installing traditional solar panels, or combining both actions with the installation of a Tesla solar roof. For our example homeowner in California, we used Consumer Reports’ estimate of a $20,000 roof replacement and added that to our initial $26,030 gross costs of installation from Scenario 1. Tesla’s solar roof is still 10% more expensive than replacing your roof and adding solar panels (in some cases it’s 20% more), but that’s the price premium you’ll have to pay for installing their attractive glass tiles on your rooftop. Lastly, just like in the first scenario, it’s worth mentioning that Tesla’s solar roof will only produce about three quarters the level of solar electricity as compared to traditional solar panels – meaning your electricity bill won’t go down as much as it could.

cost of replacing roof with solar vs tesla roof price

Scenario 3: You love new technology, want solar, and have money to burn

If you have a shiny Tesla Model S in your driveway, an Apple Watch on your wrist, and an overflowing bank account – there is now a new roof for you! All kidding aside, there are certainly homeowners out there who simply want the newest technology possible and don’t consider factors like price, value, or the risk of getting upsold a new roof they don’t need. For shoppers in this category who are considering solar, the Tesla solar roof is a natural fit. In fact, we believe that the majority of buyers for Tesla’s solar roof will come from this third category. At EnergySage, we think that more solar on rooftops is always better than less, and look forward to this group of early adopters installing this new roof product on their homes.

Early adopters of new technologies tend to be more likely to tolerate the hiccups that often occur with new products, too. While other companies have offered solar tiles before, these products have historically been hard to install and offered mixed performance results. For Tesla’s solar roof, we hope the rollout will look more like the Model S, exceeding performance expectations for its adoring fans. But the Model S was not Tesla’s first car. It’s also possible that the first solar roof will perform more like the Roadster, which Elon Musk declared a “disaster” in retrospect.