Tesla Solar Roof Review: Was it Worth It?


I have not paid for electricity in a year (mellow music) - Hi, my name is Marques Brownlee and I have not paid for electricity in a year. I have a bunch of electrical appliances, computers, game consoles, TVs, and air conditioning, and I drive an electric car to and from work every single day and charge at home. $0 bill. So I know I had a lot of questions about how this stuff worked, how much it cost, how much it generated, a whole bunch of that stuff before I got started, and now I finally have all the answers. Let's get into it. (mellow music continues) So I have had solar panels on my roof at home for the past 12 months now and I waited this long specifically because now I've seen all four seasons and I've observed a wide variety of performances and I've run all the numbers and I have a lot of thoughts about them, so I wanna share 'em. So first of all, for those familiar, there are a lot of options for solar systems at home. I like that they're called solar systems too, but there are a lot of different companies that make solar systems to power all the electrical needs of a home, including an electric car. So I know I wanted to do this for a while since the whole point for me was to be able to drive electricity for the foreseeable future and be able to know that the energy is coming from a sustainable source, the sun. But first, it's important to understand that a big part, a big part of this solar system How does solar work is batteries as well. So a normal house is connected to the electrical grid and whenever something in the house, whether it's a light bulb or a computer or an appliance calls for electricity, it pulls from the grid and spins up a meter on the side of the house that tallies how much you've pulled. Then at the end of the month, you get billed for how much electricity you've used. Great. Now if you just add solar panels to this house, when the sun shines during the day on those tiles, it can use that electricity to directly power things in the house. Now of course, if it's cloudy or if you have a bunch of stuff on all at once and the demand is more than the power from the sun is providing, then it'll pull the rest of what it needs from the grid and spin the meter as well. But most importantly, as soon as the sun goes down, the electricity generated goes to zero. And it just so happens that most people come home from work as the sun is going down and that's when they turn on all the lights and do the laundry and charge the car, et cetera. So you're still gonna be pulling from the grid for most stuff. Now, that's fine for most people because if the goal, which a lot of people's goal is, is to have a $0 electricity bill, then this can be accomplished because the power company will hopefully, depending on where you live, but ideally, be running something called net metering.

So what this means is when the sun shines on the roof and excess electricity is being generated because nobody's home, the house spins the electrical meter backward as it sends extra electricity back to the grid. Then when the sun goes down and you get home and use a bunch of electricity from the grid, the meter spins back and forth. And so ideally, the total usage is zero, net zero. That's how you end up with the $0 electricity bill, which is super cool. But what if you want to sort of graduate to the next level of sustainability? What if you want to be completely independent of the grid, totally off the grid? Well, that's when batteries come in. So add battery storage to this system and now the loop is complete. So when the sun shines during the day and you're not home, it fills up the batteries, effectively storing sunshine energy, and then when you get home and the sun goes down, you can keep using that extra solar energy that you stored with all the electrical needs that you have until the next morning when the sun comes out again and starts filling up those batteries again. So with a system like this, you can theoretically not just have a $0 power bill but never actually pull from the grid at all. You're completely self-sustainable. You never have to worry about a power outage ever again. You won't even know if a power outage happens. That is the off-the-grid dream. Theoretically, anyway. At the beginning of this process, that was my goal. So there are a lot of different options for solar system setups with different solar tile manufacturers different battery manufacturers and different companies that will install all these things. There are a thousand different combos that you could piece together with different companies with different offers in your area to make something that works. I kind of went with kind of a crazy but also, made sense solution, which is just one company for everything, which would be Tesla. So it is a Tesla Solar Roof, Tesla Powerwalls for batteries, and then the Tesla app to monitor and control everything. And really, the main reason I went this route was for simplicity and integration. I paid a price premium for this. This was not the cheapest option. You can spec a much cheaper combo of solar panels and batteries and things like that, but just to have everything on the same page and have everything talking to each other seamlessly, this made the most sense. So then once I decided to go with Tesla, the other choice you might've heard about is either solar panels bolted to the roof Why did I pick the Tesla solar tiles

