Tesla Solar Roof vs Solar Panels: Which is Worth It? - TinkerTry's home featured in Matt Ferrell's video and podcast

Posted by Paul Braren on Mar 19 2024 (updated on Apr 17 2024) in
  • Efficiency
  • EVs
  • Solar
  • Tesla
  • This set of two videos followed by a detailed, technical article is the first-hand information that I had hoped to find when I was trying to find out if it was even possible to go all-electric with solar back here in Connecticut back in 2021. It had become clear we needed to downsize to a one-level "forever" home, but there was no land near us suitable for new construction, and new construction prices were very high.

    Click/tap image above to visit Paul's referral link at ts.la/paul68544

    As constructive feedback and questions come in from below the videos, I've also begun incorporating some of those comments with my answers into this work-in-progress article.

    This article about Matt's recent videos is NOT sponsored and there was no financial transaction between Matt and I. I hold no stocks and never held stocks in any of the tech companies mentioned at TinkerTry, including Tesla and any other company mentioned in this article.

    If you enjoy this content and find value in it, you can save yourself hundreds off your Tesla purchases by using my referral link ts.la/paul68544, which earns me some modest perks as well, at no cost to you. The same goes for Matt - if you're going solar consider using his Energysage Portal, to benefit you and Matt alike. There is no one best solution for everybody, it depends where you live and what your goals are.

    Video 1 - 16 Minutes - Solar Comparison

    Here's Matt's very popular video where we have a quick look at our particular use cases.

    Undecided with Matt Ferrell - Mar 19 2024 - Tesla Solar Roof vs Solar Panels: Which is Worth It?

    Video 2 - 51 Minutes - Podcast Discussion

    Here's a deeper discussion with Matt Ferrell and his brother Sean Ferrell, with me on as a guest where we have the time to dive deeper into the differences between our approaches, with both of us focused on long-term benefits.

    Still TBD Podcast - Mar 27 2024 - 211: Tesla Solar Roof vs. Solar Panels

    Table of Contents


    Virtual Power Plant - Application Pending size. Tap/click on the animated GIF above to see Charge on Solar in action, pushing electricity into my EV at the top home charging speed of 48A /11 kW!

    I hope you enjoyed this new video published on the first day of Spring 2024! This fun and informative video teases the math that we'll likely be calculating later on. Neither of us have solar production data for all four seasons yet on our new-last-summer systems. Meanwhile, there is still plenty of information I can share now about my installation, and that's the primary focus of this article.

    Many questions are likely to pop up under the video, and this article is intended to try and answer some of those as best as I can. Consider this article to be supplementary reference material, for folks interested in learning more about our rationale for going solar in the way that we did at our home. No one solution is right for everybody, and in our use case, I freely admit it's a rather niche use-case where the math might eventually work out pretty well for us in the end, with Tesla Virtual Power Plant with ConnectedSolutions Program being that huge variable. It's a net metering of sorts, and I don't yet know if I'll be admitted into this program, with my 2023 application still showing as Application Pending. Such earnings are highly variable, and depend a lot on where you live and what regulations are in place. Such benefits are being reduced lately in sunny states like Florida and California, and it seems many other regions are following that trend, unfortunately.


    First, the back-story, you'll want to start by reading this:

    Next, I'll try to address some additional details.

    Our chosen house has no trees anywhere nearby, with lots of west-southwest roof surfaces. This bit of luck, along with our decision to downsize as empty-nesters made solar a somewhat more viable option financially for us, especially since the house needed a new roof anyway. Other factors were the fact that our house faces west-southwest, and it has a large roof surface facing the road and the sun, so we weren't all that keen on the look of traditional solar panels that would also only cover about 60% of our roof. We decided to go for a Tesla Solar Roof that would cover about 83% of our roof in solar cells, a cohesive system design is tied together with excellent software features like Charge on Solar and VPP.

