Solar Roof

Some thoughts from a new install (long)

Hi everyone,

Wanted to share some thoughts on my solar roof install in Orange County, Calif. This is my first experience with solar. In retrospect, some of the lessons learned will seem painfully obvious, but this was a learning experience for me.

Started back in Nov '19 with the $100 deposit. After uploading electricity bill from SDG&E, got two options from the design team:

1. 14 kW system with 3 Powerwalls - $86k
2. 10 kW system with 2 Powerwalls - $71k

I was on the fence here. The 10kW covers about 120% of my historical energy needs. When speaking with the salesperson, she could only say that purchasing the 14 kW would provide for "future needs" I went with the 10 kW. Given our plans for an EV, I wish I would have gone with the larger system, but with only 2 Powerwalls.

Things were pretty quiet the first half of 2020 due to Covid, I guess. Permits took 3 attempts with city before finally approved. But got a call in June and had my install scheduled at end of June.

Step 1. Remove old roof. This was a contracted third-party company. Fast and efficient. They had to take down my gutters to do this. I was able to get a $2k credit to replacing them since it would be impossible to get them re-installed. 3 days.

Step 2. Deliver materials. They sent about 2x the material needed for my project so my driveway was completely filled for six weeks...whatever.

Step 3. Repair roof and place new underlayment. Same third party company. They found some areas that needed replacing with new plywood. Underlayment is this very thick material from Firestone. Seems pretty sturdy. 5 days.

Step 4. Powerwalls, Inverters, Panels. This was a Tesla team. Very knowledgeable. Took my inputs and installed exactly as described. Took 2 days.

Step 5. Lay tiles, flashing, etc. Another Tesla team. I loved these guys. The foreman (Tommy) was terrific and always checked in with me each day. I got to know the crew and would check in on them a couple times a day. Also had juice and donuts for them a couple of mornings when they showed up around 7am. They did a nice job with with the cables to the inverters by utilizing a crawl space. The biggest thing here is that panels will typically have all sorts of conduits running down the side of a house. This crew avoided that completely. 15 days.

Step 5. Punch list. Spent some time taking pictures and compiling a document with things that still needed work. I sent to Project Advisor and they were all fixed. 5 days.

Step 6. Inspection. Electrician at the house to check Powerwalls, inverters, etc. 1 day.

Good: Tesla install crews. They are mostly Solar City guys and very knowledgable.

Bad: Project Advisors. Overwhelmed. Slow to respond. Not much communication. I had to make A LOT of phone calls to see how my project was progressing. There was a 3-week delay mid-project due to have to re-submit permits to the city. No idea why. I asked Project Advisory to go ahead and with the PTO application from utility, but he responded they could not until permit was re-issued. This isn't true per the utility.

All said, about 8 weeks from start of install to finish, which I guess is pretty good.

The app is awesome, but my grid data was grossly inaccurate due to an issue with non-backed up loads. Took me calling every day for 2 weeks to get a tech to my house to fix.

Last thing. About 3 weeks after getting my PTO from utility, I randomly got a message from someone to do a "final audit" - an inspection of the work. The guy found a few minor things and said I would get a call from scheduling to repair. That was a month ago and still haven't heard from anyone.

Comments

  • Thanks for sharing and congrats on your new roof. Do your 2 PWs get fully charged from solar everyday and so far are you pretty much self-powered? Another question I have is on the gutters, Tesla provided me a reference for a roofer to install new gutters with bunch of other documents though it was not said to be required. Did you get a reference before you start the project and do you have to co-ordinate the timing of gutters installation?
  • Congratulations! Two questions:
    1) Did the PTO process with SDG&E go smoothly? We had our post-installation inspection from the city 4 months ago now, and we still don't have PTO. Tesla keeps telling me it will happen any day now, but we've pretty much given up hope.
    2) Were new gutters included in the installation? They are in our contract but have never been installed, and Tesla doesn't answer our questions about what's going on. I'm wondering if they simply haven't figured out yet who to contract this out to in SoCal.
  • You were so much luckier than I. I was on the same starting timeline as you, but just about everything that Tesla could do wrong, they did. I'm just now finally live, but the system is having major issues and produces nowhere near what was promised. I agree that some of the guys who did the work on site were fantastic, but their project management is essentially non-existent utter chaos. I still have a long way to go with Tesla before my project is done, and it's pretty infuriating.
  • > @RatherBeBoarding said:
    > Thanks for sharing and congrats on your new roof. Do your 2 PWs get fully charged from solar everyday and so far are you pretty much self-powered? Another question I have is on the gutters, Tesla provided me a reference for a roofer to install new gutters with bunch of other documents though it was not said to be required. Did you get a reference before you start the project and do you have to co-ordinate the timing of gutters installation?

