Tesla Installed The Solar Roof On Our New Home — CleanTechnica Exclusive

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Our new home was one of the very first new homes Tesla installed its Solar Roof on anywhere in the world. All of the earlier installations were retrofits, replacing an existing roof on an existing home with a new Tesla Solar Roof. As an installation on a brand new home, we were able to see parts of the Tesla Solar Roof installation never seen before. We regularly visited our home build throughout the installation of the Solar Roof, documenting the process with photos inside the house, on the roof, and from the air with a drone.

Image credit: Chuck Field

The installation of our Tesla Solar Roof wrapped up last week when Tesla’s Energy technicians came out to power the system on for the first time to ensure everything was working as expected. The timing of our rebuild was out of our hands, as our home burned to the ground in the Thomas Fire on December 5th, 2017.

Because we were so early in the process, our Tesla Solar Roof uses version 2 of Tesla’s Solar Roof tiles. The smaller version 2 tiles look and feel a lot more like the roof tiles common in Spanish tile, slate, or concrete tile roofs. The newer version 3 of Tesla’s Solar Roof tiles are significantly larger, letting Tesla’s customers generate even more solar power per tile. More importantly, the larger tiles are easier for Tesla to manufacture and install.

Version 2 of Tesla Solar Roof tiles and wiring staged on the underlayment of our roof. Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

Covering clean tech and Tesla on a daily basis, I knew going into the process that Tesla was still working to streamline its Solar Roof product. Before our Solar Roof was even fully installed, version 3 of the Tesla Solar Roof was announced. Version 3 of the Solar Roof takes all of the lessons Tesla learned from the first two iterations of the product and optimizes them for manufacturing, cost, installation time, solar generation, durability, and more.

To run the numbers on a Tesla Solar Roof, Solar, or Powerwall for yourself in about two minutes, use my referral code (https://ts.la/kyle623) and you can save $100. Tesla is just one of many solar providers out there, so don’t go with Tesla just because I did. Remember, I compared offerings from Sunrun, Sun Power, sonnen, and Tesla before making what I felt was the best decision for my family and recommend you do the same.

Opening Up A New Market

Installing the Solar Roof on new homes gives Tesla a foot in the door to an entirely new segment of the market. In California, it gives Tesla access to California’s new housing market, where solar is becoming ubiquitous. Starting in 2020, a new California mandate requires all new homes to have solar installed on them from day one.

As one of the first building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) products that can be installed as part of the home rather than as a bolt-on product, Tesla has an advantage in the market. In most of the country and much of the world, the Tesla Solar Roof is cheaper than the cost of a new roof plus the cost of power over 25 years.

Image credit: Chuck Field

If all new homes have to have solar installed on them from day one, aesthetics will increasingly become an important differentiator, not just for solar companies, but for home builders looking to stand out from the pack. Many home buyers prefer the look of an integrated Solar Roof over a bolt-on solar panel-based system which could make the Tesla Solar Roof a preferred option for home builders looking to lure in more customers to their developments.

The clean, modern look of the Tesla Solar Roof stands out from the pack as a solution that does not look like a retrofit. That fact alone proved to be one of the deciding factors for my wife in selecting the Tesla Solar Roof for our home, and I’m sure we’re not alone in wanting solar without the need for panels to be bolted onto the otherwise beautiful lines of the home.

The Process

On the construction side of things, we worked with Tesla directly to scope out the size of the system. We sent them the roof plan and some of the blueprints for the house. From there, they determined what size system they could install on the roof and asked us how much output we wanted from it. They were able to scale the system up to a fixed maximum power output based on the layout of the roof or scale it down by replacing roof tiles with photovoltaic cells in them with non-producing glass tiles.

Image credit: Chuck Field

As we did not run any gas to the house and will run everything on electricity, we wanted the maximum output from the system that Tesla could provide. That meant installing solar tiles on the north-, south-, east-, and west-facing roof surfaces. It is not ideal to maximize solar production from each tile, but it made sense for our situation to maximize the output from the system. We signed the contract and put down an additional $2,500 for a site survey.

At this point, Tesla’s project leader for our installation connected with our general contractor, Kenny Kuhnhofer of Kuhnhofer Builders in Ventura, California, to coordinate the timing of the installation and to communicate what they needed from the builder on the electrical side of things. This is our first time building a home, so I can’t compare to typical roof installations, but Kenny was great at working directly with Tesla’s team on the installation and schedule.

Image credit: Chuck Field

Because our home has two stories, the upper roof was installed several weeks ahead of the lower roof, which needed to wait for the stucco to be installed on the house. At that point, Tesla’s team will return to finish up the roof install, wire up the inverters, install the Powerwalls, and put in all the other goodies necessary to finish up.

Scroll down to see the components in the Tesla Solar Roof in a brief video walk through. Alternately, take a look at one of my earlier articles where I look at the components that go into aTesla Solar Roof version 2 installation.

To save $100 on a new Tesla Solar system, use my Tesla Referral code for your purchase: http://ts.la/kyle623. Doing so also gives us some cash from Tesla at no cost to you and lets us do a better job of covering all sorts of clean tech goodness in the future.

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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

Kyle Field has 1638 posts and counting. See all posts by Kyle Field