The Tesla Solar Roof is here, and if company CEO Elon Musk has his way, there will be one on most houses within 15 years. But despite its energy efficiency and dazzling looks, clean power doesn’t come cheap — and Tesla’s listed price is a little hazy on some of the details. So how much will it actually cost?
Tesla offers one figure for the cost of its proprietary solar roof: $21.85 per square foot, on average. Musk has said the tiles will cost “less than a normal roof.” The problem is Tesla’s messaging and advertising for the roof all factor in 30 years of energy savings from going solar. That makes sense, given three decades is the typical lifetime for a roof, but those aren’t savings a buyer will see on day one, or even day 1,000. And the initial price is steep.
What’s a normal roof?
On Wednesday, the company released a couple amazing photos of the solar roof installed on a house, a visual reminder that Tesla’s tiles combine the beauty of slate and the practicality of solar. They were the first actual houses — not ones on the set of Desperate Housewives — to have Tesla roofs that the public has seen.
While the high-end slate tiles looked amazing, the majority of homes in America use a cheaper asphalt shingle roof. Per Tesla’s own chart, below, asphalt shingle roofs cost, on average, about $5 per square foot to install. DIY installations come even cheaper. So right off the bat, Tesla’s pricing puts it more in the range of premium roof materials, like tile, metal, and slate.
Their chart doesn’t actually include the pre-energy savings cost of the solar roof panel. We’ll get back to that.
Calling some roofers
Homewyse has an online calculator for a whole host of costs and different installation plans for a shingle roof. Just to give it a shot, I looked at what it would cost to replace the asphalt shingle roof on my family home in the 93651 zip code of California. It’s a single-story house with what I’d estimate is about 1,800 square feet of roof. According to the Homewyse calculator, I’m looking at between $4,900 and $6,200 for a new roof without the cost of taking off the old roof. That breaks down to between $2.71 and $3.46 per square foot.
Homewyse includes some significant costs that Fresno Roofing didn’t.
Homewyse is careful to note that these estimates are not official quotes by professionals. So I called up the Fresno Roofing Company, a local business near my hometown in the hills outside Fresno. Lorn Thompson, an…