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Tesla has already changed the market of electric vehicles forever. Can they do the same with the solar industry? At the moment the only answer is “maybe”. Learn more about the photovoltaic ups and downs of Tesla Energy in our review.
Tesla, Inc. was founded in 2003 and is based in Palo Alto. Initially, it specialized in electric vehicles and its Model 3 became the world’s most popular electric car with over 1 million global sales.
Besides EVs, Tesla offers energy storage and photovoltaics through its division Tesla Energy. In 2016 Tesla acquired SolarCity, a company that installs solar systems.
While electric vehicles have been an absolute success, Tesla Energy seemingly struggles to bring its solar products and services to the same level. While there are enough positive reviews about Tesla, lots of customers found the service unsatisfactory. Tesla Roof is considered one of the company's failures and we’ll come back to the reasons for it later.
Instead of Tesla roof, many customers choose standard solar panels for their homes. Tesla offers a single model with a few variations. Their efficiency varies from 19% to almost 20%: good but not great. Efficiency is not the most important metric to look for but it does come into play when you deal with limited space and your energy needs are high.
$2-$3 per watt after installation
The panels from Tesla usually aren’t sold at retail. Instead, Tesla calculates the cost of a full installation with an inverter and labor expenses. The cost ranges from $2 to $3 per watt with a median value being around $2.35 per watt. This is cheaper than the average price in the US but, of course, more expensive than buying panels at retail and installing them yourself.
25-year product and output warranty
Despite the fact that Tesla has an operational facility in Buffalo, CNBC reports that the majority of photovoltaics are made in China. The quality of the panels is fine but the installation services are hit or miss. Allegedly, some customers waited for a year before Tesla finally responded to their inquiries and started the process. The installers themselves aren’t always professional and make mistakes during installation.
Tesla solar panels come with a 25-year warranty for materials and performance. The modules retain at least 85% of their initial power capacity for at least 25 years. A 10-year comprehensive warranty covers the entire Tesla solar system, including Powerwall batteries, solar inverter, roof mounting and leaks.
What is good about Tesla Energy products? Here is what we like about them:
— Relatively low cost. Solar panel system from Tesla comes at $2 to $3 per watt after the installation but before incentives. That’s cheaper than what most installers in the US offer.
— Mobile monitoring. Tesla's mobile app allows you to monitor your energy production and usage, giving you complete control and insight into your energy system. Lots of customers praise the design and usability of the app.
— Brand name. There is an appeal in using products made by Tesla as the company presents itself as one of the leaders of the green energy switch movement.
What’s not so great about the Tesla Energy products? Here are the disadvantages that stand out immediately:
— Poor customer service. It can be hard to get a hold of Tesla customer service and installers can be unprofessional. Getting the system installed can take months in the worst-case scenario.
— Limited availability. In some countries and regions, Tesla's products are unavailable. Besides, in the US the demand for them may outpace the supply.
— No retail. You can’t buy a single solar panel from Tesla and install it as you please.
— Shallow product line. There is only one solar panel that Tesla offers.
Let’s take a look at the products that Tesla Energy puts out on the market. We’ll be looking closely at Powerwall, Tesla Roof and the panels that the company offers.
The Tesla roof is the most ambitious project of Tesla Energy. The company offers to make a roof for your house made of solar shingles. The shingles would be able to power your entire home and this solution would be cheaper than getting a new roof and adding standard solar panels to it.
The tiles that Tesla uses are 15″ × 45″ in dimensions. Each tile is rated for 72 W power output. The tiles come with a 25-year product and output warranty.
Unfortunately, Tesla underestimated the complexity of its own product. While this innovation was first unveiled in 2016, Tesla was only able to start producing the Solar Roof in volume in March 2020. The installation costs rose significantly because of how difficult and long the process is: solar panels take 1-2 days to install, but a Tesla Roof requires over a week. Lots of customers that had solar shingle roof installed claim that it hasn’t worked out the way Tesla promised.
PowerWall is a lithium-ion AC battery by Tesla. It is designed to protect your home from power outages and allows you to save money during hours of peak utility rates. One PowerWall has a 14 kWh capacity. Often homeowners purchase two or three Powerwall to ensure backup for several days. The battery has 90% efficiency and comes with a 10-year warranty.
Recently we’ve made a video on a question of Powerwall profitability. While it’s hard to make money off having a Powerwall, customers claim that the battery is high-quality and helps a lot during power outages
Tesla solar panels for home provide from 420 to 430 W of power, depending on the variation. The maximum efficiency reaches 19.8%. The all-black design makes the panels look stylish on any roof. They come with a 25-year warranty for product and performance and you can expect them to retain over 85% of their output by the end of year 25.
We’ve talked about the history of Tesla Energy, looked at the products that it offers and their specifications and discussed their pros and cons. It’s time to round up our Tesla solar review and summarize the most important points about it in a list:
— Tesla specializes in electric vehicles but its division Tesla Energy also offers batteries, photovoltaics and installation services.
— Solar panels from Tesla show an efficiency from 19% to 20%, which is close to the average value on the market or slightly lower.
— They come at $2 to $3 per watt after installation services which is cheaper than the average prices in the US.
— The panels have 25-year warranties for product and performance.
— Tesla customers praise the monitoring system that the company offers. It allows you to watch the product levels of your system and manage it remotely.
— It can be hard to get a hold of Tesla customer service and installers can be unprofessional.
— Tesla Energy offers a single panel which you can’t find at retail.
— The products from Tesla are designed for homeowners.
Tesla has already changed the market of electric vehicles forever. It seems like it will have more trouble with photovoltaics: there are issues that are yet to be solved. Still, they have a big name and that's half of the success. If they fix problems with customer service and product supply, they can get on top. With that, we end our Tesla solar panels reviews 2023 and we’ll see you next time.
Illustrations – Natalya Absalyamova
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