The main components of a home solar power system are:
The simplest introduction to solar power is through off-the-shelf solar-powered garden lights and ornaments (typically $3 - $50). These self-contained units come prewired with a solar panel and rechargeable battery. They are simple to handle and install but produce very low power. The storage energy is also low that it usually does not last throughout the night.
Portable solar panels are mainly used by outdoor enthusiasts to recharge batteries (typically $30 - $150). Amorphous panels are more convenient to use since they are flexible and can be rolled up for quick storage and carrying. Again, these units are low power and are mainly used when travelling away from the electrical grid or for emergency battery backup.
A small, stand-alone DC system can power things like boats, RVs and small household applications. These systems typically cost from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, although this varies widely depending on the application and on the location. Photovoltaic solar panels are permanently installed in well-lit areas that are fully exposed to the sun (i.e. roofs, boat decks). The DC energy is stored in deep cycle rechargeable batteries with the use of a charge controller. The typical application is for small household applications, such as running DC appliances or for LED lighting. These are only small, supplemental systems and do not take the place of the primary electrical systems.
When powering entire homes, the stored energy in the batteries is converted to AC power by an inverter. The solar energy must be collected with a number of solar panels (usually 15 -25) to provide enough energy for a typical household use. A charge controller is necessary to maximize the current production. Cottages and homes that are not connected to the electrical grid may find this installation practical (get a free quote for solar in your area). However, being conservative with energy use is still necessary since batteries won't become fully charged on overcast days.
Affordable solar power systems are available, but every homeowner must determine their energy needs, where they want to use solar power, and the amount of money they're willing to invest. As new technology develops, the hope is that price of solar power will become more accessible to a growing number of residential homeowners.