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Solar panels built specifically for use on boats are a great option as a source of backup power when you’re out on the water. Solar panels act as a way to recharge the boat's batteries and keep your appliances running, all without needing to buy gas for a noisy gas-powered generator.
Boats use a lot of energy for things like maintaining autopilot, keeping navigation lights on, and powering radio systems. Solar panels can provide the energy to carry out these tasks and maintain your boat's battery if it happens to be sitting idle. In either circumstance, your battery will never run out of energy.
Not to mention, compared to gas-powered generators, solar panels have the added benefit of being quiet. They also don’t produce excess heat that makes sitting in your boat with a gas generator unpleasant on hot days.
You can use solar panels for any size boat. For smaller sailboats, the main job of your solar panels would be to keep the battery fully charged for your boat’s electricity. For larger boats, they help reduce or eliminate the need to use the engine to provide excess power.
How to choose the right solar panels for your boat？
The first step to determining what size solar panel will work for your boat is figuring out how much power your boat is using. You can do this by checking the labels on your appliances for the typical amp hours and volts used.
Power use for 8 hours
100W per hour
60W per hour
90W per hour
Total watts used:
This example is extremely limited, you will need to determine how much energy your entire boat is using to make sure your panels provide enough power to keep your battery charged. But, technically if you had one 300-watt solar panel, or (3) 100W solar panels, they would generate 2,800W over those 8 hours. That energy would be more than enough to keep the above appliances running.
A charge controller acts as a regulator for the amount of energy that is transferred from your solar panel into your boat’s battery. This helps to make sure that your battery is not overloaded and overcharged, which can ruin the battery over time.
While it is not necessary, it is a good idea to install a charge controller with your solar panel system to help manage the energy load that your battery receives. This will prolong the life of your battery while ensuring your boat uses the exact amount of energy it needs.
Having a dedicated spot on your boat that has access to the full sun is key. Any shading, such as from a sail on your boat, will reduce the amount of energy your panels produce. While simply bringing portable solar panels aboard is an option, permanently mounting the panels to your boat makes it easier to always have your panels ready to go.
Because boats typically only have room for a small solar system, getting the most out of your limited space is key. With limited space, it’s best to look for high efficiency panels because you will need less of them to produce the energy you need.