Frequently Asked Questions

Answers from Our San Francisco Bay Area Solar Experts

Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions from our customers regarding solar basics and typical solar projects.

Free Solar Presentation

Want to learn more about solar? System Designer Kurt Newick presents free solar photovoltaic presentations on the first Wednesday of each month, 5:30-7 p.m. at Cobalt Power Systems’ corporate office, at 2557 Wyandotte St. in Mountain View. Kurt will go over how solar PV works, what the installation process looks like, costs associated with solar and economic and environmental benefits, among other topics. He’ll also answer questions regarding system operation, maintenance, and performance. For more information or to register, call our San Francisco solar panel installation team at (650) 817-7791.

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    • Do you do installations on tile roofs?
      Yes, we do!
    • Why install a PV system?

      It’s one upgrade to your home or business that can pay for itself and add value to the property. PV systems can be a great investment, generally yielding 15 to 30 percent per year return on investment (ROI), tax free. PV systems provide a measure of energy independence and help the environment by reducing one’s reliance on fossil fuel energy sources.

    • How much solar do I need and where can solar panels be installed?
      The size of the solar PV system required depends on individual criteria such as your annual electricity use, the amount of space for solar panels and other environmental factors that come into play. Panels can be mounted virtually anywhere on your property if there is enough space and sunlight. Roof-mounted systems are the most common choice for homeowners. Another popular method is ground-mounted systems and carport canopy systems.
    • Is this the right time to install a PV system? And if I wait, will systems become cheaper?
      Now is the best time to install a solar PV system because as time goes on there will be less incentives available and the utilities have been known to de-incentivize solar over time. We have found that even with the prices of equipment coming down, the change in rate structures and net-metering agreements with utilities require larger systems to get the same benefits we currently see. And we want to help you stop paying that high utility bill!
    • Can a PV system actually pay for itself and what is the typical payback on a solar PV system?
      Depending on the scale of the project, whether residential or commercial, typically the payback period we see is between four to seven years.
    • How long does a PV system last?
      Most systems are built to last at least 25 years and one could expect, with proper maintenance, a PV system can last up to 40 years or more.
    • How much does a solar PV system cost?
      This could vary depending on the type of installation and whether it is commercial or residential. Contact us at (650) 817-7791 for a customized, turn-key quote for your project.
    • What is required for operation and maintenance?
      Solar PV systems generally require little maintenance. Under normal conditions the only maintenance required is cleaning the solar panel surface once or twice a year depending on your environment and the slope of the panels. Systems can lose approximately 5 percent or more of their output if left uncleaned. Systems operate automatically and do not require any manual intervention unless there is a technical fault.
    • What warranties are included?
      Cobalt offers a 10 year warranty for Commercial PV projects, and 15 year warranty for Residential PV projects. Tesla Powerwall carries a 10 year warranty. Beyond Cobalt’s 10 or 15-year warranty, the equipment manufacturers of the solar panels and inverters offer extended warranties of up to 25 years.
    • Are permits required to install a solar PV system?
      As with all other construction, building permits are required to construct a solar power system. Usually electrical and structural permits are required. Cobalt handles all of this for you. Once construction is completed, the system needs to be interconnected with the local utility company. There are applications and inspections required in order to complete this phase, which Cobalt handles as well.
    • How long does the installation process take?
      A typical retrofit residential system takes about a month or less, including the physical installation, jurisdictional inspections and being granted permission to operate from your local utility. New construction can take longer. Commercial systems on the other hand can vary greatly depending on the system size.
    • What is net metering?
      Net metering allows residential and commercial solar PV system owners to feed electricity they do not use back to the grid. For example, if a customer has a PV system, it may generate more electricity than the property uses during daylight hours. If the property is net-metered, the meter will run backward to provide a credit against what electricity is consumed at night or other periods where the property's electricity use exceeds the system's output. With net metering, the customers are typically billed on an annual basis for electricity.