While I'm all for renewable energy, there's one glaringly unfortunate downside to most solar panels: They're, frankly, quite ugly. Well, after tackling the electric car, Elon Musk's Tesla is looking to create a new kind of solar panel that's affordable, modular, and—perhaps most importantly, at least in our book—good looking.
So what exactly are they?
Tesla's solar roof system (first introduced in 2016 but only just now rolling out, thanks to delays caused by Tesla Model 3 production) is based on a series of tempered-glass solar tiles with built-in Powerwall batteries, which collect energy during the daylight hours and then save it for whenever you use it. Think of it as a kind of "bank" for energy.
What do Tesla's solar tiles look like?
The simple, black rectangle design (which measures 8.65" x 14") looks just like slightly oversized versions of traditional shingles and therefore, "complements your home’s architecture while turning sunlight into electricity," Tesla promises. Though the company eventually plans to roll out multiple styles, the current offering is a textured style, which the company settled on after 80 percent of its initial orders were for that material.
How much do they cost?
Tesla's solar tiles cost $42 per square foot. But don't think you'll be accounting for your entire roof square footage: Tesla recommends using only about 35 percent solar tiles, filling in the rest with non-solar tiles, which go for about $11 per square foot (they'll set you up with an energy analyst to determine exactly how much you should invest in, based on the usage in your home). With that in mind, you'd average out to $21.85 per square foot using Tesla's ratio. For reference, a standard asphalt tile is about $5—but, it doesn't have nearly the life span. Which brings us to...
Are they durable?
Well, the company thinks so: Tesla is so confident in the strength of its tiles that the company offers a so-called "infinity" warranty on them (to quote the website, "they are warrantied for the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first"). The tempered glass used to make them is three times stronger than slate, clay, or terracotta. But expect certain areas of your roof to be slightly less than infinitely durable: Since the super-strong tempered tiles can't be cut to fit, you'll need to use the non-solar options around chimneys, in corners, or on the edges of the roof.
How much will they save me?
Check out Tesla's on-site calculator to see just how much you could save on your electricity bill. Additionally, you can expect some tax forgiveness for installation: the Solar Investment Tax Credit allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing your tiles from your federal taxes.
Can I see how much energy I'm using?
Yes. In this article on Inverse, Amanda Tobler, one of the first people to install her solar roof (shown in the tweet above) last year says the Tesla app is addictive for its precise tracking of how you're using your energy. "I just have a new level of awareness," Tobler told the outlet about her ability to see spikes when, for example, she runs the dryer or uses the oven.
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