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Solar Roofs vs Solar Panels

You may have heard the announcement this spring from Tesla that they will be offering solar roofs that are integrated into the house in place of a traditional roof. It’s an exciting time to be alive when innovations like this are announced and making the future seem even better and brighter.

Hopefully, solar roofs will be a common feature of a new home and an option for people looking to replace their roof someday. It seems to make sense: use your roof where solar panels might normally be placed, and make the roof a kind of solar panel itself.

There are some hurdles to be worked out before solar roofs begin to make more sense than traditional solar panels. In the meantime, traditional solar panels offer both advantages and disadvantages compared to the solar roof on the horizon.


Solar roofs by Tesla cost a lot more than a normal roof plus solar panels. However, this may not be a permanent problem as production increases and installation techniques are refined. For the foreseeable future, a typical 2,500 square foot two-story house might require $60,000 for a new Tesla roof. After incentives, the roof would cost approximately $50,000. Meaning that a solar roof in Lewes, DE is far from a reality.

scenario 1: You don't need a new roof

From EnergySage

A traditional asphalt shingle roof plus an equitable amount of solar would cost about 35% of that at this juncture. Meaning, a traditional roof would cost approximately $10,000 and $8,000 net price after incentives. Currently, the advantage goes to a traditional roof plus solar panels. Check back in five years to see how that dynamic has shifted though.


Installing a solar roof that creates $1,500 worth of electricity annually costs $50,000 for installation after incentives, and a traditional roof and solar panels cost $18,000. The payoffs are wildly different. The solar roof will pay for itself over the life of the roof, so depending on how quickly electricity prices rise, it will pay for itself in 22-25 years.

Scenario 2: you need a new roof & Solar

From EnergySage

Solar panels that create $1,500 a year worth of electricity will pay for themselves, and the traditional roof, in 10-11 years. In defense of the solar roof, the payoff is not the only factor involved when judging satisfaction of a roof.


Tesla is a revolutionary company doing great things that will change the world for the better. One thing they are also known for is making announcements for products well in advance of being able to offer them in large quantities.

This spring, the announcement was made that Tesla will offer new solar roofs. A prototype was unveiled and reservations are being accepted. As of the writing of this article, no solar roofs have been installed and concrete information is not available at any Tesla store.

Their first roof was to be installed by June 30th, 2017, but so far, no roofs have been installed. The upside is that Tesla has announced that by the end of 2018, over 300 full-time employees will be producing solar roofs in a factory in New York, so availability should not be a problem soon.


Tesla has produced a product that is fairly universal in terms of its ability to be installed on many types of homes. One issue that may arise in Delaware is that, by law, electricians must install all products that conduct electricity and/or are bonded to conductors. Because a vast majority of a Tesla roof will be a conductor, electricians will be required to install the roof. However, a majority of the installation team for solar panels are also electricians, but it does add time and a premium to installing a roof.

The way a roof is designed will also need to change, with electrical connections and call-outs that will alter the design of the roof.

Ultimately, the builders and roofers will need to make a decision on whether the solar roofs will be worth turning the current installation model on its head. For some, the change will come soon. For others who do not want to pay a lot more money to have a roof installed, it will come only when the public demands it.

Functionality and Maintenance

If a homeowner needs a new roof and his or her house can accommodate a solar roof and the components that allow it to work, there may be a good fit if the costs work out. If a home has a roof that does not need to be replaced anytime in the next ten years, the homeowner must decide if it is worth getting rid of an existing roof in exchange for a newer product at a high cost.

The biggest concern with solar roofs is, if there is a problem with your roof, there is also a problem with your solar and vice versa. The job of the roof is to protect the rest of the house from the elements. The job of the solar is to create electricity.

If a solar roof has an issue, the homeowner will be forced to decide between calling an electrician or a handyman to fix the problem. The separation of solar from the roof is a plus in terms of caring for both the roof and the solar panels. Combining them into one product may prove costly to someone who considers the roof an investment that will save them money over the years.


Tesla’s solar roof is a great idea, and it is becoming a reality. When prices eventually fall, the building industry will be forced to adjust and allow for houses to be built (or new roofs to be put on) with this new technology. In order to become mainstream, the industry will need to keep in mind the scheduling, cost, and design of solar roofs. If the roof is too expensive or if the problems and costs that arise from the installation are not worth the inconvenience, traditional solar panels will continue to dominate the marketplace for homeowners. Solar panels for your Lewes, DE home will still be the easier product for homeowners to purchase and maintain.  

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