Tesla Solar Roof in slate. Image courtesy of Tesla.com.
Where Are Tesla's Solar Roof Tiles?
Back in October, 2016 Tesla unveiled their prototype for Solar Roof tiles. They had four versions of the tiles that looked just like traditional shingles but with one major difference: the tiles were actually tiny solar panels. Many solar enthusiasts jumped with joy, as this seemed like it was going to be a major breakthrough in solar technology. However, two years later there's still one big problem: Where are the tiles?
If you've been thinking about converting your home to solar, but you're waiting on the solar tiles, it might be time to stop holding your breath.
At the time of writing this, only 12 homes in America have had the tiles installed on them. Elon Musk claimed "hundreds" of homes have a Tesla Solar Roof, but then later clarified most of those homes are preorders and houses that have only had partial installations completed. As if that's not discouraging enough, one of the homeowners said the installation set him back roughly $100,000 and he's still paying a $40 electric bill during the summer months – down from $400 before he converted to solar. While that certainly is a massive reduction, the numbers don't add up...
According to HomeAdviser, the average homeowner spends about $6,600 to have a new roof installed in 2018. That leaves a remaining balance of $93,400. Since the homeowner in the example above is still paying for some of his electricity, it will take about 30 years for the solar tiles to pay off the balance, which is unfortunately longer than the lifespan of the tiles. Simply put, his tiles will never cover the cost.
Which brings us to why there's been such a massive delay on the Solar Roof: Tesla is having a hard time producing a tile that can actually last 30 years or more, among other hiccups. Whenever a manufacturer tries to take an existing technology, like photovoltaic solar panels, and scale it down to a fraction of the size, there's going to be problems. Solar panels aren't large because people like them that way; they're large because they have to be. Scaling them down essentially requires reinventing the technology.
What Should You Do?
Even though it looks like Tesla's Solar Roof tiles are still a long ways off and unaffordable for most, that doesn't mean you should pass on solar entirely. A traditional solar system can be installed in one day for fraction of what Tesla's cost, while still reducing your energy bill by just as much, if not eliminating it all together.
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