111: Tiled of the Solar Roof Talk?

Matt and Sean take a look at solar roof options and discuss the multiple approaches to getting them to market.

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, “The Problem With Tesla’s Solar Roof”: https://youtu.be/sFwZQHZAJDc?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi7UWp64ZlOKUPNXePMTdU4d

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On Today’s episode of still to be determined. We’re going to talk about solar roofs can Tesla keep ahead of the pack of the other options and will the options find a big enough market when they are finally ready to meet the demand everybody as usual I’m Sean Ferrell writer of sci-fi and kids books and an allround inquisitive bloke about things that are tech and thankfully for me with me is my brother Matt he of course is from undecided with Matt Ferrell which is why this entire podcast exists because we talk about the. Episodes that he airs afterwards so that we can chat about some of the deeper details and some of the listener feedback. So how you doing today Matt well now the clocks have been pushed forward I’m feeling.
I’m doing pretty well. It’s good weekend. How about you and maybe permanently. Yes.
Maybe permanently which here in the us holding onto daylight savings has been a growing trend over the decades I remember when Matt and I were kids which was now four decades ago hearing our parents complain about.
This is.
Pushing the clocks forward pulling the clocks back I remember there being daylight savings began and ended at different parts of the year so that it was actually more months were spent with the clock set back and they keep moving the days better remember they’re being.
Yeah, they kept moving the days that would happen on.
Being times when it was like a family-wide coordination this is in the days before we had smart devices which would automatically click to the new time at the appointed hour this is back in the day when our grandparents and our parents would literally run around the house yelling I got all the things in this. Kitchen. How about you did you fix the clock in the den hey yeah, it really daylight savings used to bring families together. But now it just stands in the way of getting enough sleep and now that the clocks have moved forward I’m feeling like I agree with the us Senate’s recent maneuver to.
We’re a couple of olds.
Get rid of it.
Hold on to daylight savings permanently get rid of the switching of the clocks. Although I did read an article in The New York Times about the procedure that allowed for the unanimous consent of holding on to daylight savings. Matt I don’t know if you saw the article but effectively it well what it does is it illustrates. How.
Don’t ruin my fun. Don’t ruin my fun.
Little are US senators are actually paying attention the motion to push it forward was basically passed without anybody realizing what was happening. Yeah the senators effectively yeah, the senators effectively.
That’s crazy. You’re ruining my fun. You’re ruining my fun.
Had relied so heavily on their stabs that none of the senators realized what was happening and some of them heard about it as they were then being interviewed about the passage of the act. So not great times but on to happier news Solar roofs.
This episode of course was released on March Fifteenth Two Thousand and twenty two titled the problem with tesla roofs and Matt you and I talked about this episode before it aired. We did not have an episode of this podcast last week because unfortunate for the podcast Matt and I actually got to see each other and we’re in the same place for an extended period of time so we were in the same car for hours and we talked a little bit about this coming episode the problem with Tesla roofs Matt you were talking about your expectations around.
That’s right in the same car for hours.
Talking about tesla without it being a I’m going to talk about Tesla and it’s going to be a glowing review. You had concerns that the that the public would have a little bit of a pushback and I’m wondering did you actually experience pushback from the Tesla community.
Yeah, there was there were bunch of comments I saw in there that were taking umbrage with how I was presenting some of the information because Tesla is so well loved and seen as a leader in the industry and I did not see my video as a hit piece against tesla. And in fact, in the video I talked about how it’s an amazing product I’ve created but the problem they’re struggling with is what the problem that all of the people they’re making these products are struggling with is they can’t keep up with demand. They can’t make it fast enough. They can’t make it cheap enough and there aren’t enough installers that know how to do it. So it’s like that’s and because they’re the leader in industry.
That’s why I focused on them because they’re the ones that are kind of leading the charge in this arena. So it’s like it wasn’t Tesla hit piece. It was more of a solar shingles kind of they’re they’re the leader so they kind of came under fire. But yeah, there was some pushback.
I don’t think that your video could even be categorized as having put them under fire I felt like as you just said as a leader in the industry. This is no different than Tesla showing up and saying all these traditional automakers.
