Tesla Solar Roof: A Complete Guide

Let’s face it, the world is changing. Fast.

Source: Tesla

Renewable energy production is soaring, electric vehicle sales are booming – there truly is an environmental revolution on the way.

Millions of homeowners across the globe are turning to solar energy to power their lights, appliances, and even charge their cars. This has caused an eruption in solar panel innovation, the latest technology being solar roofs. Designed by Tesla, the concept is to replace the customers entire roof with solar tiles and incorporate this with their latest Powerwall batteries.

As with any new technology, it can be somewhat daunting to figure out the details. Keep reading as I break down everything from the cost to the installation process of Tesla’s new Solar Roof.

How Does Solar Power Work?

Simply put, solar power harnesses the light from the sun and converts this into electricity which can then be used to power your home or sold back to the grid when in excess.

From the inverter, the AC electricity is directed into your main switchboard from where it will be sent around your home to power your lights and appliances.

6.6kw system installed by myself.

If you are producing more electricity than you personally use, this excess may be exported back into the grid at a fixed price, known as a feed-in tariff.

What is Tesla’s Solar Roof?

First announced back in 2016, the latest solar technology offers a much more attractive and discreet method of generating solar power. Customers will receive an entirely new roof made up of a mixture of tempered glass solar tiles and non-solar replicas.

“Solar Roof complements your home’s architecture while turning sunlight into electricity.”

The mixture of tiles is calculated using a variety of factors, such as average level of sunshine, roof pitch, and your personal energy requirements. Musk confirmed that typically the roof will contain 40% solar tiles to 60% regular.

With an integrated Powerwall battery, energy can be generated, stored, and used day or night, allowing owners to power their homes without any reliance on the grid.

In the latter months of 2019, Tesla released the third version of their solar roof which promised significant improvements:

  • Larger tiles
  • Faster installation times
  • Increased energy production
  • Reduced cost

Source: Tesla

Cost of Tesla Solar Roof

According to Tesla, the newest version of their Solar Roof (Solarglass) is now cheaper than installing a new concrete tile roof with solar panels. For an average home, prices now start at US$34,000 for a 10kW system after government incentives. This now makes it a very realistic option for those who are building a new house or require a roof replacement.

The estimate is that the solar roof tiles will cost US$2.01 per watt, while the non-solar replica tiles will be priced at $7.65 per square foot.   

Customers are also encouraged to purchase a Powerwall battery to store excess electricity generated by their new roof. Without a battery in place, you would still be reliant on the grid during heavy cloud cover or at night. In order to be completely off-grid and power your home using solar during the evening, a battery is essential. This will increase costs dramatically as Tesla’s Powerwall currently costs $11,500 before incentives.

While the Powerwall is an expensive addition, it offers complete energy independence from the grid and has been rapidly dropping in price since its release. As Tesla’s research and development surges and their technology improves, these prices are sure to drop even further – the future is bright (no pun intended).

Installation Process of a Tesla Solar Roof

Source: Tesla

Waterproof Underlayment

After the careful removal of the buildings original roof (unless installing on a new build) installers will lay down a waterproof underlayment, seen as the white surface in the photo above.

This creates a completely watertight foundation for the solar system to be installed upon. Additionally, it acts as a slip resistant surface to allow installers to work safely.

Metal Framework

The next step includes setting up metal framework along all the edges, peaks, and valleys across the entire roofs structure. This acts as protection from all types of precipitation while also allowing effective drainage into the roofs gutter.

Mounting Bricks

Individual mounting bricks are then installed. These aid Tesla’s installers when attaching tiles to the roof and create a smooth and even integration of each tile within the structure.

Solar & Non-Solar Tiles

Source: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

Obviously, the main component of Tesla’s Solar Roof is – you guessed it, the solar tiles.

The predetermined mixture of both solar PV tiles and replica glass versions arrive on site as pre-wired modules, consisting of a stack of three tiles. This drastically speeds up the installation process as individual tiles do not have to be wired on site.

The newest versions of their PV tiles have been expertly designed by Tesla. The pre-sealed joints between each tile guarantee the modules to be consistently watertight and leave no room for installer error. Additionally, the tiles come equipped with creatively conceived ‘c-clip’ mounts and stand-offs, allowing them to attach to the roof effortlessly at the appropriate angle.

Currently, each module in the system produces approximately 25 Watts.

The non-solar tiles are tempered glass replicas, referred to as Roofing Tiles. These are used in certain sections of the roof where it is not practical to place solar modules, such as areas with significant shading or along the seams of the roof.

The System

Once every module has been installed and each string wired, they then connect through the roof via an assortment of wires and RSD’s (Rapid Shutdown Devices). The electrical output is then fed into a solar inverter which is responsible for converting the DC into all important AC to power your home.

