We knew it wasn’t going to be cheap, but Tesla has provided potential customers with a calculator to get a sense of how much an installation for their homes would cost — and how much it will actually return to their pocketbooks, long term.
First, you have to think about roofs, which Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the team from SolarCity — acquired by Tesla in 2016 — clearly have.
Musk wanted the solar roof to “look better than normal roof and last longer than normal roof,” as he explained on a conference call with the media on Wednesday. Ultimately, Musk wants homeowners to be so dazzled by their beautiful Tesla solar roof that they invite the neighbors over to gaze upon it with envy and awe. He could barely mask his disgust at the aesthetics of the roofs we’ve all been tolerating for decades.
Seriously, a new roof is going to run the typical homeowner something like $10,000, give or take a few grand here and there depending on the house size, materials, location, and installation. Over a 30-year mortgage, you’ll replace the roof at least once and possibly twice.
It’s a significant expense. But other than maintaining the value of the home, rather than really adding to it, a conventional roof adds nothing to the bottom line of the homeowner’s balance sheet.
The solar roof, on the other hand, will actually make you money. In my case, running the numbers on my house in New Jersey, about $5,000 over 30 years. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s effectively free money and it tips the overall cost of the solar roof into negative territory.
Obviously, there may be some maintenance costs involved over three decades, so bear that in mind: we’re talking about solar panels and related technology, such as a $7,000 Tesla Powerwall battery.
In a state such as California, with more sunshine and costlier electricity, the money you make over time will be more substantial.
The economics of the solar roof are quite appealing, and as far as the hefty up-front costs go, homeowners can always take out a home improvement loan and watch inflation and the appreciation in value of their house mitigate that expense over time.
Beyond that, a Solar Roof homeowner can sign on for Musk’s vision.
“What’s the future we want?” he asked. “We want to look around and see roofs that are beautiful and that draw energy from the sun.”