Does the Tesla roofing pencil out?

July 2019—Will you need a new roof in the next 5 years? If so, you might be wondering about Elon Musk’s solar roofing tiles. They’re just coming on the market in eight states so hopefully prices will continue to fall. But here are numbers as it stands now.

Tesla sells two variants of tile. The first, which actually generates solar energy, costs $42 per square foot. The second is a dummy tile, and it costs $11 per square foot. The dummy tiles are actually a bit weaker to enable the installers to cut them to size. Tesla recommends a mix of 35 percent solar versus non-solar, which means a roof probably costs around $21.85 per square foot.

According to this article, that’s more than asphalt shingles but less than tile, metal or slate.

Amanda Tobler installed them on her California house. Here’s how the energy savings there (with relatively high electricity rates) penciled out.

She tells Inverse that her energy bills for the previous 12 months came to "about $4,000 total." The year she had the roof, she paid $119.61 on a minimum delivery charge to stay connected to the grid. They also received $42.25 back for surplus energy, meaning they paid $77.36 for the total year.

This means Tobler saved $3,922 in a single year for the roof. Over 30 years she would have saved $117,660. That means, after 13 years of owning the roof, it probably would have paid for itself.

That payback period is not much longer than just buying solar panels (last I did the math, it was about 11 years), and you get a brand new 30 year roof in the deal. For those of you who don’t plan to stay in the house for decades, it remains to be seen how much a solar roof increases the market value of the house. But according to Zillow, traditional solar panels increase home values by an average of 4.1 percent across the US. (Source)

Darcy Hitchcock