Originally Posted by txchickster
... I am looking for something to power my house, and wont cost me thousands up front...
You and EVERYBODY else.
Unfortunately, it doesn't exist.
The one big shock most folks new to alternative energy discover is what a true bargain they have in grid power.
And the hucksters running around the internet advertising you can "build your own in a weekend from parts from the local hardware store" are simply trying to bilk you out of money for a crappy book that won't do you a lick of good.
Google them.....see how many BBB complaints they have on refunds ( or rather LACK of refunds )....how many time their State has sued them for fraud, and so on.....
The bottom line is if you plan to produce much in the way of power ( like 500 kilowatt hours per month or more ), you are going to have to spend 15,000 bucks to do it, and that's IF you do all the labor yourself.
My system is a 6kw ( panel amount ) battery backup system and I have about $30,000 in it ( 20,000 after tax credits ) and it produces about 600kw/hrs/month....about 2/3 of the power we use monthly.
None of my solar panels are homemade....no way, no how would I consider building a panel, given today's prices are in the $1/watt range for almost any brand ( some are less ). I simply do not believe you can build a reliable, weather proof panel for less than you can buy panels today.....and you can't get UL listing for 'homemade' panels, meaning IF you plan to grid connect, and deal with electrical codes, you probably can't get by without UL listed panels.
As Gary says above, if you want to experiment with solar, or maybe even a small project or so, by all means, build your own. If you're dead serious about producing POWER, don't even go there.
Here's a website that keeps up with panel prices:
Free Solar Panel Price Survey | EcoBusinessLinks