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Justin Hollender

Solar Tiles for Roofing – Wave of the Future, or is the Price Higher Than The Sun?

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First, if you are reading this you likely have an interest in roof tile solar energy, or you just crave all things solar. I, on the other hand, often force myself to write blog posts because I want to learn all I can about a particular subject, or for that matter learn to intelligently pronounce certain words within an industry, like photo-voltaic! Although fascinated with solar generated power, I am always “on the job training” all the time within this space. My goal is always to attempt to take complicated things and simplify them for myself and others. Let’s see what we can learn.

True Built Home started getting requests several months ago when news of solar tiles from a company named Solar City was bought out or purchased by Elon Musk’s company Tesla. Interestingly my perspective was, “I like the way those big solar panels appear on rooftops”. However, much to my surprise others felt differently: unsightly, ugly, even dangerous if a gale force wind comes along.
In a statement in October 2016, Mr. Musk said this, “I think there’s quite a radical difference between having solar panels on your roof that actually make your house look better versus ones that do not, I think it’s going to be a night-and-day difference”. Well, that has been addressed and it appears to be the wave of the future for new roofs and roof replacements. But, here’s the rub: cost.

It has been written and repeated over the internet in news articles, company releases, blog posts, and more, that these new roof tiles will cost less than a typical 30 yr. architectural roof product. Let’s just say that typically a roof for a 2,100-2,500 square foot home with a standard two-car garage costs about 10k to install. From what we have likely all read, this seems to be repeated about the cost, “Our roof costs less than an equivalent roof, with projected savings from your utility bill.” It’s important to notice the “with” in that statement. The Tesla folks are projecting future savings into the cost equivalent of having the new tiles placed – based upon your monthly electric bill cost. That may present a problem for many of us here in the Pacific NW, because we often have the cheapest rates in the country. I am not sure what cost per KW that they are using for their projections, so costs will vary quite a bit. Now since I have done my research, perhaps you can help: I have not found an actual cost associated with those tiles. If I had to figure it out, it would take me some time to do so. Are the tiles 30 or 50-year life? What will be the cost of installation be? Will someone need to be certified by Tesla to guarantee the product against future failure or problems? Can we afford it, and does it make sense for our PNW customers?

We are eager to install this type of roof, but as of May 2017 we still do not have a cost that we can use to compare with what a traditional roof costs. I do know that a regular panel solar roof can run around 20-30k depending on what you want to accomplish in your home. From my perspective, that is at least 3 to 4-times the cost of our typical conventional roof tile. So, what typically might cost 5% of a new home, now we are looking at significantly more.

With an estimated 4-5 million new home roofs being installed annually, Mr. Musk and Tesla want to tap into that market in a big way. Will they? The wave of the future is here, but will the cost of buying, installing, etc. be too costly for us to ride?

Hear what Mr. Musk has to say about roof tiles

This is a link to a local company that covers both Washington and Oregon, but I don’t think anyone as of May 2017 knows the cost of these solar tiles yet.