Pricing is a bit more complicated than a regular roof replacement, and it’s going to be a bit different than installing solar panels on an existing roof. If you are considering upgrading your home with a solar roof, you are probably wondering: “How much does a solar roof cost?”
In this article, we will explore some of the factors that go into figuring out how much a solar roof can cost, so you can start the process with a basic understanding of what to expect.
Why Should you Install a Solar Roof?
A solar roof can seem to be really expensive when you first look into it. So why do people install solar? What makes it worth it?
For many homeowners, the cost of not installing a solar roof is greater than the cost of going ahead with it. It’s not just about the money (although that can be a factor).
Let’s take a look at a few reasons people decide to take the leap and invest in a solar roof:
The first benefit people often think about when the subject of solar comes up is the environmental impact.
Other, more “traditional” home energy sources generate a lot of carbon emissions. With anxieties about climate change, more homeowners are trying to make their homes as close to “carbon neutral” as possible, since every bit can help. Plus, relying on solar energy reduces water and air pollution from fossil fuel power sources.
For those who are concerned about the environmental cost of relying on fossil fuels for their home energy needs, solar can be a good option.
A power outage can spell disaster, no matter the season. With certain solar roof installations, power outages are less of a concern.
If you live in an area where blackouts happen frequently, a properly configured solar roof with a battery storage system for backup power can be a solid investment. Plus, you don’t have to worry about running to the gas station for fuel for a generator.
Additionally, a solar roof is usually more durable than solar panels – most solar roof tiles have at least a 25-year warranty, and have been tested against high winds, large hail, and extended freezing temperatures.
To the surprise of some, a solar roof installation can actually save money in the long run. (Related: Considering Solar From Your Home? Here's Everything You Need To Know) Despite the seemingly steep up-front cost, the immediate savings on the household’s electrical bill should not be ignored. Plus, there are federal and state tax rebates that offset the cost (which we will get into a little later), and some power companies have programs that allow you to sell excess solar power back to the electric company.
Additionally, installing a solar roof will almost always increase the property value of your home, so if you’re considering selling or renting that property in the future, a solar roof can provide a great return on your investment.
Solar Roof vs. Solar Panels: What's the Difference?
Before we get into the various factors that contribute to the cost of a solar roof, we need to make an important distinction.
When we talk about the costs of a solar roof, we are not talking about solar panels.
Solar panels and solar roof tiles use similar hardware and technology. They both convert sunlight into energy that can power your home.
However, a solar roof is a permanent fixture. It replaces your roof itself. Solar panels sit on top of an existing roof, attached with sturdy brackets to keep them in place.
Because a solar roof is essentially an entirely new roof, the up-front cost is going to be significantly higher than the cost of simply adding solar panels to an existing roof. Therefore, a solar roof is a better option if you were already planning to replace the roof altogether.
Why Choosing Solar Panels might make more sense than a Solar Roof
Solar panels can be adjusted to catch more sunlight throughout the day. This could make solar panels a better option for some homeowners. Solar panels are an older technology, so there are more contractors who have years or even decades of experience installing them. Because of this, you can usually “shop around,” which could mean lower costs or greater levels of expertise.
However, just because it’s less expensive right now to install solar panels as opposed to solar roof tiles, that may not be the case much longer. Plus, that’s only the initial, short-term investment.Solar roof tiles are more durable than solar panels, which means that they can withstand more extreme weather, and they should last longer without needing to be repaired or replaced.
And like any new technology, the cost is likely to decrease as time goes on.If you have a fairly simple roof that gets a lot of sunlight, or if you need to replace your roof anyway, a solar roof may be a better investment.
Another key difference is the appearance of the roof. Solar panels sit on brackets on top of your existing roof, and some homeowners think they stand out – and not in a good way.
By contrast, solar roof tiles are used in place of “regular” asphalt, metal, or clay tiles. This means that your roof will have a sleek, glassy appearance.