    All depends on the amount of sunlight! For example, when there isn't a marine layer, charging starts around 8am (in October, earlier in summer months when days are longer) and will be to 100% a few hours later. When there is a marine layer, it might start charging between 10am-12pm, and might not get to 100%. I am keeping it in Self-Powered mode, so Powerwalls will immediately start discharging when there isn't enough solar to power to house. I keep a reserve at 20%

    As for gutters, my original quote included gutter replacement, but an update just before project start removed that line without a decrease in cost. Explanation from Tesla was that they didn't want to be the middle man in the process since they don't install gutters. I went with the recommendation from a neighbor and then coordinated the install after the roof was complete.
  • > @SanDiegoNH said:
    > Congratulations! Two questions:
    > 1) Did the PTO process with SDG&E go smoothly? We had our post-installation inspection from the city 4 months ago now, and we still don't have PTO. Tesla keeps telling me it will happen any day now, but we've pretty much given up hope.
    > 2) Were new gutters included in the installation? They are in our contract but have never been installed, and Tesla doesn't answer our questions about what's going on. I'm wondering if they simply haven't figured out yet who to contract this out to in SoCal.


    Call SDG&E and see what the holdup is. I called them a few times during the process and found them to be very knowledgeable. They should be able to tell you exactly what was missing from your application. When Tesla finally provided them with everything needed, it was only about a week turnaround for PTO, but they say it could take up to 30 days. My guess is that Tesla has not completed the application.

    See my response to @RatherBeBoarding regarding gutters
  • > @BLD said:
    > You were so much luckier than I. I was on the same starting timeline as you, but just about everything that Tesla could do wrong, they did. I'm just now finally live, but the system is having major issues and produces nowhere near what was promised. I agree that some of the guys who did the work on site were fantastic, but their project management is essentially non-existent utter chaos. I still have a long way to go with Tesla before my project is done, and it's pretty infuriating.


    Sorry to hear that. What size system do you have? I have a 10 kW and have been meticulously tracking data on a daily basis via spreadsheet. Back in the summer months, my peak production was 8 kW around 11am-1pm. Now that the sun angle is lower, it's around 6 kW during the same time of day. So my production now is nowhere near where it was in the summer when I was getting nearly 60 kWh per day - now it's closer to 30 kWh. Sun angle is lower, days are shorter, etc. Hopefully this gives you a benchmark to determine if there is an issue.
  • I got 8kWh out of my 5kW array yesterday. It was overcast all day. I've seen zero production on rainy days. Production from any given installation varies all over the map, depending on season and weather. On a typical Summer day, I usually get 30kWh, or more.

    This is why I change the reserve on my two PWs *often*. In the Summer, I leave it at 30%. Right now, it's at 70%. After a 'quake in the region, I go to Backup Only. As a requirement of an SGIP grant, I'm required to use a certain amount of energy yearly from the PWs during peak hours. $5k will pay for a lot of micro-managing!
  • I have been working with Tesla to have a Solar Roof installed in Orange County (92705). Tesla just reached out to me and said they "are unable to submits permits through Orange County as they are not approving any Solar Roof projects at this time." I called the Orange County Building Department (I live in the unincorporated area of Orange County) and they said they would approve a permit so long as the Orange County Fire Authority would approve it. I then called the Orange County Fire Authority and they said the Tesla Solar Roof does not comply with the California Fire Code and they could not approve a Solar Roof installation (the person I spoke with at the Orange County Fire Authority was aware of Solar Roofs being installed in other jurisdictions and did not know how considering the California Fire Code).

    My question is, did you have to get Fire Authority/Fire Department approval in order to install your roof?

    If so, what Fire Authority/Fire Department approved your roof?

