Decide whether you want to be on or off the power grid. Many people look forward to getting "off the grid" when they switch to solar power, however this may not be the best choice. Staying on your power grid means that when you have poor sunlight conditions you have the ability to purchase additional power when you need it. As a bonus, when you produce more power than you use, you can sell the excess back to the utilities.
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.
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The amount of energy your solar panel will produce is rated by watts. For example, if your solar panel is rated 100 watts, then on a clear day, your solar panel will produce 100 watts per hour. To find out how much electricity you need to produce, look at your electric bill and divide the total by 30 days and then divide it by 3 as there is generally bright sunlight one third of the day.