Going with a solar panel system does not mean that you will be ripping off your roof. You can always start small by purchasing outdoor lighting that is run off of solar energy. They'll charge up during the day to light all night, with exception of pre-dawn hours during long winter nights.
Before one of our California solar installers begins mounting solar panels to your roof, find out how your insurance will change. Will insurance pay for damage?
If you cannot afford a full-scale solar energy system, consider investing in a smaller one. Some vendors offer small systems designed to power a water heater or a generator. This small investment should help you save money within the next few years and you can easily expand your solar energy system by powering more appliances with solar panels.