Tesla is taking orders for its new solar roof. 

The company has launched its online store and is taking $US1,000 ($1.356) deposits for two of four options - smooth black glass or textured-glass roof tiles.

The high-tech shingles look like standard roof materials from most angles, but they are designed to let light to pass through from above onto solar cells embedded within.

Orders for Australian installations should start being filled in 2018.

The cost will be the major decider in the success or failure of Elon Musk’s latest foray.

When the energy savings over the lifetime of the cells are calculated (Tesla guarantees they will outlast the home they are attached to) they become a fairly affordable option.

“The pricing is better than I expected, better than everyone expected,” Hugh Bromley, a solar analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), told Fairfax.

The total cost for active solar tiles should be close to $US42 per square foot, which is “significantly below” BNEF's previous estimates of $US68 per square foot.

But customers are expected to cover their house with a combination of active and inactive tiles, the latter of which would cost just US$11 per square foot.

However, the up-front cost is large. Experts have estimated that replacing the roof of a 185-square metre home in New York with 40 per cent active solar tiles and battery backup for night-time use would cost about $US50,000 after federal tax credits.

That system would produce about $US64,000 worth of energy over 30 years, according to Tesla's website calculator.

Beyond that calculator, Tesla has not disclosed the actual electricity output per square foot or the price per watt of its capacity.

Mr Bromley estimates that a traditional roof with solar panels on top would be about 30 per cent cheaper than a Tesla roof. 

“A 30 per cent premium could well be acceptable,” Bromley said, given that Tesla’s existing customers were willing to pay a considerable premium for their electric cars.

Production is starting at Tesla's Fremont solar plant in California before moving later in the year to a new factory in Buffalo, New York. Elon Musk has warned that sales will be limited by manufacturing capacity.

As production ramps up, sculpted terracotta and slate versions of the solar roof will be introduced.

The tempered glass that Tesla tiles use conforms to the highest durability standards, the company says, and so come with a lifetime for the roof itself and a 30-year warranty for its power-producing capability.