Tesla Solar Roof Cost vs Traditional Solar Panels


Written by qualified solar engineer Aniket. Last updated:

Elon Musk has recently rolled out version 3 of Tesla’s roof tiles. Being one of the most innovative products of the world of solar energy, they have garnered a lot of attention and curiosity. Although there is no doubt about its aesthetic appeal, the biggest question will always be whether they make financial sense.

The company offer the cost of a tesla solar roof at $21-22 per sq. ft., which is already nearly twice that of other conventional roofing solutions. This makes most of us wonder if traditional solar panels on regular roofs make a wiser option. In the end, we find out that the tesla roof makes sense only if you must spend money on a roof anyway. For any other case, traditional solar panels are a more practical choice. Let us break down how.

How to Estimate the Cost of Tesla Solar Roof Tiles

A tesla solar roof installed on a customer´s home

Tesla Solar Roof (Source – Tesla)

Although there is the stated figure of somewhere around $22 per sq. ft., it is not a straightforward calculation. The main reason for this is that Tesla does not cover 100% roof area with solar power generating tiles. Tesla’s new solar roof is essentially a mix of solar tiles and non-solar tiles.

In a random case, these residential solar roof tiles may cover anywhere between 40 and 90% area of the roof. This could vary significantly based on several factors.

One reason this may happen is that the energy requirement is smaller than what an entire roof of solar tiles may generate.

Secondly, there are spaces on the roof where installing solar tiles does no good, for instance, besides vents or any other vertical structures. Another reason is when one side of your roof faces north and has a steeper angle. This part of the roof will receive negligible amount of direct incident sunlight. This would mean very poor power generation, and thus, would make sense to not install the solar roof shingles on that portion of the roof.

As such, you would have to figure out the roof area which will be covered using power generating roof tiles. Tesla has not provided what ratio of PV and non-PV tiles is considered typical in the mentioned cost. However, there have been examples where the Tesla solar roof cost went up to $35/sq. ft. If a major portion of your roof is going to be covered in power generating tiles, your cost obviously rises.

This means there is not really a straightforward way to accurately calculate the cost of a Tesla solar roof for your home. But some assumptions of percentage of PV tiles may get you a rough number.

Comparing with Traditional Solar Panels

an inside look into the tesla roof tiles

Suppose the solar roof tiles were to be compared directly with the cost to install traditional solar panels. At $5-$10, the traditional panels cost less than half per square foot as compared to how much a Tesla solar roof costs. This seems obvious, considering that the energy that is produced by one solar panel will be several times the energy produced by a single solar tile.

In such a case, although it is fancy to have a power generating and eye-catching roof on your home, it is always more practical to have traditional solar panels and save a few thousand dollars on your residential solar system.

But when it comes to a new home, the comparison no longer remains the same. In this case, we need to compare the cost of Tesla solar roof tiles with the combined cost of traditional panels and a traditional roof. A good, modern traditional roof costs somewhere around $15/sq. ft.

Adding that up with the cost of panels and the other costs such as wiring, installation, etc. you can see that the combination of a new roof and traditional panels easily crosses the Tesla solar roof’s benchmark cost of $22 per sq. Ft.

Here is a comparison table explaining the same, prepared from the numbers claimed by Tesla.

comparison table explaining cost differences between tesla solar roof vs traditional roof plus panel combination

Tesla solar roof vs. Traditional roof + panel combination (source – Electrek)

Net cost over 30 years



ExpenseSolar roofPremium roof + solar panels
Solar panels$0$29,681
Roof & site repairs$10,630$10,630
Purchase price$85,314$87,619
Federal tax credit-$15,727-$11,919

Value over 30 years


As it can be seen in the comparison, the federal tax credit received for the solar roof is also higher than the traditional roof + panels combination, since you receive no credit for the roof costs in the latter case. This shifts the case a little more in favor of Tesla’s roof, making it worth the initial costs.

Besides the differences in appearance and costs, there are some notable similarities in both the technologies. For example, it is interesting to note that the solar roof has a lifespan that is the same as the lifespan of regular solar panels. Thus the money saved from using solar panels and that saved by solar roof over 25-30 years will be the same.

Additionally, both the technologies have the potential of increasing the value of your property.

In the end, we know that the Tesla solar roof is not for everyone, in a time when some people still believe that solar panels are expensive. Even Elon Musk mentioned in a conference that the roof does not make financial sense for somebody who has a relatively new roof.

But the addressable market of people building a new home or looking for a new roof isn’t too tiny either, when there is no significant competition. This is probably why Musk expects to install over 1,000 roofs per week.


The main question we are trying to answer is: “For whom is the Tesla solar roof an ideal choice?” And although all the financial calculations matter, the first answer will always be enthusiasts of new and innovative technology. This includes but is not limited to the thousands of fans of the iconic company that Tesla is.

For all the remaining people, we have figured out that it makes sense to install a new solar roof if you are building a new house and need a roof installed anyway. This also applies to someone who needs to renovate his roof for reasons of age and deterioration of the roof. For those who have a good existing roof in place, it is wiser to go for traditional solar panels and save about half the money, that is, if money is in question.

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