Be realistic about the costs of having a solar energy system. If you're paying much less than other systems that are around the same size as yours, you may have poor equipment or installation work. Like with many things in life you get what you pay for. Quality installation work and equipment isn't going to be cheap. You may have substantial savings by going with a large company, but other companies may be cutting corners to keep costs down.
When it comes to solar water heaters, be realistic. They're typically only 30% more efficient than any other form of water heater. Second, don't think that just because you shower in the dark means you'll have to deal with cold water. Water heated by solar power should stay warm for 24 hours.
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To realize even better savings, purchase grid tied panel systems. If your panels are connected, you might be able to sell extra power to the local utility. This should help you pay for your solar energy system and will also give you the option to draw power from the main grid in case your panels are not functioning.
When considering installing solar panels, always check for local, state or federal incentives and rebates. The initial expense of solar panels can be costly so these incentives can be very helpful. Also consider the future saving and you will see that over time, your solar panels will pay for themselves.