In November 2016, Tesla CEO Elon Musk gathered a collection of investors, fans, and journalists in the slum area of Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California, and unveiled his vision of a “sunroof”—that is, tiles with solar cells integrated into them so they look look just like regular roof tiles, except they produce electricity.
At the time, SolarCity and Tesla officials said solar roof installations would begin in the summer of 2017. Initially, Tesla employees were the only customers, until Tesla reportedly started installing solar roofs for reservation holders in January. In the end, that also seemed to come to an end. Reports indicated that as of May 31, only 12 solar roof systems had been installed, all in Northern California. In a shareholder meeting in August, Musk said solar roof installations were finally on the rise, with “several hundred” solar roofs being installed. The company later contacted Ars to clarify that this number included homes planned for installation, not homes with active solar roofs installed.
Tesla has said it will take time to verify the safety of these solar roofs to make sure they will work for decades instead of twelve. In the company’s second quarter shareholder letter, Tesla wrote, “We are steadily ramping up production of Solar Roof in Buffalo and also continuing to iterate the product design and manufacturing process, learning from our early factory production and field installations. We have Solar Roof on additional homes in the second quarter and receive valuable feedback from each new installation.” The letter added that Tesla plans to ramp up more by the end of 2018, so if you’re on the pre-order list, you might be in luck soon.
But if you’re not on the reservation list, you might want to know how to get a sunroof without waiting for Tesla. The car company didn’t invent solar tiles — they existed as rare specialty products produced by a few lesser-known solar companies. In the years since, some of those companies have stopped producing or talking about solar tiles, while others have stepped into the game. So as of October 2018, here are five solar shingle makers you can bet on to replace your old asphalt roof faster than Tesla can.
Certainteed’s Apollo II
CertainTeed is an old company with a new name; it was originally (in 1904) General Roofing Manufacturing Company. Now a subsidiary of the construction products company Saint-Gobain, CertainTeed specializes not only in roofing, but also in “siding, fencing, decking, railings, trim, insulation, plaster and ceilings,” according to the company’s website.
One advantage CertainTeed has over its competitors is that the Apollo II solar shingles have been available for about five years now, and it is possible to purchase said shingles through an installer. Each clapboard or tile contains “14 high-efficiency monocrystalline silicon solar cells” that provide “60 watts of power per sunroof,” CertainTeed says.
In an email to Ars, Chris Fisher, manager of Solar Product Development & Marketing for CertainTeed, said installation costs depend on the installer. (EnergySage says the cost according to solar installation data is about $4.90/Watt, compared to $3.14/Watt for an average rack-mount system and $6.40 for an estimated Tesla installation).
Fisher said his company’s solar shingles are four to seven percent less efficient than traditional rack-mounted solar panels because the solar cells must be able to operate at higher temperatures without air circulation under the shingles (this is common for most solar cells). shingles).
Luma Solar has also been installing solar roofs for years and has roofs in more than 20 U.S. states and some in Canada and the Caribbean, according to the company’s chief adviser Marty Aquino.
Aquino said the price of Luma’s solar roof varies with the complexity of the system. If a customer only wants a portion of their roof to solar, it will cost about $4.50 per watt, although an “edge-to-edge” custom solar system can run up to $38 per square foot. Custom roofs take into account the customer’s future energy consumption, sun exposure on the roof and the customer’s total budget.
Luma also advertises higher yields for its solar shingles. The company says that because the clapboard’s patented design allows airflow under the clapboard, the system has a 21 percent solar-to-electricity conversion efficiency, which is high even for rack-mounted panels. Aquino added that, “because of the smaller clapboard profile, our solar shingles will generally ‘turn on’ earlier in the day (about half to almost a third of the power required compared to conventional solar panels averaging 18 to 24 volts). per panel to ‘enable’).”
Luma generally seeks out local installers to place an installation, but it is also capable of doing an installation itself.