or these actual solar tiles, which are new roof tiles that are hundreds of tiny solar panels themselves, all interconnected to make a normal-looking roof that's a giant solar panel and that is the one that I went for. And this is why I say this was a crazy option because I did not need a new roof. Most people who go with the solar tiles option would either have an old roof that needs replacing soon or they're about to build a new house and this will be the new roof that they put on it. I wasn't in either of those situations, but this was the way to get, by far, the largest total array with the most coverage with as many pitches as my roof has and also aesthetically, it looks really good too, I gotta say. There's curb appeal. Either way, I make my decision. I'm going with the solar roof, I'm going with Tesla's full-integrated setup. From there, I'm not gonna lie, it is quite a process. There is a lot of paperwork and hoops to jump through. Also with Tesla's, they've been kind of in and out of reliability. Like over the years they've been on and off with actually making this product. They've paused installations for a while. It was briefly canceled and then it came back and there were supply chain issues. I remember reading about all this and I was kind of worried, but for whatever reason when I ordered, which was in 2021 everything went perfectly smooth, as well as it could have gone. You get assigned a Tesla advisor just like for your project, for your solar project. They walk you through the whole process from the paperwork with the town from beginning to end. So there was an ordering process, inspection, a measuring process, quotes, you know, filling out paperwork with the town. , When you're first trying to get an estimate, you submit your address and they go look on Google Images and look at your roof with satellite imagery and give you an initial quote. Then once you're locked in and you decide you want to go through with it, they'll actually come to your home with professionals and actually measure it and then give you a precise real quote and then start to order all the materials. You eventually get to the point where you get an install date, you start scheduling things out and then they come through with all the boxes of solar panels and they took up my whole driveway for a couple of days. Some people have  walked through this entire process in great detail. I'll try to link a good one below on YouTube. But at the end of the day, for me, the process started when I signed the purchase agreement, which was in November 2021, and finished with the activation of the system in July 2022. So eight months. Numbers/specs time! (mellow music) But now that it's done, we get to nerd out about the numbers. Sorry in advance to anyone who doesn't like numbers.

I feel like that's the only way to explain how good it is and what's happening with them. So there's about to be a lot of 'em. Let's get into it. So first of all, the specs, right? So this is a 29. 313 kilowatt solar array size. Your boy's got a big roof. And then there are three Powerwall 3s which totals 40. 5 kilowatt-hours. And then this is the Tesla app where all of the learnings and all of the numbers happen. When the system first activated I just remember seeing it light up in the app for the first time. The numbers jump up and then just kinda, you just kind of get, I could stare at the app for a while like I could get lost in the numbers. Maybe it's just 'cause I'm a numbers person, but a lot is going on and it was exciting to see it all in real time and learn a lot of stuff. So I think the app is well done and it lets you visualize how much energy the solar array is currently capturing, how much energy the home is using and the state of charge and power output or input of the Powerwall batteries. And then, of course, anything happening with the electrical grid. So you can see at this exact moment in time On a sunny morning in July, the panels are bringing in seven kilowatts of power, five of which are powering the house, the last two of which are going into the Powerwalls, which are 38% full and it's not touching the grid at all. There's already a lot of terms being thrown around here. Here's a good way of thinking about it. Kilowatt is a measure of power. So one kilowatt is a thousand watts. A kilowatt-hour though, is a unit of energy collected. So a Tesla Model S battery, for example, is roughly a hundred kilowatt-hours. And so if that battery were to output a hundred kilowatts for an hour, then it would be at zero. So for my setup, the Powerwall 3, each one is about 13. 5 kilowatt-hours each. So that totals 40. 5 kilowatt-hours since I have three. And they support a maximum power output, in or out, of 15. 5 kilowatts. And then the solar system being 29. 3 kilowatts means that it seems like the theoretical maximum of the electricity that can be collected at any one time is 29. 3 kilowatts.