Are doing things in a way that doesn’t work with today’s world and so we are figuring out a different path now tesla in very short order has become a leader in an industry and you have other competitors coming forward and saying we see what they’re doing. Understand what they’re doing but we don’t think that’s the best way and I think your video was a very evenhanded examination of the various ways that this is happening and I think what’s interesting about this episode of our podcast as opposed to some of the other episodes we will be talking effectively about the market. Not about the technology necessarily itself your video didn’t even go deeply into how do solar pandas work. You talked about the differences between 2 models of solar panel but you didn’t go through what a lot of your other videos go through which is having to dip a toe into the science and I think that’s a demonstration of.
This is a technology that a few years ago was just emerging as a kind of head scratcher is that really going to work and we’re now looking at it from a perspective of this clearly does work this is going to happen i.
Have mentioned before on this podcast. How in my neighborhood I live in Brooklyn and in my neighborhood seeing solar roofs which are the model different from the housing in most of your video which is a more suburban setting individual homes separated by yards.
You’re talking about Brownstones kind of a thing. Yeah.
Here in Brooklyn. Yeah, it’s you know buildings that are built side to side an entire street of no yards just buildings abutted against each other the roofs that they put in here tend to be the elevated. Like a little bit of a it looks a little bit like a gazezibo has been built on top of a brownstone so you end up with a platform where there’s a little bit of a scaffold and then the solar tiles on top of that it makes it easy to spot them from the ground and in my neighborhood I’m seeing them more and more frequently.
You walk around. It’s it used to be. There was 1 building that I spotted it the first time and my response to it was oh they must be having worked on another roof in some weird way. Why would that scaffolding be up there and now it’s oh I understand that what’s happening and I see it all over the place. So.
It’s like creating a sunshade for a roof deck. It’s yeah yeah.
Exactly exactly and I think it’s from the perspective of this used to be something that was new and questioned and not understood and now it’s becoming a more accepted part of our lives. I Think it would be helpful for our discussion to know where do you think this falls on the timeline in comparison to let’s say electric vehicles where there was a point in time where electric vehicles were interesting Concepts it’ll probably never happen. And then it moved forward to okay, it could happen but there are still tremendous hurdles in front of the attempt to get there and now we have a market which is a growing consumer base saying we want that we have.
Clear leader in the industry being Tesla in actually selling vehicles at a rate that they can’t keep up with demand and all major Auto Manufacturers I would say at this point are saying electric vehicles are clearly in our future. So.
Great are moving this way. Yeah.
That being a rough timeline going back. Let’s say 10 years from today ten years ago the automotive industry would have been at what stage it would have been at the you need lots of government subsidies to get people motivated.
You need to reassure them that the vehicles will actually be viable and last long and it’s not going to be ah, an immediate loser financially.. Where do you see solar panels on that timeline or are they in a different. Mode because it’s a different industry housing is different from cars.
I I think it’s that it’s like if you look at the Ev industry. It’s like you could go back to the first so ev that was kind of Mass Market which would be made by Gm I wouldn’t go that far back because they didn’t really take that car. Seriously um, they weren’t producing enough. Um and it it just wasn’t up.
It was a sign of what could come but it was never a mass market car. So it’s like I think tesla is kind of the I would say the starting gate for when evs actually became a thing and so you’re talking about a decade into this and we’re at that hockey stick moment right now for ev is where it’s about to skyrocket solar has been around for 40 years on homes.
It’s like this is a known quantity. It’s been around for a long time but it’s been a really slow role I think it’s apples and oranges a little bit because to do solar panels in your home. You have to have a home and half of people in the United States don’t own a home they rent they live in apartments like you so it’s like you can’t.
Um, yeah.
Get solar panels in your house but you could buy an ev so it’s like it’s it’s kind of apples and oranges. So I think evs are going to take off in a shorter time period compared to what is happening with solar. But solar is also starting to get to that hockey Stick moment. But it’s going to look very different from what we’re seeing in ebs.
Yeah, another element of this in the apples and oranges aspect of it. Is you point out in your video if you’re going to put one of these roofs on you probably are in a position where you’re thinking about getting a new roof and.
The lifespan of a roof is much different than lifespan of a car if you bought a car today and you were and you were if I was going on buying a car today and I decided okay I don’t want to jump on an electric vehicle right now because I can’t afford a Tesla and I want the market to kind of.
