What’s the scoop on Tesla’s solar shingles?

We feel you. Ever since Elon Musk announced that Tesla would unveil a new solar roof, we’ve been all a-tingle. After all, who doesn’t love a big advancement in the solar industry?

But, like you, we’re still waiting on the details, including how much these shingles will cost and when they will be available in Washington and Oregon (heck, we’re still waiting on the Powerwall 2 up here!)

We’re not going to write off Mr. Musk. After all, he managed to launch and land a rocket on a small platform in the middle of the ocean and wrangle 400,000 pre-orders for a car no one has seen. He’s a great showman, and it takes a little digging to discern marketing hype from solar fact.

While we wait for Tesla to announce the solar roof’s availability, rebates and incentives for solar are winding down. Here’s what we want you to take away from this article: if you only want the coolest thing since sliced asphalt, keep waiting. In the meantime, you might miss out on the best incentives we’ll ever have for solar. The tried and true solar panels we install every day, the kind that are guaranteed to work for 25 years or more, are ready for you today.

Still wanting to hold out? In light of having no information beyond some beautiful photos and some careful promises, here’s what we know for sure about Tesla’s solar shingles:

  • They look super cool.
  • They will be totally fine during your next kettlebell tornado.
  • They’re definitely not shipping in Washington and Oregon right now.
  • They inspire buzzfeed-like articles that say 100 different ways “they could cost as much as a regular roof replacement.”

As a solar installer, here are some of the questions we’ll be looking to have answered, so we can provide the best recommendation to our customers:

  • There are unclear code requirements about who can install the solar singles. For example, would you be paying for an electrician to re-roof your home? Or a roofer with no electrical experience to wire your new solar roof? Or perhaps you’ll need to hire both an electrician and a roofer to make sure your new roof generates electricity and keeps water out as expected.
  • What will be their degradation rate, meaning, how fast will they lose their efficiency over the years? Standard solar panels lose about a quarter- to a half-percent of their output each year, and it’s possible that the extra heat and new technology of solar shingles could degrade faster, meaning less efficiency over time.
  • Tesla is not the first solar shingle company, and pretty much all all companies previously in the solar shingle business have discontinued manufacturing. What advancements have Tesla made to make these more affordable and practical than its predecessors?
  • How does one troubleshoot these things? Think of the old Christmas light scenario. One bulb goes out–will the whole string? Is there a monitoring system that will flag the bad shingle? And even if we can spot the bad shingle(s), how does one go about physically replacing it?
  • How do they compare wattage-wise to a conventional module? Previous solar shingles have been much less efficient than standard solar panels, so you could be giving up significant electricity-generating potential in exchange for the aesthetics of a solar-integrated roof.

There are lots of open issues here, and we look forward to seeing a couple dozen of these roofs out in the wild generating electricity for homeowners before we start recommending them to our customers. It’s also obvious that Tesla isn’t going all-in on these shingles,  having recently announced a low-profile conventional solar panel from Panasonic.

We’ll keep you posted on updates. Sign up for our newsletter to get all the latest solar news.