4 Potential Impacts of Tesla’s Solar Roof Tiles for Homeowners and Architects

The Skinny on Residential Solar Roof Tiles from Tesla

Tesla recently announced that they are making their new residential solar roof tiles available starting this June in California, and rolling them out to additional markets over time. The tiles are made with tempered glass that contain invisible solar cells and offer an infinity warranty. That’s right- the tiles are guaranteed literally forever. They have the highest Factory Mutual (FM) hail rating, American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) wind rating and an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Class A fire rating. Tesla claims that their solar roof may be cheaper than a traditional roof, and, to help homeowners decide they even include a handy calculator on their web site to calculate the installation costs and energy savings over time based on individual locations.  The calculator also determines the coverage of solar tiles needed, as a percentage, to capture the most benefit for each roof.  Non-solar tiles are used for shaded locations and both appear the same from street level, according to the web site.

4 Potential Impacts for Homeowners and Architects

1. Stylishness

While residential solar systems have been around for a while, this promises to be a big step towards integrating solar technology into building materials themselves and to bring the costs within the reach of more people.  There are a handful of other companies offering integrated solar products geared toward the residential markets, but none have had widespread commercial success yet.  One difference with the Tesla roofing tiles is that the textured, smooth, Tuscan and even slate finishes offered allow the tiles to suit the architectural style of the house.  From the images on the Tesla web site they look quite attractive, something that cannot be said for traditional solar panels or integrated photovoltaic (PV) roofing.

 Slate Tile Tesla Motors

2. Uninterrupted Electricity

Another key component to making solar power effective is having an efficient storage system, which Tesla offers with their Powerwall home battery.  This allows for uninterrupted electricity during grid outages.

3. First Time Costs vs. Energy Savings Over Time

There have been several recently published articles questioning the assumptions of the cost calculator.  The fact is, solar capturing systems may not be suitable for all homes, such as roofs that are partially shaded, a homeowner’s varying energy needs, and how much is spent on electricity each month.  A good place to start research is to enter your address at Google’s Project Sunroof to see whether your roof is a good candidate for solar.

As with all solar energy systems, the cost is front loaded.  The upfront price tag for the solar tiles can be quite a shock, even factoring in federal, state and local tax credits.  It is considerably costlier than more traditional asphalt shingle roofing, but for the high-end roofing materials like slate or terra cotta tile the solar roof tiles could be a cost-effective option. It’s the energy savings over time, the utility energy costs in your area, as well as the prospect of never having to replace the roof again, that all factor into the total life-cycle cost.

4. Sustainability & Future Functionality

These roof tiles could be just the beginning of an exciting new era in architectural technology.  The development of a durable, attractive architectural product that can double as a reliable, sustainable energy source is a game changer.  Over time, not only will this type of roofing produce renewable energy but it will reduce landfill waste from the replacement of asphalt or wood shingles every 15-30 years.  As other integrated technologies become available in the future, we wonder how they may impact the way buildings will function. The promise of more of these types of affordable products is fascinating and getting closer to reality for consumers every day.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic at ckline@kahlerslater.com