Tesla Solar Panels vs Traditional Solar Panels. The Unvarnished Comparison.
We’ll start at the end because many people have no time to waste in making a decision about whether to install a Tesla Solar Roof.
The short answer is NO absolutely read any further if you want to save time. If you want to install solar panels, installing a Tesla Solar Roof is not your best option. You can get a lot more bang for your buck from installing traditional solar panels.
First a word about Tesla
Founded in 2003, Tesla Motors was involved exclusively with producing electric cars until 2016, when CEO Elon Musk announced Tesla would begin to produce and sell Tesla Solar Roofs.
However, producing electric automobiles continues to be Tesla’s main focus, and while the future may be bright, Tesla is decidedly unprofitable. It lost $862 million in 2019 and over a billion in 2018. Tesla has never had a profitable year since its inception.
That, combined with its thrice-married, recently father to an unmarried rock star mother, and proponent of space travel CEO, Elon Musk, together with the history of Tesla and it’s easy to come to the conclusion that Tesla is, and will always be, continually about the future, not the present.
Tesla solar roofs
When Tesla announced the sale of Tesla Solar Roofs in 2016, true to their history with electric cars, Tesla promised huge benefits and under-delivered significantly.
The major complaints from customers interested in solar panels were that Tesla Solar Roofs took weeks over even months to install, that the price of a Tesla Solar Roof was significantly higher per kilowatt of energy than traditional solar panels, that many Tesla Solar Roofs significantly underperformed as the roof ages, that Tesla Solar Roof contracts were misleading, and customer service was terrible.
Have things gotten any better in 2020 for Tesla Solar Roofs?
We’ll be the first to admit it, yes, Tesla has partially gotten their act together for
Tesla Solar Roofs in 2020. But unfortunately, only in the area of costs.
In 2019, Tesla, after a long and significant delay, released its Version 3 Solar Panels and reduced the price on its solar panels upwards of 40 percent.
An average home, installing Tesla solar panels along, typically runs around $46,000 before Federal Incentives. A home with a new Tesla Solar Roof and panels will run around $65,000 before Federal Incentives.
However, a Tesla solar room or solar tiles are expensive.
Typically, to install solar panels on a medium-sized comparable roof a homeowner would expect to spend around $30,000 for a complete set of solar panels before Federal Tax Incentives or a roughly $16,000 savings.
In the meantime with a new roof running about $10,000 from most contractors, and the solar panels running another $30,000, a homeowner might save well over $25,000 by having a contractor install a new roof if it is needed, and then a second contractor installing the solar panels.
How long would it take to make up that $16,000 or $25,000 difference?
In many parts of the country, an electrical bill runs on average $120 to power a house. But let’s say for argument’s sake that we have a household with real power hogs and the average bill is $250 a month.
Based on that $250 a month bill, $16,000 in savings would pay for 5.3 years of electrical bills, and $25,000 savings would pay for 8.3 years of electricity.
Secondly, Tesla does not manufacture its own solar panels. Tesla Solar Roofs were previously manufactured by Panasonic, but as they have left the solar production industry, Tesla uses Hanwah, a South Korean manufacturer to make its solar panels.
Are Hanwha Solar Panels the best?
The answer is no. A typical comparison with SunPower Solar Panels, considered to be one of the best in the solar industry, Hanwha solar panels have only around 18.7 percent efficiency, significantly lower than the top 5 best solar panel brands and around 3.6 percent lower than Sunpower’s solar panels.
Worse yet, is the degradation rate of the solar panels. All solar panels degrade to a certain extent and that is part of their warranty. SunPower has a 25-year warranty, as does Tesla.
However, Sunpower Solar panels at the end of their 25-year warranty are expected to produce 92 percent of the power that their solar panels generated when they were brand new.
Tesla, however, only guarantees their solar panels and Tesla Solar Roofs will only generate 80 percent of its original capacity at the 25-year mark. That’s a huge difference in the reliability of solar panels.
In fact, reliability is one of the biggest complaints with purchasers of Tesla Solar Roofs.
Looking at the reviews from various websites, time and time again, people complain that their Tesla Solar Roof is just not producing electricity like when they first purchased and had installed their Tesla Solar Roof.
Claims for the Warranty on your Tesla Solar Roof
Another knock on Tesla is the warranty process itself. Since Tesla doesn’t produce their own solar panels, you don’t turn to Tesla to file a warranty claim. True Tesla will help you file the claim, but the warranty is handled completely by the actual solar panel manufacturer.
