When making the decision of how best to go solar, it pays to be sure. As we’ve too often learned, being an early adaptor carries at least as much risk as it does potential reward. The first iteration of new technology is rarely the best version, but the prevailing corporate philosophy of “launch first, iterate later” carries much more risk when the product is the first line of protection for most valuable asset: your home. For those researching the best solar options available, here are key questions you will to answer before pulling the trigger on Tesla’s solar tiles.
Are Tesla’s Solar Tiles Cost Efficient?
Tesla, Inc. CEO Elon Musk stated to shareholders when making his case for merging Tesla Motors and Solar City that the innovative solar roof costs less than a standard roof. There’s just one problem with that equation: most homes tend to come pre-roofed. Unless your roof is old and worn out or you’re purchasing a new build and work with the contractors to use solar tiles right from the outset, you’ll be tearing down a perfectly good roof before installing the new one. There is also no word from Tesla thus far on whether this process is carbon-neutral.
Can Tesla Tile Production Meet Demand?
Get ready to keep getting ready. While few can deny Musk’s genius for innovation, fewer still can deny his companies have been notoriously dogged by production issues. While these tiles are still in the prototype phase, Tesla released an optimistic timeline to begin installations on real homes in seven months, back in April. It’s very likely that the queue Tesla is building through pre-orders will push most installations further out on the horizon than customers would like. For the average homeowner looking to save money, that wait can mean a lot of additional high energy costs.
Monopoly or Momentary Advantage?
Tesla is enjoying the limelight as the only vendor offering solar tiles, but that will likely be short-lived. As other solar companies race to innovate, it will be impossible for Tesla to hold the monopoly on solar tiles for long. With the bar now set, the next wave of products will aim specifically to create tiles that are more affordable (and better) than Tesla’s. Considering the introductory price tag, homeowners will invariably consider similar solar-tile options that come to market while Tesla Inc. struggles to fill orders.
How long does it take to install Tesla’s solar roof?
Another key factor homeowners should consider is the time it takes to install Tesla’s solar roof and have the system up and running. The current solar industry standard is to have new systems installed in just one day, giving the consumer as little hassle and delay time as possible. Re-roofing a house takes substantially longer, not accounting for troubleshooting the challenges that inevitably arise when new product meets the real-life market for the first time.
Does Tesla’s solar-tile pricing account for higher taxes?
When it comes to the cost of this new system, Musk touts a better price point than many expected. But there’s a catch: it’s not the full picture. Adding a solar tile roof raises the value of a home, which also raises property taxes. Musk left this out of his calculations. In certain areas, this added value is a deal breaker and definitely among the top factors for homeowners to consider before purchasing Tesla tiles.
Does the entire Tesla solar roof generate energy?
Short answer: No. A big misconception with Tesla Inc.’s solar roofs is that the entire roof is comprised of solar-energy-generating tiles, which is not the case. In fact, only a small fraction of the tiles actually generate energy; the rest are made to be stylistically—not functionally—similar. Tesla’s non-solar tiles are roughly twice the cost of standard roofing tiles. The question one must weigh is whether to change out an entire roof at a high cost, or simply add sleek, high-efficiency solar panels and forego the added expense of fully converting to a solar roof.
What about Tesla’s batteries?
Tesla’s new tile roofs are made to work with their batteries, but those batteries are projected to have trouble scaling with demand as well. Musk has stated his intent to source 100 percent of the company’s raw materials from North America, however North America’s supply of cobalt, lithium and nickel is tight. Even if Tesla were to change that policy going forward, 65 percent of the world’s supply of cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country that is extremely unstable politically, which means material availability could be called into question in the not-so-distant future.
Should I get Tesla’s solar roof?
There’s no doubt Musk is a hyper-ambitious innovator with a keen eye for style, and he’s disrupted the industry with the introduction of the solar tiles. When considering whether solar tiles are right for your home, however, be sure to weigh the potential drawbacks of being an early adopter, the likely wait times of up to a year or more, and your costs. Overpaying for energy while waiting, the inflated expense due to lack of competition, and of course reroofing your home all add thousands to a project designed to save you money. If your ultimate goal is to offset energy usage and lower your electric bill, you can accomplish it quickly and easily with great-looking, highly-efficient, and readily available solar panels.