Tesla’s Solar Roof Panels, A Roofer’s Viewpoint

Since Elon Musk announced Tesla’s introduction of their solar roof tile’s, Kodiak has fielded many inquiries about the products, it’s viability and costs.  Being based in the Denver metro area, many homeowners are often looking to take advantage of one of Colorado’s best assets, it’s 300 days of sunshine, so we thought we’d give a rundown of what we feel Colorado consumers can expect once the product does launch.


Of all the claims made by Musk about Tesla’s roof products, there’s one claim that’s most questionable and we won’t really have an answer until the product actually rolls out to market.  This is probably the most critical response to the announcement of what seems to be a pretty incredible product.  Musk claimed that the Tesla solar roof would be “less than the price of a regular roof when accounting for energy generation” and then since then has gone on to make the claim that the roof would cost less than an average roof even before any energy savings were beginning to be accounted for right at the outset of the install.  As a roofer this is where we have some speculation on the validity of Musk’s latest great idea.  From a roofer’s standpoint, when we see a product installed with such a great amount of pieces to it we understand that labor install costs begin to rise and with comparable products such as a DaVinci synthetic slate product, wood shake, or concrete tile, roofing companies can expect installation labor costs to be up to double the cost of your standard asphalt shingle install.  So this leads us to wonder if Musk is comparing his average cost of a roof to only a not so average product.  I’m sure being in California where concrete tile roofs are more common than the rest of the country east of California may make him assume that’s the average product, but then again Musk is the closest person we have to a real life Tony Stark and probably does have his own version J.A.R.V.I.S. who would help understand tile isn’t the norm for the rest of the country.  But aside from only the labor install costs expecting to be higher than your standard asphalt roof, it would be a wonder if the product itself cost less than your average asphalt shingle as well.  All this still not accounting for added need for an electrician.  All in all as a roofer it’s quite extremely difficult to imagine a world where this product is actually less expensive than an average asphalt roof.  It’s conceivable that the solar roof could be less than your standard concrete tile roof, but then again your standard tile roof typically costs three times as much as your normal asphalt roof.  So we’d like to hear what Musk considers an “average” roof.


While Musk has most certainly given the solar roof tile the most amount of publicity and notoriety it has ever had, this most certainly isn’t the first one that’s come along.  There have been many before that have come and have gone just as swiftly.  Dow’s most recent attempt was one of the more successful attempts that have fallen flat very quickly.  One thing is for sure about Tesla’s solar roof tiles is they are quite easily the most aesthetically pleasing roof mounted solar anything (panels, tiles, shingles) that we have seen and actually in some instances more aesthetically pleasing than a good majority of what’s available currently and is probably our favorite aspect of it.  The texture glass tile in particular looks quite amazing in the photos we have seen.  But unfortunately, good looks don’t always equal what you want like a beautifully restored classic car with a neglected engine restoration might leave you on the side of the road, or some of the ex-girlfriends of our staff, we hope this product has more substance.  From the very limited visibility of the product itself there are only two questions we can raise at this point on the actual product itself.

The first concern is the products durability.  What most people don’t realize is that your shingles, wood shakes, and concrete tiles are actually what is considered a sacrificial layer designed to endure and withstand nature’s fury protecting the underlayment laying below which is what actually is designed to keep your home dry.  But those that live all along the front range understand that sometimes that sacrificial layer is often times sacrificed.  About every eight years to be precise.  Colorado’s hail climate brings the average life of a Colorado asphalt roof to a short span of just eight years and for wood shakes and tile roofs we’ve seen about an average of 15-20 years for shakes and about 25 years for tile before we get one of those hailstorms with baseball size hail that destroys just about anything rooftop.  Now Tesla has tested their tile dropping a weight on it and concrete tiles as well and while the weight destroys the concrete tile, the Tesla tile stands intact.  Seems all great, right?  The problem with these tests is they don’t very often duplicate all real world scenarios and very often we have found these tests to be dubious marketing ploys to prove a product better than it really is.  Just ask us about 99% of the Class IV “impact resistant” shingles on the market today.  That’s not to say Tesla’s solar tiles won’t withstand nature’s worst, but not until it’s actually endured it will we feel confident in it’s durability.  The other aspect of Colorado’s hail that we get to be considered is not if it destroys the tiles but if it damages or compromises it’s energy generating capability and how insurers are going to consider coverage for that loss (a good question for your insurance broker among the many others you should ask your Kodiak rep about before buying homeowner’s insurace).

The second concern is more related to the install.  The curiosity we have about the product is every example Tesla has shown is for straight, gable to gable roofs.  Throw in a hip or valley cut to the roof’s design and we wonder how the product will install when you have to cut a solar tile at an angle to accommodate the valley or hip.  Again, we’ll just have to wait and see as the product rolls out.

Beyond these concerns and curiosities, we at Kodiak most certainly are excited to see such an incredible product and do very much have a high anticipation to get our hands on them and hopefully become a certified installer of the products they offer.  Anything we can do to help add more solar energy to this country’s massive energy consumption we’re all for it.  But only time will tell.