Here's my take on solar: I used to have an RV, my mobile homestead. I had six of the 65 watt panels, a top-of-the-line regulator, and three of the 8D batteries (the big big ones). The total cost was about $3500 for it all. I ran an inverter for my desktop computer, the fridge, and lights. It provided about 70-75% of my energy needs in Summer, and about 50-60% in Winter. So, I still had to have a generator. That means another few hundred dollars for the gen-set. While the solar is perfectly silent, and starts paying for itsself on day one, I don't think it's worth it. Spend $1000 on a Honda 2000i which is portable, will provide 100% of your needs, last 20 years, provide 12v DC and is super quiet, and you'll still have $2500 to buy gas for it. Obviously the 200i won't run a home, but you get the idea. Watt for watt, a generator is far superior.
Solar has a nice 'green' feel to it, but is not efficient enough unless you have a huge number of panels, and lots of storgage. It would be easy to spend 10-15k on doing a home, only to not have all your energy needs met. I see no satisfaction in that.
I'm not trying to piss off the solar fans, I've used it for years, and found it lacking. You might have better luck. People need to be presented both sides of the argument.
Wallrat, you need to get in front of your solar, not behind it. I run a 2kv solar array along with a 600 watt wind turbine for four battery banks. One of my battery banks has pulse/desulfurization chargers connected to it that goes to the other battery banks to maintain a float charge. You can make use of blocking diodes to divide up the power going to your battery banks.
That Honda generator is still very useful in that you can run it 20-30 minutes a day to charge up your battery banks whenever they need it via the pulse/desulfurization chargers. Bottom line is that generator cost you money for whatever type of fuel you are using, I prefer propane over gasoline but that still cost money also. One more thing, start looking at not bigger batteries but more efficient ones. Two of my battery banks are 14 volt systems because I run a lot of ham radios on them for my radio relay station that require 13.8 VDC.
A 14 VDC system has many advantages, it will run your inverter for more than 12-22 hours vs a 12 VDC system that alarms out your inverter and shuts it off 4-6 hours after the sun sets. For 14 VDC, I use 6 and 8 volt golf cart batteries in a series/parallel circuit. Golf cart batteries are usually 230 Ah each, they are cheap and very forgiving and can be used indoors because they require larger amperage for charging overnight but over the period of several days will come to a full charge and can't be overcharged with a right amount of solar panels. The goal is to run the least amount of solar panels and 14Vdc system doesn't require a charge controller either because the voltages are very close to each other with the solar panels.
When it comes to battery banks, don't put all your eggs in one basket, run multiple battery banks, incorporate pulse/desulfurization chargers like those made by BatteryMINDer 2012 and they will equalize your battery banks every 30 days for you or you can do it manually with UPS yourself. Yes, I use UPS's throughout the whole house because of where I live, we get brown outs and power surges because I live on an island that uses big generators to power the whole island.
I've been running these same four battery banks for 10 years and have never had to replace a single battery. I take each battery bank apart once a year to add acid if needed, not water, which you can buy over the counter at any auto parts store really cheap, I use electrical grease after any cleaning of connectors and during that time while the batteries are sitting outside the bank, I test each one with a volt meter and mark the voltages on the labels I have on the sides along with the date/time.
Anyway, I wish you luck on your current solar array set up but if it were me, I would make some major changes until you get the desired performance from your off grid system until it's not costing you a penny to run it. The great thing about off grid systems or Microgrids, is that you don't need to spend a whole lot of money upfront, you can buy a few solar panels here and a few batteries there. I also don't like to run a system higher than 14 VDC so that in times of need, I can jump my battery banks with jumper cables to my Jeep if ever needed but never had to do that yet, not even after one of our many hurricanes. If you run say a 48 or 96 VDC system and one battery goes bad on you, then you're up a creek without a paddle and that is never good. It's higher amperages with 12 and 14 VDC systems but easy to use and understand.
Again, good luck and do a little more research but I will tell you right now, there is no research that I can find on 14 VDC systems but yet you can now buy 14 volt deep cycle batteries on the Internet although I've never bought one yet.