Before any of our solar panels were installed, we ran a generator to charge our batteries. The generator creates too much power at once, and so we tried to run lots of electrical appliances at the same time as the generator. So, first thing in the morning, we would wash laundry, run the fridge, use the computer, etc, while charging the batteries. Two additional times during the day we would run the generator, to bring up the battery levels. This is, of course, expensive, and it is also annoyingly loud!
Today, with seven of our panels installed, we have run the fridge all day, washed two loads of laundry, and have kept the computer on full-time. We did run the generator for about 20 minutes first thing (before the sun was really up enough for us to start receiving solar power - we didn't have much power stored from yesterday), but other than that we are using our solar power - and we have enough power beyond the electricity we are using, that the batteries are getting charged up!
This is huge! We are very excited!