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Tesla Solar Roof Installation

by Moderator

Solar Roof

Energy independence, cost-efficient, and a great looking roof!

Introduction

We are extremely pleased with our new Tesla solar roof because –

  • We get independence from our local electric companies power problems
  • It greatly reduced our electric bill, almost to zero
  • Visually, it looks better than our old roof
  • No broken tiles when walking on the roof, a major problem with our old roof

We needed to replace our leaky roof, so we started to look for solutions in 2019 and ending up having one of the first version 3 Solar roofs installed at the beginning of 2020. This included a 10.8-kWh solar roof, two Powerwalls, two dual-channel solar inverters, and the gateway. During the installation, we took a time-lapse video and edited it into this short 2:33 minute video. (Sep-2020 Update)

Installation

While we suffered a number of rain delays at the end of 2019, once we got some dry weather the project proceeded at full speed. We are extremely happy with the quality of the work by the Tesla crew.

The solar roof is made up of three primary items.  Glass solar tiles are about 45” x 15” and mount about 1” off the roof for cooling.  In my installation, about half the tiles are solar tiles.  Tesla also makes a non-solar glass tile, which fills in other areas.  These non-solar tiles also come in various widths to fill out a row, close to a ridge, valley, or roof edge. From the ground, you can’t tell the solar tile from the non-solar tiles.

Surprisingly to me, there was a lot of metalwork.  Metal flashing is placed around every roof protuberance, such as vents, skylights, and chimneys as well as roof valleys.  When a row approaches a ridge or valley, they also cut metal tiles to fit along these edges. The metal tiles are painted black and have a rough surface pressed into the metal that closely matches the glass tile surface.

Apparently, in the version 2 solar roof, they cut glass tiles diagonally to meet up with valleys and ridges. I understand that many tiles broke during cutting and it was very labor-intensive. The version 3 design uses metal tiles that are easy to cut diagonally using a shear. This design change is one reason Tesla could significantly drop the cost of the project for version 3 roofs, yet still look great.

During the work, the old gutters and drainpipes were removed. During a break in the work, we painted the rafter-ends and the areas for the downspouts. This is far easier at this point in the project.  After the inverters were installed, I also painted the conduit to match the wall.   With the Powerwalls, they are mounted to steel rails on a garage wall. It was cool to see these 250-pound beasts mounted.  I covered the steel rails with white Panduit FS2X2WH6NM covers ($32) and designed and made 3D printed ends to make it look slightly nicer. Likely overkill for the garage.

The only issue I had is one of the four solar sections had the wires reversed to the inverters. Tesla sent out an electrician who figured it out and fixed it. I was not expecting such a fast response (about a week) during the start of the lockdowns.

Results

Throughout the project they keep me appraised about the project.  On occasions when I needed to call Tesla Energy, I got through to the right person without delay, except once, where they called back the next day on a non-critical item.

On most summer days, we are 100% powered from the solar roof/Powerwalls, while sending excess power to the grid. The app has worked well. It shows the solar power generated, the amount of power the house is using, the direction and amount of power from the grid, and Powerwalls.  Here’s one example in the morning showing the power is flowing from the solar roof to the house, the Powerwall charging (it’s nearing 100% SOC), and sending power to the grid.

powerflow

In the app, you Tap on any item to get more details, such as a graph of the power over each day and total power for the day.

Rebates

For 2020, there is a 26% federal tax credit on the solar portion of the roof or about 2/3’s of the project cost in my case. If the Powerwalls are installed at the same time as the solar roof, it also gets the 26% tax credit. This credit is decreasing each year.  In 2021, the credit drops to 22% and down to 10% in 2022.

Some states have additional rebates or tax credits.  For example, Hawaii offers a 35% tax credit on solar, worth up to $5,000.

In California, there is an SGIP rebate on Powerwalls that goes up to $7500. These funds tend to run out and later get funded again. It is not something you can depend on, but a nice bonus if it happens.

Costs and Value

This is a hard one to compare with a different house, as each system is so unique including the roofing size, number of protuberances, rooflines, and more. Your location is a factor too, both from labor costs and local building permit costs. Prior to the new roof, we had several leaks, and the cement tile roof was fragile and tiles often broke when walked on it. It was time for a replacement.

In the summary of 2019, I had a number of roof replacements quoted before we considered the solar roof.  Quotes ran from about $20K to $25K for an ordinary asphalt roof to a range of $60K to $89K for the roof we wanted – a high-quality synthetic material that looks like a shake roof.  These quotes were just for a roof – no solar or Powerwalls.

The Tesla roof came in at $74K, which included all labor, the tear-off, a 10.8-kW solar roof, and two Powerwalls and permit fees.  Of this $74K, with tax credits and rebates this end up between $55K and $60K.  So, we ended up getting solar, Powerwalls, a great looking roof, for less than the cost of the luxury roof we were considering.

This may or may not make sense for you as there are so many factors. You may be happy with a low-cost asphalt roof and add a separate solar system. If you don’t need a new roof, it likely makes little sense to go with a Solar roof.  There are other options that make better sense.

I also considered the value added to the house.  I expect the project’s cost significantly increases the value of our house.  While we are not planning to sell anytime soon, it is nice to know that even ignoring the free electricity, it still has a lot of value. Location is a huge factor. We live in the Bay area, with crazy high house prices.  The roof cost is a small fraction of the house.  In another area, with low house values, it is unclear that a $55K roof/solar/Powerwall adds as much to the house value.  Now it may be the Tesla costs are also lower in such areas, as labor costs and permit costs should be less than our area.

My house insurance costs also went up slightly, at about $75/year.  Be aware if you have a shake roof in a fire hazard area, your insurance costs could go down significantly if you replace it with a fire-resistant roof like the solar roof.

We expect to save about $3K/year in electricity costs at today’s prices.  Over a 25-year period, that’s $75K, so we come out ahead on this metric as well.  Electricity prices are expected to go up, which further helps the value.  My system also looks like it generates more power than we use, so it may generate revenue from the utility, but our utility pays little for power generation – about $0.03 kWh.  Some areas pay far more and could factor into the value.

The last factor was the stability of power.  In our area, our electric utility expects to shut off power to our area multiple times during the summer to reduce fire risk. Now, this may only be 2 or 3 days without power but seeing how the system runs everything in my house and charges my EV without any grid power, we are not going to be bothered by power outages.

Summary

The positives for a solar roof with Powerwalls:

  • Great looking fire-resistant roof
  • Increase in house value covers the cost (for us)
  • Electricity generated makes it a profit center
  • Indefinite house power in the event of grid failures
  • No need for cumbersome UPS for PCs
  • No exposed wires for squirrels to chew on (as compared with solar panels)

The negatives:

  • It doesn’t make nearly as much financial sense if you don’t need a new roof
  • The roof is slippery when wet
  • The glass tiles are quite reflective and could be annoying at some sun angles

These are complex projects with interactions with the city building department, city inspectors, electricians, roofers, and more. Tesla exceeded my high expectations.

With COVID, my guess is Tesla may have quite a bit of backlog.  If you decide to get a quote, save $100 off the purchase price by using a referral code. If you have a friend that owns a Tesla vehicle, they can provide the code, or you use my code: http://ts.la/frank9840.  I’m also happy to answer any questions you may have either here or in the Tesla Energy forum.  I’m not a Tesla employee but have been a long-time proponent of what Tesla is doing.