But as you're about to see a little bit later, that number may or may not be accurate. Either way, just hanging out in the Tesla app for a while, which you do a lot for the first few weeks, I learned a lot. I learned a lot about what takes a lot of energy, and what takes a little bit of energy, some of it which did surprise me. I also learned that sort of the basic like existence-level for this house is like 400 watts of power just 'cause things are plugged in. Even if every light is off, it just sort of sits around 400 watts. But you know, charging a phone or turning on a light or something like that doesn't make a dent at all. It doesn't show up in the app. Turning on a TV might only take about 100 watts or 0. 1 kilowatts. A computer can pull 3 to 500 watts if it's taking a lot of power. But surprisingly, the big spikes come from the microwave and the toaster for sure. But the two absolute biggest draws of electricity in this house by far and I think probably with a lot of others are number two, air conditioning, and number one by a country mile charging the electric car. I think the best way to look at this is actually by seasons. So like I said, this system got activated in July, so in the middle of the summer. So a typical summer day in New Jersey Summer is pretty awesome for a solar customer. The days are long, we get a lot of sun, it's great. This is what a summer day looks like in the app and this is a pretty good day for solar. So you can see the sunrise is around 6:00 AM, the peak is around noon and then this drops off till sunset around 8 to 9 PM. It's a lot of sun. And on this day it generated a ridiculous 260 kilowatt-hours of electricity. Not all days are gonna look like perfect curves like this by the way. The previous day was pretty cloudy so you can see it only generated 65 kilowatt-hours. The next previous was better again. But yeah, a typical summer day, you know, get around 200 kilowatt-hours from the sun, and then I think this view is the most helpful. It looks kind of wild at first but you can quickly tell how to read it. It's basically how much power the house is taking and then where it's getting that power from. So overnight you can see these spikes from the house are where I'm pulling from the grid. This is just air conditioning overnight. Then when the sun comes out and the day heats up and the air conditioner turns on, the lights and the appliances, everything comes on, it starts drawing more power. But it's covered by solar as you can see here. And it's also filling up the Powerwalls with extrasolar as this happens.

So later in the day when the sun goes down, that power draw is also supplemented by the Powerwall batteries. There were a lot of summer days like this. On the absolute best day in this time, I think I generated almost 300 kilowatt-hours of electricity. But because of how much the house is using from the AC to charging the car every single day, frequently I'd use 200+ kilowatt-hours of electricity during the day. So my net grid usage would typically in these summer months, be zero to slightly negative, maybe up to negative 50 kilowatt-hours on a good day. Meaning I would generate and sell back to the grid 50 kilowatt-hours more than I used. Fall Solid. So after summer, there is the fall which, you know, the days are starting to get a little bit shorter but also notably, the temperatures drop off quite a bit. So getting a little bit less sun, but also using a lot less air conditioning. So here is a normal fall day in the middle of October. Production day by day is dropping down now here into the low hundreds. This is a day that I got just over 120 kilowatt-hours of solar. Pretty cloud-free day, again, as you can tell by the graph. And again if you look at the home usage, there are even smaller spikes and a smaller curve of air conditioning during the day. So the house's needs are completely covered by solar. And then once the sun goes down and the Powerwall takes over, it does not touch the grid at all, which is pretty sick. And this was very common throughout the fall. Turns out the fall and the spring are the times when I generated the most excess electricity with basically every day ending with a net negative. Winter And then there is winter. (chuckles) And it turns out winter can be, well, in the northeast here, especially brutal on these setups for a couple of reasons. Like first of all, as far as solar, these are the days when the days are the shortest like the sun sets at 4:00 PM which is insane but that's real. But it also turns out that most of the days are cloudy. I didn't realize this like truly until I started looking through all the graphs, but it's like 1 out of every 10 days is sunny And, you know, I know it's cold and everything, but I didn't realize how many days in the winter are just cloud cover all day. So then also my home's, I'm pointing as you can see it, my home's air conditioning is electric but my heating is natural gas so my natural gas bill is just going up and there's nothing my solar can do about it. But on top of all that, you gotta think about the car. And electric cars are far less efficient in the winter when it's cold than at any other time of the year.