The Installation Process for Tesla Solar Roofs
At present, one of the major hold-ups to expanding Tesla Solar Roofs and solar panels is the install time.
According to Inverse.com if you want to order a Tesla Solar Roof, you pay half down upfront and half within five days of inspections.
The best the company will guarantee is that installation will start between two weeks and six months of signing the contract.
The installation of your Tesla Solar roof will be finished between any time from a week up to 21 days.
At the same time, most solar panel companies across the country can typically install solar panels in 1 to 3 days.
Elon Musks’ dream is to have 1,000 installation teams by the end of 2020 and to be able to install 1,000 Tesla Solar Roofs per week. However, that seems to be a huge pipedream, and for most people wanting to buy solar panels, they aren’t willing to wait up to six months to have their solar panels installed when they can get them installed cheaper, in less than a week.
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Tesla Solar Roof Customer Service
By far the biggest complaint on the internet concerning a Tesla Solar Roof and solar panels is their customer service.
It’s possible to find dozens and dozens of negative reviews comparing Tesla Solar Roof and Tesla solar panel complaints about their customer service. One reviewer even said they would rather speak to their local cable companies customer service than Tesla.
The two most frequent Tesla Solar Roof customer service complaints are the “stall tactics” and the fact that Tesla Solar Roof customer service agents are “powerless.”
Almost always, Tesla Solar Roof customer care agents will listen to a complaint, document it, and then inform the customer the company needs time to research the issue.
Tesla Solar Roof customer care agents then promise a call within a week, which almost never happens. When a Tesla Solar Roof customer calls back, asking what happened to their promised call, the call time is extended to another week, which may in actuality be two or three weeks.
In addition, Tesla Solar Roof customer care agents seem to be virtually powerless, having no influence over the scheduling of a technician to come out to the house.
Were most of Tesla Solar Roof customers aware of how bad the customer experience is, (and continues to be) probably 75 percent or more would have canceled their order, even if they were willing to shell out the extra money for a Tesla Solar Roof.
Tesla Solar Roof Aesthetics
The aesthetic appeal of the Tesla Solar Roof is unquestioned. Installed correctly, Tesla Solar Roofs tend to look great.
However, traditional solar panels have come a long way, and are equally attractive.
Is a new roof solar roof warranted?
One of the big selling points of Tesla’s solar products is the integrated premium roof and panels. The problem here is that most people don’t need an expensive new roof to get solar panels installed. Sure, a new roof may look good, but at $34,000 and up, it’s really overkilling.
And as far as an added value to your home goes, if you sell it you won’t get a fraction of the value back.
Typically, according to Zillow, a leading real estate selling platform, a homeowner can expect to get only about $9,000 extra in their house selling price by having solar panels.
So let’s say you buy a house and install solar panels on it, and live in it for 10 years before selling it. And let’s assume at the same time, that your added solar panels save you $150 per month on electricity, while your Tesla Solar Panels cost $30,000.
You would save approximately $18,000 installing your solar panels on electricity, and received an extra $9,000 for your house during the sale.
You would still be behind $3,000 over 10 years assuming you paid cash. However, if you finance your solar panels through Tesla, you would pay Tesla approximately $303 per month, and fork over $6400 in interest. So if you financed your solar panels, and sold your house at the 10-year point, you would behind a total of at least $9,000
The bottom line then is to use your solar as many years as possible and to buy for the most reasonable price. And Tesla Solar is far from a good bargain.
Solar Energy Tax Credits
It should also be mentioned that there are tax credits for installing solar. The solar tax credit for 2020 is 26 percent of the cost, so if you spend $30,000 on solar panels in 2020, you will get a whopping credit of $7,800 on your 2020 taxes.
The credit drops at the end of 2020 to 22 percent for the following year.
It’s just our personal opinion that homeowners shouldn’t rely on the tax credits to decide whether to choose to go solar or not. For one thing, you don’t reap the benefit of the credit till the following year.
For another, we don’t trust companies like Tesla who hide the real price of their system by counting the benefits of the tax credit now. It’s a dishonest way of pricing a product.
We much prefer to be told upfront exactly what the price is for our solar, how soon the solar can be installed, what are the full details of the warranty (including the important degradation schedule, and that the company is responsive to customer service complaints.