    Cost-Benefit Analysis

    Some of the long-term benefits of having a solar roof

    roughly twice the cost of the current average price of a new car in the US

    Paul's Tesla Solar Roof compared with Matt's Solar Panels. This isn't the whole story, please watch the entire video to fully understand our very different approaches, and some of the math involved.
    1. Backup - Reliable access to energy, even during power outages, with no generator to maintain. The SPAN Panel that we added allows tunable but automatic circuit-breaker based power management during grid outage events, shutting power off to non-essential circuits during outages, and restoring all circuits when the event is over, automatically.
    2. Time-shifted Power - Sun energy is collected during the day to fill the batteries. The batteries are then used to automatically power the home in the evening. Living in New England at around 41.7 degrees north of the equator means less energy is available, especially in winter.
    3. Independence - Reduced reliance on the grid, see "Time-shifted Power"
    4. Home Refueling Station - "Free" refueling for decades for our 2 EVs. "Charge on Solar" means our cars are mostly solar-powered for 3 seasons, and one of them is entirely solar-powered in the summer.
    5. Burning nothing - No natural gas or oil bills. Reducing our carbon footprint while living in a comfortable home that doesn't affect our neighbors air quality. We have interconnected smoke/fire alarms, including one in our garage. We no longer need CO detectors.
    6. Health - Greatly increased indoor comfort featuring all-electric, heat-pump-based heating, cooling, and hot water, with year-round humidity and temperature control. Nothing is burning in our house, something that threatens CO poisoning, especially in older homes. I've personally had 2 scares with CO, once in our home, another time in a defective new car. We've eliminated those concerns.
    7. Sturdy Roof - 30% discount off a new roof that we needed anyway (tax credit).
    8. Revenue to Offset Winter - Some income from selling excess energy back to utility for 3 seasons, banked to get through winter and come out near break-even for utility expenses per year (net zero operating cost).

    Matt and I agree that going solar like this is far too expensive in the US right now. Before making an "only for rich people" argument, keep in mind that this kind of purchase is more like something you use a second mortgage for, such as you'd use for major home improvement. Interest rates are high right now, which isn't helping anybody right. All that aside, before judging us too harshly, I'd encourage you to watch the entire video all the way to the end. Matt does a great job going through the thinking behind both of our configurations for our "forever" homes that we both intend to live in for decades. For our home, this project cost will wind up being about twice the cost of the average car in the US. That is a lot. Then also consider that we've become our own "gas" station for our two EVs, so no more hundreds per month for gas. We're also able to sell back the excess energy we produce to the utility, banking those earnings to come out roughly net zero after tough winters. We also have a new, durable, hail-proof and waterproof roof over our heads that won't discolor. Finally, we recently learned that we will be getting 30% off our Federal Taxes from the Residential Clean Energy Credit for the whole project cost, which includes our new roofing. After reading paragraph through, perhaps I don't look quite so crazy?

    For us, energy independence and efficiency goals were higher priorities to us than square footage and fancy appliances. Our new-to-us home was built in 1990, and it's 1,867 sq. ft. in a middle-class neighborhood. Your situation likely differs in many ways. We are early adopters that share our personal experiences, warts and all, in hopes of helping others achieve their personal sustainability goals too. Maybe we even help others avoid a pitfall or two too. Yes, it was a huge gamble for my wife and I, but I feel a lot better about taking this risk in electrifying our renovated home than I would have by merely replacing our 33-year-old gas furnace and water heaters with yet another gas furnace and water heater.

    Matt acknowledges that solar panels over asphalt shingles can be installed for far less money. A relative of mine shared with me recently that his Tesla Solar Panel system costs on his traditional roof were less expensive than all other competitors here in Connecticut.


    Here's our system design's major components:

    • 27.648 kW PV Array
      • 384 Tesla Tesla solar-tile SR72T2 panels at 71.678 watts each
        (384 panels x 71.678 watts each = 27,524 watts)
    • 54 kWh Energy Storage System
    • 3 Tesla Solar Inverters at 7.6 kW each
    • 1 Tesla Backup Gateway 2 at our utility service entrance on our house
    • 1 AC Disconnect - Rapid Shutdown Switch
    • 3 Subpanels - installed by Tesla - 1 in our garage, 2 at our utility service entrance in our basement
    • 1 SPAN smart panel (200A)* at our utility service entrance in our basement

    * Except for the SPAN Panel, all of the above hardware was included in the cost of this Tesla Solar Roof project. The SPAN Panel was an optional, additional cost upgrade that was installed when we closed on our built-in-1990 home in September of 2022. The existing tiny 200A panel was swapped out by a licensed electrician who is also certified for (too frequent ;) DC Fast Charging equipment servicing. He also ran new wires to our electric range to replace that one aluminum wire (common in the 1990s), and added dedicated breakers and copper wiring for heat pumps, air handlers, and two 3rd Gen Tesla Wall Connectors.