Yes, yes.
Price balance a little bit as these other auto manufacturers introduce vehicles if I buy a car today I’ll probably be looking to replace it maybe in 5 years like there’s a window of time where you might say okay, it’s okay for me to replace this vehicle even though it’s only five years old because. That’s the lifecycle of a car that we look at but as you point out, you put a new roof on your home two years ago, you’re not looking. You’re not looking for a new roof now you probably have a 30 year warranty on that roof. You’re not gonna be You’re not gonna be jumping unless you have other reasons along the lines of like I am so.
Yes, no yes.
On board with solar I am so about renewable energy I am so wanting to be a part of this as opposed to part of the old guard if you have those motivations that’s fine, but most people are not going to fall into that camp.
Absolutely not There’s also the side of there’s an argument to that though Sean of like it’s like if you have a gasoline car right now and and that car has good 5 years of life for you left in it. It is far smarter to keep that gas car for those 5 years than to chuck it and go get an ev it actually is better. Because the manufacturing of a car is so problematic for the environment and the climate just making them ev or not. It’s like it’s better to hold onto that car for those next 3 to 5 years than to jump into ev you should get the product when you technically need the product. Not. You shouldn’t just go off kind of half -cocked and say oo I want evs and just go get evs and just chuck away your car. Um, it’s the same thing for roofs it’s like if you still have fifteen years left in your roof. It’s really wasteful to to take that those asphalt shingles down or whatever else. Um is on your roof down because some of these materials aren’t easily recyclable. Like if you have a metal roof that’s fully recyclable. But if you asphalt shingles. It’s a different story. So. It’s probably better to hold onto your roof until it actually needs to be replaced.
In the vein of that comment I’d like to dip now into the viewer comments and of course don’t forget listeners if you have any direct experience with any of these roof options or if you’re thinking about expanding into solar options. Jump into the comments you can do it here on Youtube or you can find the contact info in the podcast description and while you’re doing all of that. Don’t forget to subscribe and to like the episode. The first comment I want to talk about was this one from Oliver Van der talkk who wrote clay tile rubes never have to be replaced I have 2 sloping rubes one facing west and the other east I waited until I had to put up 2 rooftop dormers with flat rubes and then I installed the solar panels on the one that was facing south so these options that we’re talking about are also we’re. Clearly talking american centric there are roof options globally that aren’t going to fit in any of the categories that you know they last 100 years They’ve been there forever. They’ll always be there forever unless something actually physically impacts the roof. It doesn’t get damaged easily. So.
Yes, last hundred years yeah
Those options then become Ah, there’s more to wrestle with in those and there’s another aspect to it which is the aesthetic Change. There are going to be some homes for which a solar panel added to it like I’m thinking of a tile roof. You’re effectively. That’s a big. Leap for some people changing the aesthetic of a home in that way with all the advantages that a solar roof might give you there are going to be some people are going to say it’s going to legitimately Destroy how my home looks and I don’t I don’t want that. So.
Oh yeah.
That’s another part of this equation.
There’s yeah I was gonna say the house that my wife and I are currently working on building. Ah the solar roof came to mind for about 5 seconds before I kind of set that aside because cost and I still personally think it’s a little too early. Um. Things are still shifting and it’s like I’d want to to sell down a little bit more for jumping in and as I’ve been pricing out building my house. The different components. It’s like building a house with a metal roof which is one fully recyclable. It will last easily 50 years on the roof of my house it’s like I’ll put it up there and I’ll never have to deal with it again. Um, to me that makes more sense the more modular do metal with some solar panels slapped on top of it. Um, it makes more sense for me personally and I don’t have that aesthetic problem. It’s like I like the look of solar panels I think it looks pretty cool. So it’s like I have 0 issues with putting it on my roof. I totally understand people that are like no I think it looks bad I don’t want it so solar tiles are the perfect option. But again if you’re looking today. It’s like all I have to say is god god speed to you because ah, you’re going to be on a long waiting list and you start better start planning now because. If you get a leak in your roof or you’re like my roof has to be replaced in the next month you’re not getting the solar roof. It’s like it’s that’s the problem right now.