Batteries have a certain temperature they like to be at, they like to operate at that temperature so they spend more extra energy getting up to and staying at that temperature. So a normal drive for me might take, say, 15% of the battery on a commute during the summer. That same drive during the winter will take 20, 25, and 30% of the battery driving the same way just because it's so cold. So that is a lot more electrical energy. So here's what some typical days in the winter would look like. Only generating 20 to 70 kilowatt-hours of electricity in a whole day. Like cloudy days would only be a handful. And then for home use, so I went through this phase of like, maybe I should charge my car less often to be off the grid more. I was kind of playing around with that. So I would charge every two to three days, but it honestly doesn't matter. You can sort of see which days I plug the car in. And to be fair, the Powerwall handled it but it did empty it. So the next day I'm pulling from the grid until the sun comes up. So it was basically like a lot of days around zero and then every time I had to plug in the car to fill back up there would be a huge dent, just a huge positive net use day on the calendar. So I had positive net grid usage months for all of November, December, and January. So I was pulling from the grid more than I produced solar all of those months. But then sure enough, when we get to spring, Spring Things flip super fast. It turns out that if you were to guess which month I would generate the most solar or the most excess solar, what would you think? You'd probably guess like sometime in the peak of the summer with the longest day, June, July. For me it was May. In May I used 6,500 kilowatt-hours of electricity but I generated nearly 8,500 kilowatt-hours of electricity and I didn't even realize, this is another thing you don't know for real until you look at the data and I'm looking at the graphs and May had every single day sunny during that month. I think I had one cloudy day in May. But in June and July, we do get a lot more thunderstorms out here in the northeast and that does take a real hit on total solar. That's cloud cover so they didn't generate quite as much solar as May. We're just learning weather patterns out here Eight Sleep through graphs of solar generation. This is also around the same month that I got the Eight Sleep. So the Eight Sleep is a Pod Cover that fits on a mattress,

like a fitted sheet but it's temperature-controlled so it can heat and cool each side of the bed independently. They reached out around May to be a sponsor and I said, "Yes," so that's when I installed it. I wouldn't say it replaced the need for air conditioning, it didn't, but it did legitimately decrease the total air conditioning you need when the bed is cooled off and the house doesn't have to be as cool. So it cools the bed before you get in, stays cool the whole night for optimal sleep, and then warms you up in the morning on autopilot every single day, which is sweet. So now that I know that air conditioning is the number two draw of electricity in my entire house and if you don't drive an electric car, it's probably your number one draw, then it's good to know that you could do something like this and it'll take a lot less electricity from the wall than the air conditioning would. Also, if you're curious, I talked about this on "Dope Tech" but it's turned out to be pretty awesome. Sleep is super important and temperature is at the top of the list for sleep quality, falling asleep faster, and waking up less. So investing in your sleep makes a ton of sense on top of maybe cutting into your AC use. So if you want to get a Pod Cover for yourself, you can use code MKBHD on their site and get $200 off. So I'll leave a link in the description. And thanks again to Eight Sleep for sponsoring the video. So it's time for the the big summary. I've had this solar setup The money question for a full year now, all four seasons. It's time to run the numbers, see if it was worth it, and see if it's good. So let's start with the money question here. This, as I said, was nowhere near the cheapest possible option. Of course, going with solar panels and batteries, a lot of different possible setups. So my setup with the solar tiles, all of the materials, all of the labor installation, everything, and the three batteries, everything together was $120,948. 04. But also, as you can see, there's a federal tax credit down here of nearly $30,000 bringing the total cost to me down to right around $93,000. So the tax credit does fluctuate quite a bit. It's gone up a lot since I ordered like a year and a half ago, whatever it was. It's up to 30% now in New Jersey. So it's called the New Jersey Solar Investment Tax Credit. If I ordered today it would've been $8,000 more off. But you know, it's fine, it's fine, everything's fine. I'm not mad, it's fine. But the main question you typically see with an investment like this is what is the payoff period? How long does it take before that investment pays for itself in saved electricity? So that's a good question and I have to do quite a bit of math here because every bill is different every week, every month of electricity costs different amounts.

