A lot of advancements have taken place in soar panels but one of the most efficient ways to use solar is to directly heat water. With photovoltaics you need more complex equipment and there is a significant energy loss converting one form of energy into another such as electricity.
Heating water is as simple as putting water in a container that absorbs but doesn't easily release heat. This can be just about any container with a cleat top and a dark colored bottom. Or just a dark container without the clear top.
A solar water heater can be bought and mounted on your roof for much less than it costs to buy photovoltaic panels. Or you can build one yourself and save even more. You can find plans to build them online. Some are as simple as stringing black plastic pipe on your roof for water to heat as it passes through.
Some solar water heaters are so small and simple they are portable. Last summer I bought a solar shower bag for less than $20. It holds 5 gallons of water and after a few hours in the sun it provides plenty of water for a hot shower. You can use these outdoors or bring them into your indoor shower. Heating water is one of the biggest energy consumers in a home and as far as showers go I eliminated that bill for less than $20.
You can buy or build or buy solar swimming pool heaters. Some plastic pipe laying out in the sun hooked up to your existing pool pump can be an instant low cost solar pool heater.
If the cost of solar energy is holding you back, that excuse doesn't fly because switching some of your energy use to solar doesn't have to be expensive at all.