FOR ANDY HILL, SUSTAINABILITY IS A common thread through his life.
He owns a socially responsible investment firm that evaluates the environmental, social and governance impact of companies and their expected returns. He has been driving a Tesla electric car for the past three years.
And he has had traditional solar panels on his house for over 10 years.
So when he had to replace his roof, Mr. Hill wanted the next generation of solar energy. The name of that system sounded familiar to him: Tesla.
“It’s such an obvious solution,” says Mr. Hill. “It provides power during the day, stores it all the time, and charges my Tesla Model X when I get home from work. It’s a flexible system.”
The Tesla roof is fairly new in Florida. Kelly Roofing, based in Naples, is the exclusive installer of Tesla roofs throughout Florida and was recruited by Tesla for this role.
The company has installed six Tesla roofs in Collier and Lee counties and about 50 statewide in the past 18 months.
“The early adopters took the plunge with Tesla to install the roof system on their home,” said Javier Diaz, project manager at Kelly Roofing. “Now that we have a proof of concept, the demand has increased.”
Tesla solar roofs are the first and only photovoltaic (PV) solar installation that is both the roofing material and the energy-producing panel in one. This gives the roofs a seamless appearance, whereby the “active” tiles are virtually indistinguishable from the regular tiles.
“The roof has that cool Tesla look,” says Mr. Hill. “You see there’s something different about it, but you don’t know what it is.”
mr. Diaz says the Tesla roofs are different from other roof systems “because they have a solar system in them. The roof is the solar system.”
The black tempered glass tiles are flexible, making them very unlikely to break. They are over three times stronger than standard roof tiles and are designed for all-weather protection, rated for wind speeds of up to 394 miles per hour. “These tiled roofs should last 40-50 years,” says Mr. diaz. “Many (traditional) roofs last about 15 to 20 years and then start to leak.”
While traditional solar panels should face south, the active Tesla tiles are placed on each roof after a computer program determines how much sun they will receive. About 20-40% of the tiles are normally active.
An inverter takes direct current produced by the sun and converts it into alternating current, which is fed into a home’s electrical panel.
Optional powerwalls can be installed in a garage and act as a whole house generator, providing electricity at night and when the power goes out.
FPL buys back extra generated electricity. Other than a minimum $10 customer fee and taxes from FPL, Tesla sunroof owners don’t pay an electric bill.
“In Southwest Florida, we have a great program for measuring nets with FPL,” said Mr. diaz. “Because you produce too much during the day, you send it back to FPL and they give you a credit on your energy bank. You can withdraw them overnight and you will not be charged.”
Another advantage of this system, notes Mr. Diaz on, is that there is one contractor for the roof, not one for the roof and another for the solar system. This holds one company responsible for any problems.
And, he says, “there’s no warranty on the market like Tesla’s,” which is 25 years for active tile materials and power, plus 10 years for workmanship.
The roofs require no maintenance or a vigorous wash, and they will not fade or collect mold or mildew.
Pricing is based on the size of the roof, a home’s typical electric bill, and the number of Powerwall battery backups a customer purchases.
The cost is offset somewhat by the federal tax credit for residential solar, which is 26% for PV systems installed in 2020-2022 and 22% for systems installed in 2023.
“If you were to install a typical roof tile and then a solar system, you would only get a tax credit on the solar system,” explains Mr. Diaz out. “In a solar roof, the solar system is the roof. You will receive the tax credit on the entire Tesla roof. When you do a roof renovation, it surpasses any system in terms of payback, warranty and lifespan of the roof.”
The financial incentive was part of the decision for Richard and Diane Ponton, whose home near Golden Gate Estates received the first Tesla sunroof in Collier County last December.
“The 26% tax credits were a big bonus,” says Mr Ponton, adding that he and his wife are teachers, so these savings made the price tag “almost bearable”.
The Pontons wanted to protect the environment and also recoup their investment, so they bought a smaller 6.5-kilowatt system and didn’t buy powerwalls.
They are satisfied with the results.
“Our electricity bill was just over $200 a month. Our goal was to cut it in half, and that’s exactly what it does,” says Mr. Pontoon.
The Pontons also praise the customer support.
“Tesla has been very helpful in answering questions,” says Mr Ponton. “Everything is automated. I see a daily report and the amount of energy I generate. They see the same data and tell me if I need to reset something. They were very, very good.”
Mr. Hill says Tesla roofs are an “obvious” trend, like the development of so many more electric vehicles.
“I think all builders should include the Tesla sunroof as an option when building new homes,” he says. “Five years from now, they’ll wish they’d recommended them. It is an increase in value and sustainability. And when people switch to electric vehicles, which most people will do in the next five years, it all flows nicely together.” |