My provider has different electricity rates every single hour and there are different averages per day, per week, per season. But if I do a sort of sweeping average for each month and how much electricity I've been using, the 54 megawatt hours of electricity that I've used in the past year would've cost about $9,660. So again, it's a lot, but obviously, air conditioning takes up a lot and a lot of that is driving an electric car every single day. So of course my gas bill has been $0 this whole time, but you know, that's where it comes from. So if you divide that out by the total cost that I paid, it comes out to just under 10 years, 9. 6 years. So if you Google like, "What's a good payback period for a solar setup," the answer that the AI pops up with is like 6 to 10 years. Which, you know, if I think about it makes sense obviously, and that's great because if the panels are warrantied for 25 years and you pay 'em off in 10 years, then they're just paying you extra for the next 15 years, however long you're in that house, which is great. So mine being on the longer end of that, am I mad at that? Not really. I think that's fine. I also do know that there are a couple of things that could have been different to make that payback period shorter. Now, the number one suggestion typically would be okay, if you wanna make the payback period shorter, get a less expensive setup. And that would make sense. But also you have to keep in mind the coverage matters here. So I could have gone with a much less expensive, actual solar panel array from Tesla on this same roof and because of all the pitches on the roof, they estimated they could have put panels down on certain parts and it would've totaled a smaller 19-kilowatt array instead of the 29 kilowatts of the solar tiles. I know that because that's actually what I first signed up for an estimate for as I was like juggling the idea in my head. Would that have had a shorter payback period or would that have been offset by much less electricity being produced and taking longer to pay for itself? I don't know. But the other part of that equation that I'm thinking about now is just like, I should just use more electricity so that it pays for itself faster. I want to get my value's worth. I am constantly in net negative so I can afford to use way more electricity. And so I thought maybe about switching, you know, various appliances that aren't electric yet, maybe even switching heating to electrical.

So that may be in my future. But now for all the miscellaneous weird quirks Quirks and Features of having this brand new piece of tech on top of my house, 'cause believe me there are quite a few. So first of all, on the $0 electricity bill for the whole year, that is real, which is pretty awesome. But it's also interesting that I was able to achieve the $0 bill monthly, but I also used positive net grid energy for those three months during the winter. So you might be wondering, "Wait a second, how does that work? " And the answer is net metering credits. It turns out they roll over month to month but then they get reset once per year. So meaning when it was first activated and in the first full month of August, I produced more than I used, I ended the month with a credit for the difference, which was negative 255 kilowatt-hours and it says that on the bill. So that means the next month, even if I used 255 kilowatt-hours more than I produced with solar, I would still have a $0 bill 'cause I have that credit to play with. But month after month after month during the summer and then the fall, I was building up more and more negative credit so that by the time we got to winter, those three months in a row, I was eating into the credit but I didn't eat all of it so I didn't get back to zero. So the bill was still $0 every month. So then another fun thing, power outages. I have had a few power outages since getting the solar system installed. Most of them just because of thunderstorms and the grid going down for a bit. I didn't even notice, which was pretty sick. I did not notice. The lights didn't even flicker. I didn't know until I got a notification on my phone from the Tesla app saying "Hey, just so you know, you're disconnected from the grid right now but you're running off of solar and/or batteries right now so everything is good and you've got, you know, x amount of hours of backup left and it should get you till the next morning when the sun comes up again. " And there's even a storm watch feature that will preemptively make sure the Powerwalls are full if it knows a big storm is coming. Honestly, there is a pretty sweet peace of mind knowing for a fact that if I don't charge the car, the Powerwalls have more than enough to just use the house like normal until the next morning. Air conditioning, appliances, literally whatever, and it'll be fine. And when the sun comes out again, it'll start powering everything. I could be completely off the grid for days or weeks at a time if I find somewhere else to charge the car. Now, another fun fact: in the winter in the northeast, you probably already know, we get snow, and the surface of the solar tiles, the solar roof stays just above freezing, just a little bit warmer than a roof would, which has some interesting side effects. Most notably when it snows a little bit, the snow simply hits the roof and melts so it never actually accumulates on the roof, and then the solar can continue to work.