    What building department issued your permit in Orange County?
  • > @norm_98683923 said:
    > I have been working with Tesla to have a Solar Roof installed in Orange County (92705). Tesla just reached out to me and said they "are unable to submits permits through Orange County as they are not approving any Solar Roof projects at this time." I called the Orange County Building Department (I live in the unincorporated area of Orange County) and they said they would approve a permit so long as the Orange County Fire Authority would approve it. I then called the Orange County Fire Authority and they said the Tesla Solar Roof does not comply with the California Fire Code and they could not approve a Solar Roof installation (the person I spoke with at the Orange County Fire Authority was aware of Solar Roofs being installed in other jurisdictions and did not know how considering the California Fire Code).
    >
    > My question is, did you have to get Fire Authority/Fire Department approval in order to install your roof?
    >
    > If so, what Fire Authority/Fire Department approved your roof?
    >
    > What building department issued your permit in Orange County?

    if Tesla roof didn't comply with California Fire Code, then no counties in CA would get permits. I'm in LA County, and although it took forever, I did get my permit. I do remember Tesla stating something about waiting on approval from fire department during the waiting period.
  • I had no problems with permits. Nothing was said about the fire department slowing the process for me (Bay area). Seems odd, as these roofs are so much more fire-proof than most others, especially shake roofs. Even asphalt shingles can burn, but they are considered to have good fire resistance. Glass tiles can't burn.
  • I had the first solar roof in Menlo Park and the fire department did come by to inspect. Their main concerns were (a) how do they de-energize and will cutting through the tiles while active cause any issues and (b) how do they walk on tiles if necessary. They're not worried about the tiles burning, they're worried about how to vent the roof if needed.

    Btw, they were so curious about it that after passing inspection they sent a bunch of trucks over (with my permission) to check out the roof and to have me walk them through the system.
  • That was very cool of you to allow the FD to use your installation to do some on-site continuing education. Your doing so might save lives and/or property.

    Kudos!
  • Thanks NDNFO for this post.
    @norm_98683923
    I'm from Orange County (92688) and I wanna go with the Solar Roof but my concern too is if they are allowing it in my area. I also have an Homeowners Association. My city is with OCFD. Is it worth to wait for the roof or just go with the Tesla panels? Any thoughts? Thanks.
  • if you need to replace your existing roof, the solar roof is the way to go. Way cheaper.
  • > @norm_98683923 said:
    > I have been working with Tesla to have a Solar Roof installed in Orange County (92705). Tesla just reached out to me and said they "are unable to submits permits through Orange County as they are not approving any Solar Roof projects at this time." I called the Orange County Building Department (I live in the unincorporated area of Orange County) and they said they would approve a permit so long as the Orange County Fire Authority would approve it. I then called the Orange County Fire Authority and they said the Tesla Solar Roof does not comply with the California Fire Code and they could not approve a Solar Roof installation (the person I spoke with at the Orange County Fire Authority was aware of Solar Roofs being installed in other jurisdictions and did not know how considering the California Fire Code).
    >
    > My question is, did you have to get Fire Authority/Fire Department approval in order to install your roof?
    >
    > If so, what Fire Authority/Fire Department approved your roof?
    >
    > What building department issued your permit in Orange County?

    We are in 92705 as well and Tesla just informed us about the permit issue. Any luck with contacting Fire Authority? My advisor didn't want to tell me what the issue that is causing the holdup. I just emailed OC Building Dept trying to figure it. Wondering if that's anything we can do to get this through as home owners.
  • > @norm_98683923 said:
    > I have been working with Tesla to have a Solar Roof installed in Orange County (92705). Tesla just reached out to me and said they "are unable to submits permits through Orange County as they are not approving any Solar Roof projects at this time." I called the Orange County Building Department (I live in the unincorporated area of Orange County) and they said they would approve a permit so long as the Orange County Fire Authority would approve it. I then called the Orange County Fire Authority and they said the Tesla Solar Roof does not comply with the California Fire Code and they could not approve a Solar Roof installation (the person I spoke with at the Orange County Fire Authority was aware of Solar Roofs being installed in other jurisdictions and did not know how considering the California Fire Code).
    >
    > My question is, did you have to get Fire Authority/Fire Department approval in order to install your roof?
    >
    > If so, what Fire Authority/Fire Department approved your roof?
    >
    > What building department issued your permit in Orange County?

    Wow...this is news to me. We did not have to get OCFA approval, as far as I know - just the permits from the city of San Clemente. We followed permit progress on the city website and did not see anything about fire authority approval.
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