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The Tesla Solar Roof: How Does it Compare to Conventional Solar Systems?


When the pre-order for Elon Musk’s innovative new Tesla Solar Roof was launched on May 10th of this year, it caused a serious buzz. Naturally, the pragmatists in the crowd immediately began crunching numbers and determining whether or not a Tesla Solar Roof was better than conventional solar systems.

Better is a bit too subjective, however, so let’s take a look at both technologies and see how the Tesla Solar Roof compares to traditional panels across the board.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks

For homeowners with anywhere from a modest to impressive (but short of princely) income, the cost is the single most important factor in any new investment. There is a ceiling past which the budget won’t reach, particularly when rival products are also on the market at a lower price.

A price comparison by EnergySage suggests that an average house on the West Coast (California) would require a conventional solar system of 8.5kW to offset their monthly energy bills. This would cost US$26,030. Using the Tesla Solar Roof Calculator (only available in the US for now), a 6.5kW Solar Roof would cost over US$50,000.

This article by Effect Home Builders suggests that a comparable conventional setup costs less than half of what a Tesla Solar Roof will set you back.

What About if the Roof Needs Replaced Anyway?

Most houses have roofs that will last anywhere from 20 to 60+ years. However, if yours is needing to be replaced – or you’re buying a new property with an aging roof – then suddenly the Tesla Solar Roof becomes much more affordable. Still 10-20% more expensive, but it’s now directly comparable on a financial level, which it won’t be if you’re looking solely at a solar performance vs cost chart.

How About Performance?

Choosing to put cost aside for a moment, it seems like both systems are equally capable of producing enough solar energy to run an average home. The full specs haven’t been released yet for the Solar Roof, however.

The difficulty is in separating the proverbial wheat from the chaff (the technical truth from the necessarily biased marketing) and doing any direct comparison. Tesla released a Solar Roof hail test which showed regular roofing tiles shattering on impact with hail while the Tesla tile was unaffected, but many viewers noticed the different rigging system holding the regular and Tesla tiles in place.

Tesla is no different to any major technology firm in that they must market the strengths and novelties of their product ahead of any potential weaknesses. For the time being, we’ll have to put a question mark over the “performance” comparison, since the empirical data just isn’t there yet.

The Intangibles

Aesthetic

What the Tesla Solar Roof really does provide over conventional solar systems is the look. Only about 35% of the tiles are solar ones (according to the standard “package” offered by Tesla) and the remainder are simply strong, glass roofing tiles. Elon Musk says it’s impossible to tell them apart from the ground, and the look is exceptionally sleek.

In addition, there will be four different styles of tile to choose from. Two are available to order now, the other tiles will be released in 2018, of which one is a very attractive slate option. It’s not yet understood whether or not the price of these latest tiles will be higher than the others.

Property Value

Would the addition of a cutting-edge, incredibly attractive solar roof boost the market value of a property over its same-old-shingles rival? Undoubtedly so. For those able to look further down the line at the long-term, a Solar Roof could be a very prudent investment.

At the end of the day, the numbers are fairly plain: right now, the Tesla Solar Roof is the more expensive option at possibly twice as much investment as a conventional solar system. However, if you can afford it, then it’s a very sleek, modern and impressive addition to your home.

The Tesla Solar Roof may not be within budget for average, working-class Canadians quite yet, but the possibilities of this technology are exhilarating. Want to learn more about solar from the industry experts? Give us a call or send an email, and keep your eyes open for Generation 2 of the Tesla Solar Roof!

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