I also thought it was fascinating. 1 of the companies that you highlighted I believe it was the german company was doing some very avant garde solar designs. They were doing things with curved panels. They were doing things that aesthetically were very different from one another.
Um, so yeah.
And I wonder how much do you see is their option as efficient as the other options or is their strength Really the aesthetic side of it.
It’s hard to say because this is one of the reasons why I was I can’t really talk about costs because it varies so much house to house and it’s so specific. But for as far as efficiencies and what you’re going to get out of it I think they’re basically kind of apples to apples. They’re roughly on par with each other. But for.
Costs. It’s hard to talk about. It’s really hard.
Right? And then installation becoming an additional cost on top of that I could imagine the more complex your roof is the more detailed the installation has to be.
Yeah, that the cost starts to go way up the more complicated your roof gets so you could still have this two Thousand Square foot roof between two houses. But if one has lots of dormers and lots of angles and lots of different things to it one house is going to cost dramatically higher than the other because of labor. And all the different parts that are needed to make it work.
There was also this comment from Jim Myers who wrote the only thing holding solar roofing off is the difference between r and d scale and consumer product manufacturing they simply cannot make the tiles panels fast enough for the demand already out there. Companies involved including Tesla all need to look at major capital investments for manufacturing at Scale Tesla already knows how to do this I think the only problem here is that Ailon has too much on his plate and hasn’t put the timer resources into it to make it happen. Lots of speculation about what Alan Musk is focused on. And 1 must does have a lot of irons and a lot of fires and in no way are we trying to say that Alon is distracted from this or that part of his companies but there is.
I would also I would also argue with him that point he has a team of very smart people with him and to assume that it takes him being focused on it for to actually get done I think is a disservice to the smart people that are working at Tesla like there are some great people working in the solar energy arm of Tesla. It’s like.
Right? right? But I think that the heart of Jim’s comment does carry some water. The idea that it’s going to take major capital investment for manufacturing at scale and here.
He doesn’t have to have his focus there for it to work. Well yeah.
Um, yeah.
It runs full on into currently evolving worldwide events with the destabilization in Europe as the result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and concerns about China and the.
Manufacturing at scale typically has taken place in China and so my question to you is? Do you see any signs of where this kind of manufacturing is currently growing.
Is this.
A lot of the companies you talked about were european are these companies doing manufacturing within those countries or are they farming this work out to other parts of the world like China or India India is another country with a growing manufacturing ah industry.
So their opportunities for connection with Europe or the tesla roofing roofing operation might be a ah place but did you see any indication as to where these companies are trying to ramp up production.
China is the number one. That’s the biggest 1 right now there are places in Europe there are places in Korea taiwan that are sizable and growing in the United States Tesla in our old stomping grounds near Rochester. There’s Buffalo. The tesla giga factory that’s in Buffalo. That’s what they make they make solar panels and that’s where they’re working on the solar roof is there so there is american production that’s coming up and being built out but it’s on a different scale from what we’re seeing overseas in other countries. Um, so that is that is a problem but but to add onto his comment. He’s hundred percent right but it’s that’s one half of the puzzle the other half of the puzzle which I was trying to hammer on the video is it’s the installation and labor. It’s like it is very different to install a solar roof than it is a regular roof and they’re just. We have a shortage of people that know how to do this and so that’s one of the big things that Tesla’s been running to. They can’t make the tiles fast enough but they even have a harder time finding the people who can install it quickly. So it’s like there’s a ramp up time like I actually interviewed a company that’s doing this the first one they did took a better part of a week second roof they did they were able to get it done I think it was like a like a few days and he was he said to me he thinks that they could get it down to maybe two days you know when they get at a well-willed machine and so it’s like and this is a professional roof installer saying we think we can get it on to two days and it’s a struggle and so it’s like if.
Imagine every company that’s trying to do this is going to have the same exact learning curve in every region across the world. So it’s like there’s going to take some labor is should not be discounted. That’s a huge huge part of this.
Yeah, and I want to point out something that I spotted in your video um putting down a normal roof is difficult. This is not something that I would be able to climb up on a roof and slap. Some tiles Down. It’s one of those things I think that is deceptively complicated and in your video to do it right? It’s like oh I could absolutely nail gun some tiles down onto a piece of plywood. There is no no question I could do that and then the first big rainstorm.
