Tesla Solar Tile
Paul Fosse's picture

Why I Am Not Buying Tesla Solar Panels or Solar Roof For My House Yet

In this article, I am going to go over the different factors that I am using to evaluate whether to install solar (Tesla or another brand) on my house. I hope you can use it as a framework to help you decide if solar is a good choice for your home or townhouse. Some of the factors you need to consider are very personal to your individual situation and some of the factors are based on the city and state you live in and the national incentives.
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National Situation

The a US Tax Credit to middle and upper-income taxpayers is 26% in 2020. If you don't make enough to use the tax credit yourself, you use a company that takes the tax credits and rents or leases the panels to you and passes on most of the benefit. This is scheduled to go down to 22% in 2021 and to 10% for 2022 and beyond. This would be a reason to buy solar sooner rather than later if it wasn't for 2 countervailing factors.

  1. Solar has dropped an average of 16% a year in price (16% a year compounded for 10 years is an 82% fall overall) for the last decade. It is hard to predict whether it will fall more or less than that in the next decade, but there are tremendous research and development in solar worldwide and I don't think we are at the bottom yet. These price reductions could more than make up for the reductions in tax credits scheduled to happen.
  2. Joe Biden is currently ahead in the US polls. If he is elected president, he has proposed increasing incentives to "The deployment of clean energy". Of course, he will need Congress to approve any change in law, but it is likely the tax credit will either stay at 26% or be increased if Biden is elected in a few months.

Solar Tile Closeup

State Situation

I live in Florida and will go over their incentives. I encourage you to check out your state's situation by clicking here for Energysage's website and scrolling down to your state and clicking it.

Florida has net metering at this time. This means that the utilities pay you full retail price for the power you put back on the grid during the times your solar produces more than you need (i.e. in the day when it's sunny, but you might be away from your home working) so they when you come home from work and use electricity when the sun has set, you have credits for you to use.

At some point in the future, net metering will probably go away, because it is a bad deal for utilities. But while it is the law, it is great for consumers, since you don't have to get a battery to store your solar energy until you want to use it. The utility acts as your battery "for free." In general, if you produce more power than you use in a year, the utility will either pay you nothing for that extra energy or pay you a low wholesale rate. For that reason, it is usually a bad financial decision to buy more solar capacity than the power you expect to use on an annual basis.

Local Situation

I live in Tampa and am a customer of Tampa Electric. They recently sent me a notice that because of the big drop in energy costs (related to the Covid-19), they would be reducing electricity rates.

In my situation, this cut my already low 8 cents a kWh rate to about 6 cents a kWh. According to Paylesspower, that is lower than the average for any state in the country. In states like California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Hawaii, with rates from 20 to 30 cents per kWh, solar has a much faster payback.

For example, in California, a 4 kWh system is expected to produce 16 to 21 kWh a day of electricity, worth about $3 a day, $90 a month, and $1,080 a year, according to Tesla's site.

Since this system only costs about $6,000 after incentives, it pays for itself after about 6 years and is expected to produce about $29,000 in savings over the 25 life of the system. In Florida, the same 4 kWh system is expected to produce a little less (14 to 18 kWh) a day. The average Florida rate is 12 cents a kWh. so that is about $1.80 a day, $54 a month, and $648 a year. It is expected to pay for itself in 9 years and generate about $14,000 in savings over its life. Now for my utility, that 16 kWh would only save me 96 cents a day or $29 a month or $346 a year. That lengthens the payback to almost 18 years. That is not very compelling. I am looking for a payback in less than 10 years. I may get solar even if the financial payback is poor for environmental reasons.

Solar Roof

Your Individual Situation

Another thing to consider is how long you plan to stay in your home. In a perfect world, the home appraiser and home buyers would pay you the true worth of your solar investment, but we don't live in a perfect world. In some areas of the country, buyers and home appraisers value solar at less than its worth. This means if you plan to move in a few years, you would be betting on the industry changing to give you the fair value for your home. I think it is a likely the industry will change in 5 years, but if you plan to sell earlier that than, you should investigate how solar is viewed in your area.

The last thing that I am considering is my new home warranty. I live in a new home and I have a one year home warranty. If any roof issue appears in the first year, they will be fixed for free by my home builder. If I install solar before the year is up and a roof issue appears, they won't cover it, but instead, blame the solar company for the issue. So for that reason, it is best I don't do anything for at least 9 more months.

Conclusion

I hope hearing about the variables I weighed in considering solar help you make a more informed decision. I included some helpful links to help you with your research. If you decide to buy Tesla Solar, make sure you ask a friend that has a Tesla car or solar for a referral code to save a $100 off your installation. If you don't have any friends that have a referral code, use mine.

Paul Fosse is a Software Engineer delivering financial data marts using massively parallel databases (Exadata and GreenPlum) for a major healthcare insurer and a lifelong lover of cars. From the time I saw the 1972 Volkswagen Dasher review in Consumer Reports, I knew the industry would convert to front wheel drive. Now I am excited to have a front row seat to the industry's biggest transition in generations, the transition from gas and diesel cars to electric vehicles. I ordered my first EV (Nissan Leaf) in 2010 and now own a 2018 Tesla Long Range Model 3 and have a Cybertruck and a Model Y on order. Contact me on Twitter at Paul Fosse with tips for new stories. Full disclosure, I'm a Tesla Shareholder.


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Comments

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the state of the solar market in Florida right now! It's clear you've done your research and have thought about the various angles involved. Many in the industry are certainly watching the election to see how the incentives may shift as a result. An ITC extension is not a part of any official platform from Biden or the dems, but it was included in the GREEN act that passed the House in June. One thing that surprises me is that you are set on choosing Tesla as your installer for solar when the time comes. Most of what I have heard about their process is not favorable-- they might have good products, but their customer service for solar is practically nonexistent. I am biased, but I would look for a local installer if I were you. Cheers! Thanks for writing!
I’m pretty engaged within the Tesla fan community so that’s where I am most comfortable.
I understand your concern and Tesla can be difficult to deal with on cars and I’ve heard the same is true on solar. I’ll probably go with Tesla for 2 reasons. They have the best software and I’ve been to lots of Tesla events and gotten the chance to ask Elon a question on a media call. I’m pretty deeply part of their ecosystem.
Understood. That's awesome! I'm all for Tesla's tech, especially Powerwall. I would just consider a third-party installer certified by Tesla. That way you can get the best of both worlds. In any case, look forward to hearing updates when you do decide to go solar!