Most of us are familiar with Tesla due to their often outspoken Chairman Elon Musk. Most people know Musk as the master of the “big reveal.” However, many argue that these announcements come before the company has solved major engineering problems with their products. Sometimes it seems as if announcements are more tied to corporate funding than technical progress or consumer satisfaction.

This is what has been said about Tesla’s foray into solar panels with production partner SolarCity. While Tesla designs the panels, SolarCity manufactures and finances equipment. Tesla announced that the partnership and subsequent solar panels would change the face of solar energy forever. But do the Tesla solar panels stand up to competitors in the field?

Tesla SolarCity Solar Panels Models

Right now, Tesla only offers one solar panel model in the range. There aren’t any options for solar from Tesla SolarCity aside from the Tesla Roof. However, if you’re in the market for panels, you’ll only find the standard 350W IP65 panels. Each panel weighs 44.5 pounds and has a black anodized frame. Tesla claims that each panel has an operating temperature between -40°F up to +185°F. However, studies and consumer ratings have shown that the panels do not have the temperature coefficient that Tesla claims.

Efficiency

Now that we know a bit about the panels let’s dive into efficiency. Just how efficient are the Tesla Solar Panels by SolarCity? Tesla boasts that every panel holds a respectable 19.4% solar panel efficiency rating. In contrast, there is a 22% efficiency rating achieved by SunPower. The industry standard holds at around 17%.

Solar panel efficiency is mainly an evaluation of a panel’s overall ability to modify sunlight into accessible electricity. The greater the efficiency ratings, the better the energy output will be. Considering the cost of the Tesla panels, the 19.4% rating isn’t terrible, but it certainly doesn’t live up to the hype.

Performance/Output

One thing that Tesla touts is a performance that can outdo big names in solar such as Panasonic and LG. When it comes to performance, the Tesla Solar panels by SolarCity do look good. Due to improved HIT technology, the solar cells do boast a market-leading .258% temperature coefficient.

That means that each panel’s power output will only fall by a  meager 0.258% for every degree celsius above 25 degrees. The only other manufacturer in solar who can tout a similar coefficient is  SunPower, whose panels boast a 0.29% temperature coefficient. Both brands are well above average in terms of power output.

Additionally, the HIT cell structure from SolarCity incorporates crystalline and amorphous technology. It allows the cell to convert more the sun’s energy into usable electricity than traditional crystalline only cells. With the added duo layer of amorphous silicon, which surrounds the crystalline silicon, there are more levels of ‘net’ to capture the energy. This results in a higher performance of cells.

Our testing found that when Tesla solar panels by SunCity work, they are powerful and efficient at converting energy. However, they do have their fair share of issues, including cell fractures, which can occur well before the warranty runs dry.

Design/Aesthetics

One thing the SolarCity Tesla panels truly get right is the overall design and aesthetics of the panels themselves. There is a significant difference between Tesla’s solar panels and how other solar panels look on a roof. Tesla panels boast a clean all-black finish that is consistent with Tesla’s reputation of modern futuristic design. However, they are not the only company that offers the all-black panel, manufacturers such as LG and Panasonic have been doing so for years.

Tesla solar panels are very low-profile and durable. The all-black panels and proprietary hardware work to keep the actual array close to your roof, meaning no bulky racks or large caps. From a distance, one may not even be able to detect the presence of solar panels at all. This minimal aesthetic is achieved through integrated hardware and a simple design that is secured close to the roof.

All Tesla solar panels by SunCity do include skirting to hide solar panel mounting from the ground view, which seeks to ensure a seamless integration.

Durability

Given the overall cost of Tesla solar panels by SunCity, you likely want them to be durable and with your home for the long haul. We’ve found that while the panels themselves can be durable, they are also more prone to issue than similar brands. Still, Tesla touts that the panels are designed with durability of both the array and your actual roof in mind. Rail-free mountain and interlocking brackets seek to fasten panels securely together for a seamless solid range, while installation points are sealed to protect against the elements.

Additionally, Tesla does offer a unique proposition in Home Battery Backup. Home battery backup can detect grid outages and will automatically allow the solar Powerwall to become your home’s primary energy source without a generator. This means bypassing the need to choose a solar charge controller. Powerwall can also be used to learn patterns in your energy usage and solar generation, which can help you to maximize energy savings throughout the day.

Warranty

Tesla’s warranty offerings can be a bit all over the place. Generally, the warranty itself will depend on who is manufacturing that particular panel. In our case, we’re talking about SunCity. Solar panels have a warranty from SunCity. This generally includes around 12 years of quality and a guarantee of at least 80% power capacity after 25 years. While this may seem like a generous warranty, most solar manufacturers such as LG and SunPower are offering a 25-year standard warranty on all physical defects and hardware issues, not just power capacity.

Cost

Just how much are you going to pay for Tesla SolarCity panels? Generally, you can expect to pay around $3.20 per watt for both the Q-Cells and SolarEdge equipment. This is about average for higher-end solar panels, but you may fare better with a brand such as LG or SunPower if you’re willing to pay Tesla prices.

The Takeaway

Tesla has the brand power and the aesthetics to produce appealing solar panels with SunCity. While the panels can work as intended and do boast an excellent temperature coefficient, there are better and more established solar brands that can provide panels that last without all of the customer service headaches Tesla ownership can bring.