To to do it right? to do it to do it right. Yeah, yeah, oh I could too.
Could run around on your upper floor trying to put down enough pans to catch all the water that would be coming through one of the things that stood out to me was in the video and it was I believe it was video of just a normal roof being laid was the speed at which the workers were working.
Oh yeah.
But the precision with which they were working and they were working like a team. It almost looked like a group of ants one ant that that puts itself in a position for the second ant to crawl over it to allow the third ant to come up and reach that branch that it’s trying to climb to and then they perform that. Ant Bridge they’re working collectively to do this thing watching these workers move across the roof with speed where 1 guy has the next part of tile and he’s unrolling it and putting it to place as the second guy is nailing down the previous tile and the third guy is beginning to unroll the next.
After the speed with which they’re doing this. The precision is impressive. It almost has that sort of competitive air to it almost like they’re racing against a clock and ultimately they are the more roofs that a roofing company can lay down the more money they can make.
Yeah, the more money they can make.
So now you add into that equation. Oh this is now something that is going to be a solar panel. It has to be put down in a way that doesn’t damage its ability to produce energy and it needs to be wired into the into the system and they you had several shots of them holding these solar the.
The is it the gaff industry one where it’s super thin. Yeah yeah, and this is now going to add a layer to that job and then the tesla roof is probably a hundred times more complicated than that.
Yeah, it’s the timber line shingles are really wide. Yeah.
So my question to you is? are you aware of any of these companies taking like reaching out to roofing companies and saying we’ll train your people for free.
Ah, tesla well I don’t know if they’re train for free but Tesla is doing just that it’s like they are outreaching to different solar installers and roofing installers and saying you know come get training and we’ll train you on how to do this. They’re absolutely doing that um gaff is going to be doing the same thing. They’re already into industry. Of just regular roofs so it’s like they already have a network in place where they can reach out to all their certified installers and people that work with them ah already and start to kind of train them on how to do these systems so it’s like I think they I think they have a leg up because of that over Tesla where tesla is kind of coming in from the outside in. They’re already on the inside working out. So I think it’s going to be a little easier for them to find the labor part of the equation versus tesla but it’ll be interesting to see if they can do the manufacturing and the technology works as well as what Tesla’s doing so it’ll be interesting to see how those 2 companies kind of like grow and compete because they’re coming at it from different angles.
That ties into the last comment I wanted to share and this one was from lyft pizzas which I assume is a company name but maybe Mr. Pizzas’s is just named lyft um lyft writes I like the idea. But the people selling them are the type of sleazy guys who sell garbage on infomercials when you have to resort to those types of tactics. It’s because you know the product is not worth anywhere near what you’re trying to sell it for also a 30 year guarantee only works if the company still exists in 30 years good luck with that. This is ah.
Yeah, yeah, yes.
A little hyperbolic in the comment zone. But the reason I wanted to share it was this I think there is some element of how this industry is coming across in this comment and I will say that no different from lyft pizzas. Experience with advertising around this I am not familiar with seeing any advertising around this other than through ads on Youtube and they do come across with that kind of snake oil salesperson.
Yes, they do.
Ah, vibe. That’s no different than yeah, here’s an essential oil that will cure your gout and then the next ad is do you have a roof. Do you like the sun. Maybe those 2 things can come together in a beautiful way and it does have that edge to it of.
Why is this the area. Why is this the advertising marketing talk around this instead of it being something else and of course you in your video point out that these are companies that are going to home shows and they’re winning awards. And home shows are a very particular type of marketplace it is I remember our parents used to go to them and I was as a teenager thinking I would rather be dragged through a field of broken glass than go to a home show and hear people talk about. Here’s the type of roofing you can put on your home. So I know that Youtube ads are not the only place where this kind of thing is being marketed but there is that aspect of too good to be true that is kind of wrapped around some of this and then the other side of it with the question about.
30 year guarantee only working if the company is still around in 30 years this ties into something you just said tesla is coming in from the outside of this market but Tesla also has a proven track record as a company the size of it. The finances behind it.
So. Um, yes, yes, no.
