Determining the Number of Solar Panels Needed
First, reduce your load!
The first thing you need to do (if you haven't already) is look at ways to reduce your household electrical needs. Big waste full energy consumers are electric water heaters, stoves and heating systems. If possible, these systems should be converted to gas power - anything besides electrical. Usually the expense of changing out these systems is less than the added expense of having a solar/wind energy system to power these large electrical energy consumers.
Other obvious things you can do to significantly reduce your energy needs is to convert all incandescent lighting to full-spectrum fluorescent lighting. Again, the added expense of these lighting systems is easily compensated by the reduction in the cost of your needed solar/wind energy system.
Next you need to design as system that will meet your electrical needs. For the sake of simplicity, we're going to go over the basic steps you would take to design a solar electric system for a home that's occupied all year around (as opposed to a summer cabin, for instance). The difference is a home that would be occupied all year round needs to be designed to produce enough energy during the low-sunlight times of the year.