    If you're interested in learning more about the details of how the assembled-in-Buffalo NY Tesla Solar Roof panels work, refer to the SOLAR ROOF EMERGENCY RESPONSE GUIDE, excerpt screenshot below.

    How it started

    When a house came up for sale that we agreed upon, my “pitch” to my wife about solar was along the lines of this question:

    Do we want to spend roughly $100K on energy (electricity, plus gas for heat) over the next roughly 15 years, knowing our usage patterns from our previous, same-builder house? Or, do we want to use that $100K for a new roof+solar to gain more control over our monthly expenses as we get nearer to retirement, while also enabling healthier indoor air (heating, cooling, ERV filtration, humidity control), given we spend most of our time living and working at home?

    I realize most folks don’t consider TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) over a decade+ time frame. As an IT guy, I'm used to thinking of such major purchases in this way.

    Surprisingly, she was quite on-board with this idea, right away really. I let her know that there was considerable risk that this solar project might not happen due to circumstances well beyond my control such as permitting issues, Tesla canceling the project for whatever reason they like, etc. Delaying it (for Powerwall 3 or other future upgrades) would also jeopardize the whole project, requiring yet another redesign and a big rise in our cost, since we had locked our cost in at final design in January of 2023, when costs were a bit lower. So we decided together to go forward with this project, with whatever install date Tesla offered. That was looking like it could be as late as October 2023, a full year after moving in, but that date was suddenly moved up to May, just as our siding contractor was finishing his work. Phew.

    I owe a special thanks to a particular Installation Coordinator at Tesla for shepherding my project along for months, and for getting my spot in line moved up a few months when somebody else canceled. His name begins with a D, and he knows who he is. It truly felt like he was advocating for me, and I'm not sure this project would have happened without him as the rollout of these panels in the rest of New England has been rather slow. I think it helped that my local Tesla Solar office (formerly Solar City) is in Rocky Hill Connecticut, the next town over from my home in Wethersfield.

    It certainly helped that my wife and I had a tour of the Tesla Solar Roof on Little House Brewing Company that's also right here in Connecticut, to be much more familiar with what we were signing up for. Special thanks also to co-owner Sam Wagner for offering that group tour back in December of 2021, where he described how this whole thing works with a tour arranged by the BuildGreenCT, formerly known as the CT Green Building Council.

    On January 1 2023, Electric Rates Doubled in Connecticut

    Our resolve to move forward with this project was only strengthened when Eversource doubled their electric rates, at least for the first 6 months of 2023. At that time, we had no sure way to determine if or when they'd go back down again. While shopping for a 3rd party supplier is possible in Connecticut to try and get those rates under control again, this crazy a jump came before I had finished shopping, and this negative experience didn't exactly help us feel in control of our destiny.

    In early 2023 during the long wait for an installation date that weren't sure would actually ever happen, we endured considerable additional stress. I had a sudden need for a job search, and a health challenge with surgery sprang up for my wife. Both were resolved, but during that stressful time, these concurrent life events had me thinking we might need to cancel our expensive plans. Again my wife surprised me with her determination to see this through despite those setbacks. Long term thinking - our goals remained the same.

    Design Changes Were Needed

    Tesla's solar design web site has come a long way since we placed our deposit in June of 2022. The portal didn't have anywhere near enough questions asked about our home and power use plans, but that's all been fixed.

    Matt has a great group of Patreon subscribers that got to see this video 2 days early, with some helpful comments arriving within hours. I've tried to answer simplified versions of those comments below.

    How it's going

    Automatic Power Backup (without generator noise)

    Tesla Energy's Ben and Mike at the Cybertruck meetup near Boston on March 24 2024.

