As more integrators engage in offering energy creation, storage and management systems for their clients, they can expect to hear more customers asking about the most recognized brand name in the space: Tesla. Founder Elon Musk has done a great job garnering attention for not only himself, but for his products, from the Tesla high-end electric vehicles to the Powerwall home battery. But what about the new Tesla Solar Roof tiles unveiled by the company last fall?
Integrator Jordan Wills of Cloud9 Smart Home in New York City investigated the costs and return on investment of the Tesla Solar Roof for his clients. His conclusion… it takes a leap of faith by clients to make the investment, but it could be worth it.
Here is his review:
When Tesla unveiled its Solar Roof tiles last fall we all had the same question: How much? Consumer Reports calculated a max cost of $24.50 per square foot to compete in the market. Tesla just revealed the price, and running the same math came in at an impressive $21.85 per square foot. Do we finally have a viable solar energy solution for the home? Is it too good to be true?
The first thing to understand is what makes that $21.85 number viable. That cost is still significantly higher than a traditional roof ($43,000+ for a 2,000 square foot home.) The idea is that once your roof can generate most if not all of your home’s electricity, the energy saved over a 30-year period will completely offset the cost of the roof.
Tesla’s estimator factors in your square footage and number of floors, your neighborhood’s sun exposure and average electricity rates. Pricing includes your Powerwall, the cost of installation, and removal of your old roof. Tesla’s tiles are 3x stronger than standard roofing tiles, and they back them up with a warranty for the lifetime of your house… “Or infinity. Whichever comes first.” Let’s run an example:
A two-story, 3,000 square foot home in Ohio:
- Cost of roof: -$61,400
- Cost of Powerwall: -$7,000
- Value of energy over 30 years: $51,600
- Tax credit: $18,700
- Net earned over 30 years: $1,900
While Tesla’s calculator factors in the federal 30% solar investment tax credit, it does not include any local incentives you may receive. Still, the upfront investment is big. Tesla will offer financing, but once you factor interest into the equation your savings will likely fly out the window…
So does it make sense to invest $21.85 per square foot into your roof?
The two scenarios where this is worth considering are new construction projects or end-of-life of your existing roof. Tesla’s calculator does not factor in the money you would have to spend anyway on a traditional roof, so it’s not how expensive Tesla’s roof is but how much more expensive it is than a traditional roof.
Tesla Solar Roof: What's the Conclusion?
Once you find that number there are two ways to look at it:
- 30 years is too long to wait for a return on investment. The average family only stays in a home for 13 years, and there is no way to predict a solar roof’s impact on the resale value of my home. Why invest?
- Traditional roofs provide zero ROI, don’t offer lifetime warranties, and don’t look this good. If I need a roof anyway Tesla is the smarter choice, and will almost certainly add significant resale value to my home based on aesthetics, ongoing savings and eco-friendliness.
Every home is different. An AC-dependent mini mansion in Texas will have different solar potential than a modest mid-west ranch. Roof slope, neighboring buildings and trees… there are more factors to be considered beyond Tesla’s pricing calculator… but almost all would experience substantial ROI.
I recently interviewed one of our favorite architects and brought up Tesla. He replied, “It’s interesting you bring them up because they’ve been a strong part of our conversations with clients over the last 6 months.” He was talking about the Powerwall, which all of his clients seem to be interested in yet none are pulling the trigger on just yet. It seems there is a fine line between early adopter and beta tester, and a larger investment means a more skittish consumer.
This is Tesla’s big hurdle now. The numbers presented and Tesla’s track record tell us this is a smart investment. Still, people want field testing before they invest – real life case studies with real life numbers. The Catch 22 is that people need to take the leap in order to generate those numbers.
So… who’s first?