As of right now, both solar panels and solar roof tiles have a blue or blue-black appearance, but there are some manufacturers of solar roof tiles that are working on designing more color options.
Base Cost of Solar Roof Installation
Aside from price differences between manufacturers and installation companies, there are two main factors that determine the base price of a solar roof: your household’s energy requirements, and the size and shape of your roof.
Most companies will calculate the number of solar tiles needed for your roof based on the amount of power your home typically needs, measured in kilowatts. The more energy required, the more tiles your new roof will need, and the higher the expense.
The other important factor is the roof itself. If you have a simple roof that gets plenty of sun, the solar roof will cost considerably less than a complicated roof with chimneys, skylights, or other obstructions to work around.
As of early 2021, this translated into solar roof quotes ranging from as low as $8,000 (for a small simple roof that needs only a small amount of solar tiles) to upwards of $75,000 (for a large complicated roof that needs a lot of solar tiles). Most solar roofs cost somewhere in the middle: between $20,000 and $40,000 up front, before tax breaks and rebates.
Hidden Costs of a Solar Roof
Now, with any home improvement project, you might expect some unexpected costs with your installation.
While we can’t give any exact figures, we can give you an idea of a few things to look out for. Some of these factors may be included in the quotes you get from different manufacturers and contractors, so make sure to ask exactly what is included, and what else they might recommend. That way, you aren’t caught off guard later on.
Ways to make a Solar Roof Cost Less
As we have seen, a solar roof can cost quite a lot of money, but are there any ways to make a solar roof cost less?
- 1First, we need to talk about the federal solar investment tax credit. As of 2021, a home solar installation is eligible to receive a tax credit up to 26% of the total cost. This can be a really significant chunk of change, since it covers not only the equipment itself, but the cost of the labor to install it. If you file taxes for the year that your solar roof is installed, you can claim the tax credit during that filing process. So while you will have to wait to receive the savings, it will cause your overall cost to go down significantly. As a general idea of what this looks like: a solar roof installation of $20,000 would receive a tax credit of up to $5200, bringing the total cost down to $14,800. An installation of $50,000 would receive a tax credit of up to $13,000, bringing the total cost down to $37,000. Keep in mind, though, that the credit is specifically for the solar installation itself. Additional extras to your solar roof, such as matching non-solar tiles, might not be covered by the tax credit. As with anything regarding finances and taxes, talk with your accountant to make sure what will be covered by the federal solar investment tax credit, rather than assuming that everything will be.
- 2Is there a tax credit available at the state level? There are currently ten states that offer tax credits similar to the federal solar investment tax credit: Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, New York, South Carolina, and Utah.
- 3Your state may offer other financial incentives to installing a solar roof. More states offer rebates that reduce the cost of solar panels and solar roof tile installations immediately. This means you will not have to wait until tax time to save money on going solar. Additionally, although not all states offer tax credits on the initial cost of installation, some states offer other kinds of tax breaks for homeowners with solar. This could come in the form of exemptions to sales and property taxes, or as credits toward your overall tax bill to the state. While this does not directly cut the cost of a solar roof, it can still be a financial benefit. Finally, if you’re in a lower income bracket (usually defined as being below the median income of your locale), some states offer additional tax breaks and incentives to installing a solar on your home. Again, check with your accountant so you can get the most up to date information.
- 4Sell your excess solar energy back to the utility company with net metering. Most solar roof setups are not truly “off grid.” Whether or not you choose to install a backup battery to store energy generated by your solar roof during the nighttime, your solar roof may still generate more energy than your home will use. In this case, your electric utility company may apply a rolling credit to your bill. That way, in colder months when there is less sunlight, you will still save money on your energy costs.
Weighing the Cost and Savings of a Solar Roof
In the end, your unique circumstances will determine if a solar roof is the best choice for your home.
Talking with various contractors and getting quotes from various companies can help you understand the costs and benefits of different brands and the systems they offer.