We have a large family. We would like to go "solar". Is it unrealistic to think we could generate most of our own power? We have 5 kids. The amount of laundry we do is pretty big. We are homeschoolers, so we are home ALL the time, which, I'm sure would increase power consumption. We usually buy meat in bulk, which means we need a freezer. DH is a programmer who sometimes needs to work from home, so computer with DSL that is on a lot of the time is not optional etiher. We could go natural gas on a lot of things, but that seems to me like just switching one "bill" for another, though I am not against it if it is truly a "cleaner" energy source. We also don't mind going non-electric for somethings. We have talked about wood-burning radiant floor heat, for example. Don't mind using oil lamps at night either... A/C is a problem. It had been in the 90-100 degree range around here lately, and humid, so I would like to have SOME type of A/C... We will try to have a smart design that uses thermal mass, and has all the south facing windows, etc., etc... but I am not sure that would be enough to take the edge off of the heat here. Also... because of the heat, is it worth it to have a metal roof for a rain water cistern or will that COST us too much energy in the long run? Because of the age differences of our kids we probably need 4 bedrooms... We do have an architect that we are going to work with who has experience in alternative building and solar, but we want to have thought all of this through when we go back to him... (That is if he is still doing this. I hear he was running for office or something). Also, has anybody build a solar system "along-and-along"? We are building without a mortgage, and so we will not be able to afford to do ALL of our solar system at one time. We will just have to keep adding as we go along. If you have done that, how did you do it? Where did you start? (besides basic components of the system I mean... I know I need batteries, PV panels, inverter etc... etc...) I mean where did you APPLY your solar power FIRST? (Lighting, Heating, Fridge etc...) Am I asking too many questions? Sorry, I am trying to learn... Hope ya don't mind. Cindyc.