I mean if it's cloudy, you get a little bit of solar but it keeps working and then you're the only house that doesn't have a white roof 'cause there's no snow on it. But when it snows heavy, like like a lot, which it does a few times, what happens is it snows a ton and it actually does accumulate and then when it accumulates, the outside layer kind of insulates the bottom and so the bottom now has room to get warm again. And so it warms up and creates a thin layer of water and then the whole thing just slides off of the roof like a sheet of ice, like the whole accumulated layer slides off on the water. So I didn't get videos of this happening with my roof, but there are some YouTube videos of this happening on YouTube. It's kind of crazy. The whole roof section slides off in sheets and it lands in piles around the house, sometimes blocking a door or a driveway. It's not a small deal. It was a little bit frightening the first time it happened 'cause I didn't realize what that loud booming noise was. I was like, "Is there thunder in a snowstorm? That's kind of weird. " But then I like to see it in the window like sliding off of the roof, which is crazy. Then it piles up around the door and then I gotta shovel it. But then last but not least, the fun fact I lied to you all, the zero, that sounds silly. The $0 power bill is kind of a lie because my power company ruined it. Every month for the past 12 months, my electricity bill has been $5. 75. That's just because I have zeroed out all the charges thanks to net metering, but they charge $5. 75 every month just to have an account. So thanks, guys. So just to wrap everything up here, my one-year conclusion. Conclusion This is an awesome piece of bleeding-edge tech. You can tell it's bleeding edge because it's still rapidly evolving and it's still very expensive. So for early adopters like me who are willing to take the plunge, willing to take that risk a little bit, it can be awesome. It kind of reminds me of electric cars. There are a lot more affordable solar setups out there that are making a meaningful difference for a lot of people in a lot of different situations all over the world. There are also much more massive, huge solar setups as well.

But I think we can kind of all get behind a technology that makes more sustainable energy, more useful, more efficient, and more beautiful over time. I learned a lot with this process, mostly in how much electricity certain things specifically use, but also how much electricity a roof with solar panels on it can collect at different times of year, different seasons, and different situations. But I don't think, honestly, I don't think I would change a thing. I don't think I would change anything in what I did other than probably waiting like six months to get a little more of a federal tax credit. But I'll hit one last thing. It was briefly mentioned in a Tesla earnings call I think it was, or maybe Elon just said it randomly, but that Tesla vehicles in a year or two by 2025 would all support bi-directional charging, which would be amazing. I don't know that that's going to happen, but having the cars be able to not just charge other cars but even potentially serve as your house's backup battery would be pretty incredible. These car batteries, as we're learning, are already way bigger and can support way more power output than any Powerwall, or any home battery. One Model S battery is equivalent to like seven or eight Powerwalls. So who knows if Tesla does or not, but as of today with the right box on the wall, with the right inverter, the F-150 Lightning, which has an even bigger battery, can be your house's backup battery. So I think the number of EVs that support this feature should only be slowly going up. But I think ideally there's a world in the future where instead of needing like a huge, the current thing, needing a big solar setup and all these fancy batteries, all you need is a small solar array, an inverter, and your car battery and you can be completely functional during any extended power outage or any emergency. 'Cause we live in a world where there's another news story every week about the electrical grid being taxed and how these heat waves are running people's grids and air conditioners into the ground and too much of it is causing blackouts and deaths. So any strain that we can take off the grid is a win. And anything we can do to operate on clean, sustainable energy is a win for everybody. So thanks for watching. I'll hang out in the comments for a while, but feel free to subscribe if you enjoy videos like this and the amount of work that goes into these videos on any kind of bleeding-edge tech and stuff like this in the future. And let me know what you're interested in seeing next in the comments. All right, catch you guys on the next one. Peace.

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