    I travel for work occasionally, and last week I was in Nashville. It was rather valuable to me to have my wife not need to fret about a power outage while I'm away, especially important when your home runs entirely on electricity, with no gas or oil heat. What timing, she experienced our first actual grid outage during my trip. It's fair to assume she wouldn't be terribly interested in my escape pod (aka, sleep-in-car-with-HVAC-on) idea that I tested during a long power outage in August of 2020.

    Peace of mind during storms (leak prevention) and outages (power protection) aren't really ROI (Return On Investment) things. The payback period for those aspects of this massive project are instant. This solar roof project was by far the most expensive single thing my wife and I have ever done to improve either of the two homes we've ever owned, so it's fair to say we were both relieved to see everything work as designed. Her phone's alerts are how she knew the power went out and the lights did not flicker, at least not noticeably during the cut-over to battery power. The only more obvious sign of an issue was the 240V LG range beeping, as its very sensitive clock lost time. The 120V microwave clock held its time just fine, and the TV stayed on. When power was restored a mere 5 minutes later, there was nothing noticeable at all, other than status via Tesla and SPAN apps. The thing with power outages is you never know how long they'll be. That's why having a SPAN Panel to be able to smartly automate the handling of outages is so important. It's automatic in how it turns off circuits that I predetermined to be non-essential (washer/dryer, oven, humidifier, one of the two heat pumps, etc.). Manual overrides are available via the app even when not at home. The app works even if the primary internet goes down, using the no-monthly-cost built-in LTE cellular backup that comes with all SPAN Panels.

    Today, my wife and I were taking a walk, heading across the street then turning onto the sidewalk. A stranger was jogging at full tilt toward us, apparently catching us glancing back over our shoulder at our home as my wife and I were discussing something about our landscaping plans. The passerby shouted out something like "Tesla Solar Roof, eh?" as he passed by quickly with a great big smile on his face. Not sure if he knew we lived there, but that was a a nice moment. This reminded me of the many neighbors that came up to the Tesla roofing crew nearly every day during the nearly 3 weeks of installation process while I was working away inside. The Tesla crew took great pride in their work, and even gave some of the people walking by a little outside tour, showing their craftsmanship and how it all works. The crew later said that the compliments that the roof got from people passing by our house were more frequent than any of their many installs all over New England. Maybe they say that to everybody, but here's a fun aside - the crew, mostly in their 20s and 30s, were literally singing to 80's jams while they worked. I thought this was just great, knowing they enjoyed what they were doing, and doing it well.

    Now that we have everything working smoothly and the daylight is getting even longer, it's great to see that most days we're already at >90% self-sufficient, even though Spring has only just today sprung! The system is storing solar by day in those Powerwalls, dispensed automatically at night to keep the heat and everything else going.

    What a relief to have the project behind us now, with summer to look forward to. The only thing left is to keep checking on the status of our Virtual Power Plant application...

    Meanwhile, ask me anything, leave a comment here at TinkerTry below this article, with no login required!

    Video Transcript

    Matt Ferrell has an article with the transcript from this video, enjoy!

    • Tesla Solar Roof vs Solar Panels: Which is Worth It?
      May 19 2024 by Matt Ferrell

      Well, I thought it might be interesting to compare my house to another house from here in New England that does have a Solar Roof. A friend of the channel, Paul Braren, invited me into his house to check out his setup. Both his system and my system were installed last year, so I thought it’d be really interesting to compare the two, the reasons why we did what we did, the costs, and our initial thoughts. By the end, maybe we’ll be able to figure out an answer to my question…why aren’t we seeing more solar shingle roofs?

    More photos soon, come back and refresh.

    This image isn't photo-shopped - the grass really was that green the fall of 2023 due to a lot of rain. Jim Collison and Dave McCabe would be ashamed of what it's become since. I have little time for proper lawn care, but at least I do mow it when I can, using my now technically solar-powered electric lawn mower.
    Prepping for solar, our siding contractor Rick Cyr coordinated with our electrical contractor David Houseman to install a new white panel and a new meter socket and taller, stronger, guy-wire-reinforced service wire mast, readying our home for the future Tesla Solar Roof installation. Note the gas line and meter, since removed.
    I installed slanted PVC "lumber" above and to the sides of the electric service boxes and meters. Despite supposedly waterproof enclosures, the large gray box was rusting quickly onto the new white vinyl white siding, as water poured onto it while waiting for the 6" gutter installation. I added the white PVC lattice to block much of the ugly grey PVC piping from street view, while leaving the red emergency button, switch, and warning signs clearly visible. Tesla added PVC to the existing ground wire entry, and added a 2nd grounding rod, in accordance with local electrical code.
    This one drone image captured by a person that didn't wish to be identified, taken before beefy 6" gutters were installed by a third party a few months later.
    Four Tesla Powerwalls and 3 Tesla Inverters in our recently-insulated garage.

