Solar Panel Material Differences
Tesla’s marketing literature suggests there’s eight different tiles available. Tesla currently offers a textured style, which Tobler chose, as well as smooth. Tuscan and slate styles are set to ship later. Each of these four comes in both solar and non-solar varieties. Simple, right?
Not quite. These eight all use a tempered glass three times stronger than slate or asphalt, as outlined in this Tesla animation:
It’s part of why Tesla can offer an “infinity” warranty on the tiles with 30 years coverage for its power-generating capabilities and weatherization. Unfortunately, the strong glass makes them unsuitable for cutting to size, so Tesla also produces a variety of non-solar tiles with weaker glass. You’ll find these ones around the edges of the house, by the chimney, and anywhere else where Tesla needs to cut a tile to size.
“The solar tiles themselves are extremely strong and you can walk on them, but to be able to put ladders on some of the edge pieces, we were concerned about making sure everything stayed intact,” Tobler says. “We actually temporarily went offline and had a strip of tiles removed so the painter could put a ladder all around the edge.”
Watch Out for Big Changes in Energy Use
Tesla will ask for evidence of energy usage to take an average and design a roof to fit your needs. Tobler provided one year’s worth of energy bills, far more than Tesla needed but enough to take an accurate reading. Unfortunately, her energy uses changed after installation.
“We added a second EV, but when they did their first estimates, I was not driving an EV,” Tobler says.
Originally, the family had one Nissan Leaf. The Tesla app shows this uses between eight and nine kilowatts when charging. Tobler then bought a Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivan, which has 40 miles of electric-only range. That can bring energy usage up to 10 kilowatts when charging with other people using electronics in the house, a significant change in usage.
“We only opted for one Powerwall [battery],” Tobler says. “Having a second Powerwall would be pretty nice. If my husband were to charge his car completely, it would deplete the entire Powerwall.”
Depleting the solar power storage system while the roof is inactive, like during the night, means the system buys energy from the grid. Fortunately, buyers can add more Powerwalls after installation.
You May Become Internet-Famous
As one of the first to receive a solar roof, Tobler’s house has seen widespread online coverage. That’s filtered through into some neighborhood recognition.
“I did have a guy knock on my door that lived in some other California city that I’d never heard of,” Tobler says. “He was driving by to visit his dad, and he looked over…he said he actually recognized my house from the internet, and right away said ‘that’s the one! That’s the one with the solar roof!’”