The majority of customers will also have a Powerwall battery installed alongside the inverter. This can be trickle charged throughout the day, so homeowners are able to use solar energy even after the sun has set. This creates the potential to be completely off-grid and generate all electricity needs via solar.

Pros and Cons of the Tesla Solar Roof

Every new product that Tesla releases tends to be dissected and evaluated by both their loyal fanbase and their incessant haters. So, let’s take an unbiased look at both the pros and cons of the Tesla Solar Roof.

Pros

Aesthetically Pleasing & Durable Roof

There’s no denying, Tesla’s roof is beautiful, and with a selection of tile designs to choose from (Tuscan, Slate, Textured & Smooth), customers are able to select their desired style.

Source: Tesla

Not only are customers receiving solar power, but also an incredibly attractive new addition to their home. Additionally, the solar tiles received the highest possible marks in hail, wind, and fire resistance, while also claiming to be three times stronger than traditional roofing tiles. Golf ball size hail is no match for Elon’s creation!

Some people find conventional solar panels ugly and consider them an eye-sore on their homes. Tesla’s solar roof is indistinguishable from an ordinary roof allowing individuals to benefit from solar while improving the aesthetic of their home.

Higher Output Potential

It’s not rocket science that if your entire roof is made up of solar PV modules, you are likely to be generating more power than a traditional solar panel array. The average size of Tesla’s solar roof is north of 10kw, while the standard solar panel system is usually around 6.6kw. This, partnered with high-end batteries, creates a much higher output potential for homeowners, making it more likely to cut loose from the grid.

Fantastic Warranty

The Solar Roof comes with a substantial 30-year warranty on both energy output and weatherisation. Due to this being new technology there is no current record of how the system will work 15 years after installation. This warranty will set fears aside, putting customers at ease if anything were to ever go wrong.

Furthermore, Tesla provide a lifetime warranty on the tiles themselves, meaning if they were ever to break (even after the 30-year warranty) they are covered and will be replaced free of charge!

Early Pioneer

One major reason many people will opt for the Solar Roof is to be an innovative technology pioneer and to be one of the first to join the new solar revolution. It will be extremely exciting to own such new and ground-breaking technology, and for those with the disposable income this may be enough reason to order the roof.

Source: Tesla

Cons

High Cost

Look, the Solar Roof is expensive. There’s no getting around that, and for the vast majority of people it just is not an economically viable option (yet). Even though the price has dropped considerably since its initial announcement in 2016, it will still be a while before we see entire streets covered with Tesla Solar Roof’s.

Availability

Currently the demand is far outweighing the supply of the Solar Roof, and with Elon busying himself with electric vehicles and sending rockets to Mars, it’s no real surprise.

Many people have been on the waitlist for over a year now, and for those who require a new roof will likely not be able to wait that long.

As production gets ramped up in the coming years and more Tesla Gigafactory’s are created this problem will dissipate. Firstly, however, they need to clear the backlog of their enthusiastic customers.

Currently, the product is only being installed in the USA and only the option to pre-order across the rest of the globe.

New Technology

As with any new technology that bursts onto the market, there is the potential for issues to arise. Within four years Tesla have already released three editions of the Solar Roof, indicating they are well aware of certain problems and are working hard to fix them.

This may be disconcerting for some customers, as why would they want to invest so much money into something so new and untested.

Furthermore, there are far more individual parts in a Tesla Solar Roof than a conventional solar array, thus increasing the potential for failures and required maintenance.

As of 2020, Tesla’s Solar Roof is a magnificent product with an exorbitantly high up-front cost. Currently, it is really only an option for individuals who are willing to pay more for early access to new and exciting technology.

Source: Tesla

As previously mentioned, Tesla has released three versions within four years. This shows how rapidly this product has been improving as research delves deeper and the technology is enhanced. People are beginning to realise that solar power – well, all renewable energies really, are the way of the future. The sun is the Earth’s most abundant, sustainable, and reliable energy source – and it’s completely free! It is mind boggling that we are not already generating our entire planets energy needs via renewable sources, and instead burning finite resources that damage our environment.

When we look at any form of technology the rise in production and quality is extremely rapid and exponential. Take the mobile phone for example, in the year 2000 we were all walking around with the infamous Nokia 3310 ‘brick’ phones. In 2020, the iPhone 12 has been released boasting incredible silicon processors and about 17 cameras.

Now imagine what twenty years will do for solar technology, especially in massive companies such as Tesla. As the cost of solar continues to fall, and drops below the prices of fossil fuels, we will see a transition (which we are already beginning to witness) to renewables. The demand for solar will skyrocket which will generate an explosion in technology innovation. This will create an ‘arms race’ between leading companies, who will all want to offer the most efficient and affordable solar PV modules.

Perhaps Tesla has dominated the next big leap in renewable energy technology or will a rival company springboard off the Solar Roof and create a cheaper and more efficient product? Only time will tell, but regardless, it will be extremely exciting to witness this solar revolution. 

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