When you can't afford a full system, instead start with a solar water heating system. Water heaters make up a large portion of the energy that a home consumes during the year. Your costs are going to be lower upon installation of your solar water heating system.
Hot Sun Industries, maker of the Powerstrip solar pool heating system explains basic system operation as well as some plumbing guidelines.
Do not clean your solar panels with abrasive chemicals. You should use some lukewarm water, a soft cloth and some biodegradable soap if needed. Clean your panels at least once a month or more frequently if you notice your green energy system is not producing as much power as it should.