I do not expect tesla to be gone in 30 years however I’m wondering which of these companies are in fact, building from scratch in other words, they are brand new outfits. They’re based on research that maybe came out of academia or some other place and they’ve established a new company to do this thing. And which are part of a longer existing tradition. You already mentioned gaffe is a part of ah a longstanding very well established roofing company. So they’re not going to be going anyway and they’ve got the infrastructure behind them to keep them afloat is there are there other players here that you’re like okay.
Yes, yes.
There’s Tesla there’s gaffe and then there’s this other company that has a great product but they’re going to be jumping over bigger hurdles because they’re so new and they might not be able to have the legs to make it to the end.
Okay, I’m gonna answer your question in a kind of roundabout way this ties back to when I was saying for my own house I’m building I’m probably not gonna be doing a solar roof and this ties into why I’m not doing that because even when you’re talking about gaffe or Tesla this stuff is changing so fast. Like Tesla has already on like version. 2.0 of their tile product which is a different shape and size from the previous one. So now imagine you’re the homeowner that has the version one and ten years down the road something breaks what if Tesla is no longer making that model of your tile What do you do.
Um, threat.
It’s like that for me was the it’s a little too early days for this because Tesla even though the company will be here just like Apple. It’s like they only make certain iphones for so long and they stop making them It’s like is tesla going to be making this version of the solar roof. They’re selling today for 30 years I’m going to say no I’m going to doubt that they will be doing that. So. It’s like a certain point. They’ll probably stop manufacturing it and then if something happens to your roof. You’d now have to replace your whole roof because nobody makes a replacement product just for the section that you have to fix so that makes me very nervous as a homeowner so that ties into it’s it’s not really necessarily that a company will go under. It’s. How long will these companies support the products they’re making today because today you have an asphalt roof. Um I could get a matching asphalt shingle that’s not even the manufacturer who made this one that looks damn close. So if a section of my roof has to get replaced. It’ll look. It’ll look pretty much seamless and it’s like I don’t have to worry about it. That’s not the case for these roofs so then to answer your question Tesla and gaff are kind of the big ones that are kind of well established your price safe going with them as far as they’re going to be here for a very long time. Some of the companies I talked about like luomis solar sunro this I think it’s the swedish company. Those companies have been around for a while but they are still very small. They’re very niche and there’s a question in my mind of can they survive because when you have companies like Tesla and gaff are these giants coming into the field. Feels like they’re gonna subsume the market and these smaller players may just have a really hard time so it’s it’s not that they are doing anything wrong. It just means they may not survive in a free market because they just get trumped by the £800 corrella. That’s also selling a similar product so that that correct.
Right? or purchased by the £800 gorilla
So it’s like there are there are definitely a lot of the companies I talk about are smaller players. It’s not that they came from academia technology. It’s just they’re smaller companies and they’re trying to scale up and I know sunroof was planning to move into the United States and then they shelved that plan from what I’ve heard so it’s like they they still want to come here. But I think that they’ve delayed it because of the. Whole market of the world right now. So they’ve slowed down their role in the Us. They’re a small company. They gotta do what they got to do so this is this is all of this plays into my I feel like it’s still too early days to jump into this which is why I’m probably not gonna do it for my home. Even though I think it’s a really cool product.
Right? It does it does so listeners my question to you are you ready to jump into this pool. Unlike Matt who’s looking at it even as he’s building a new home and he’s saying I think that a metal roof is the best way for me to go.
To answer your question.
But do you think you’re ready to jump into this pool and which end of the pool. Are you going to jump into you’re going to jump into the cheaper end of the pool where maybe it’s an ah option that is a little more well established and maybe is just based on current trends a little easier to step into or are you. Holding out for the gold standard. Are you going to shoot for the higher end roof. Let us know in the comments and remember if you’d like to support the show you can review us on Apple Podcasts Google Podcasts Spotify Podcast anywhere you listen to podcasts I’m going to stop saying the word podcasts. And if you’d like to more directly support us. You can go to still tbd fm and click the become a supporter button and throw some coins at our heads believe it or not we don’t mind and if we catch it in our ear. We get to keep it we you can also click the join button on Youtube and become a member there. That really has helped support the show. Thank you so much for listening everybody and we’ll talk to you next time.
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