    The photos and drone (quad-copter) video clips in this article were all taken between July of 2022 and October of 2023. All but one of the drone videos and stills are by Civil Engineer Robert Brickley from Close Jensen & Miller. The rest of the photos are by me, Paul Braren.


    Sunny days, almost no clouds, results in a smooth curve. A slightly misshapen bulge to the right of the centerline is due to the large roof surface facing west-southwest in the afternoon. Solar noon also isn't at noon during DST here
    My USAA insurance has Solar Shingle System listed as one of their "Other" Roof Materials.
    Tesla Solar Roof Final Design page 2 of 36 created on Jan. 12 2023
    North is up. This image was laser etched onto a red plaque installed near my meter on the side of my house, for firemen to quickly identify what is where, and how to easily de-energize the system should roof-chopping be needed.

    Comments & Responses

    Commenter #1 (from a Patreon member)

    Costs were too high for me in my New England state, and my solar company said I should wait for 6-9 months of electric bills, so I'm waiting for the battery market to mature before moving ahead.

    My reply:

    That sounds like a solid plan. For me and my circumstance, I'm glad I didn't wait for more months of electric bills, since it's now well over a year of struggles with finalizing my HVAC system design so my bills are all over the place, so the estimates would be inaccurate anyway. Also, I'm glad that Tesla allowed me to go ahead with finalizing the design because I lived in a house by the same builder nearby for 27 years, so they were willing to accept my previous home's bills as decent estimates for my 33 year old home we were moving to. Also, the Virtual Power Plant program was ended in Connecticut for Eversource customers in December of 2023, so if I had waited, I wouldn't have had a shot at getting into this program that might pay us thousands per summer for selling electricity from our Powerwalls back to the grid during times of high stress on the grid - a few summer evenings per year.

    Commenter #2 (from a Patreon member)


    I wish all solar panels were both invisible and standard. It's hard to imagine roofs soaking up sunshine every day without producing energy to power the grid.

    My reply:

    I too wish for such a future for all home builders - it sure would be grand if there were a variety of viable choices from a variety of manufacturers, at affordable prices.

    Like Matt wisely warns, it's hard to know what the long-term prospects of solar roof manufacturers will be, especially when it comes to maintenance or damage repairs down the road. I'm lucky to have no trees around to threaten my roof anytime within the next 25+ years, so our risk is minimized. That said, I realize that's a rather rare circumstance for many or even most homeowners. Folks usually want the shade of trees, naturally cutting down on AC bills in the summer. For us, winter is far tougher to stay mostly off-grid than summer here in New England, so now that I've added an extra layer of exterior insulation and replaced my siding and windows, I'm okay with lots of sun. That, but that's just us.

    My niche needs were met nicely by this Tesla Solar Roof mostly by luck, and I also know it's a risk long term. I do wish Tesla would have let me keep some spare dummy and solar panels in my basement just-in-case, to be used for future repairs. Sort of like builders do when leaving extra asphalt shingles and/or siding in a new home. This is one of many areas that need improvement, others include the requirement to remove gutters prior to Tesla arriving to do the installation. I'll be sure to try and cover some of my commentary here below my planned articles.

    Commenter #3 (from a Patreon member)


    I would have liked to see actual production numbers

    My reply:

    Feedback received, and good to know there's interest. So grateful that Matt was able to produce this quality content to share my project with his signature compelling, story-telling style.

    Due to my Gateway 2 being swapped out, it makes the calculations more difficult to reconstruct in the Tesla app.
    If I instead look at the SPAN app, I can share that in February 2024 our Solar Roof generated 1,944.8 kWh of solar. In August of 2023 we generated 2,979 kWh of solar, but we may have had one or more inverters software limited at that time, I'm not sure until I have another August under my belt. I will be able to include some preliminary numbers in articles I have planned for my site later this week, as a follow-on to this get video.

    Commenter #4 (from a Patreon member)


    Solar is personal, our company re-designed ours 3 times to maximize coverage.

    My reply:

    I agree, each house is different, and each family circumstance is different. Tesla inspected my existing roof the day after closing on our 33 year old home, so I hadn't had a chance to remove the satellite dish (and another previously-mounted dish base) yet, both of which Tesla showed as non-solar tile areas in the first draft of their proposal. I sent photos to let them know those areas of the roof were now clear, trying to emphasis that I wanted all non-shadow areas of the roof blanketed with solar, even if it was only getting sun for a portion of the year, since the project cost increase wasn't too bad. Their tools for sizing weren't great when I placed my order, missing key details like I was going with all heat pumps (water, heat, cooling) and have 2 EVs so naturally my electric needs were higher. This is why I pushed from 2 up to 4 Powerwalls.

    I'm glad to see feedback like yours, you're giving me good ideas for what my article about this video should include. Thank you!

    Presentation Deck (Google Slides)

    Here's the Google Doc version of the presentation I gave at last year's NEEVS (Northeast Electric Vehicle Symposium) , complete with animations. Enjoy!

    About the author

    Systems Engineer at Pure Storage. TinkerTry.com, LLC Owner/Founder. EV Club of Connecticut Co-Leader. Sustainability Advocate.

    Paul Braren is an IT professional and tech blogger who covers PCs, EVs, home tech, efficiency, and more. Paul has authored over 1,200 long-term technical article at his TinkerTry.com over the past 13 years, increasing his focus lately on creating EV articles and videos, along with helping the EV Club of Connecticut since purchasing his first EV in 2018 - a Tesla Model 3 Long Range - replacing his 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid.

    Clicking/tapping the image above visits my Tesla Referral Link that can get you hundreds off your Tesla Order.

    If you found this article and/or video to be inspiring and helpful and you want to save $ on your Tesla purchase(s), please consider using my referral link:
    which also earns TinkerTry.com, LLC some modest perks. Details on Tesla's Refer and Earn program here:

    If you found the smart SPAN panel to be of interest, I have a detailed article for you where I discuss it with my electrician and a representative from SPAN:

    Disclosure: I hold no stocks and never held stocks in any of the tech companies mentioned at TinkerTry, including Tesla and any other company mentioned in this article.

    If you are interested in a series of deeply technical articles and more videos about all the challenges that went into ripping out our baseboard heat and natural gas lines and going all-electric, while also upgrading the windows and insulation and air-tightness (AeroBarrier), please use the Follow links listed below.

    Follow & Save

    If you decide to order SPAN and valued this article and/or video, please consider letting SPAN know about it. While there are no discounts or perks currently offered, it lets them know there's interest from sites like mine.

    My SPAN smart panel was crucial to the success of my electrification project, so I'd encourage you to check out my article EV Club of CT's smart electrical panel discussion featuring SPAN, electrician, & homeowner.

    Read more about me here.

    Follow my work at:

    If you're interested in following my biggest sustainability project ever that details my (mostly) successful effort to go all-electric at my home using heat pumps, solar, and batteries, consider subscribing to the TinkerTry YouTube Channel, then click on the alarm icon to get notified of new videos. Also consider showing your support on my Patreon page.

    Apr 11 2024 Update


    @mattferrell, a nice shout-out to you about your @UndecidedMF solar roof video at this spot:
    by mid-Atlantic Tesla Solar Roof installer David Silverstein, owner of American Home Contractors @AHCDMV, guest on @DMC_Ryan's RTL #453 podcast episode. Enjoy!

    Apr 17 2024 Update

    SR72T1 changed to SR72T2, based on what I spotted in the final design.

    See also

    • Announcing BuildGreenCT
      December 14, 2023

      Connecticut’s Unified Force for Sustainable Transformation of the Built Environment
      In the dynamic landscape of sustainable building practices, we are thrilled to announce BuildGreenCT – the joined forces of the Connecticut Green Building Council (CTGBC), Connecticut Passive House (CTPH), and Living Future Connecticut.


    See also at TinkerTry