Marine Solar Panels
With rapidly-evolving technology comes the increased demand for energy. Most appliances of today are dependent on grid-connected electricity, and when this power source collapses, it becomes difficult for our daily tasks to be done normally.
While there are alternatives like generators or battery-operated devices, these devices easily use up their juice, especially when used for high-watt consuming gadgets. This can be potentially problematic if one is using a yacht or motorboat and they run out of gas or battery in the middle of the trip. In this scenario, marine solar panels will just be perfect.
With solar panels being dependent on sunlight and aquatic vehicles’ extended exposure to it, a solar system can absorb a copious amount of energy for use in running the boat and keeping the devices in it operating. However, finding the right solar set for your marine vehicle can be a tricky job.
Boats, unlike roofs, can be unstable. You will encounter strong winds or snow along the way and there’s always a chance that your solar system will get wet. Therefore, knowing what to look for, how to install the panels, and what the best ones are can help you with your decision making.
This article will look into this type of panels, explain their benefits, identify their different types, educate you on how you can select the best one, provide some tips on mounting, and enumerate some of the brands that we think are best for your needs.
Why Do You Need Solar Panels on a Boat?
If you’re a boat enthusiast who likes going on a cruise for a long period of time, or you’re an entrepreneur who catches fish for a living, then you’d know that a trip from the port and back can use up a significant amount of gas. If you have other appliances in your yacht, then those will require an energy source, too.
If you have battery-operated devices, they can work without plugging them into an outlet for a certain period. Grid-charged batteries get used up easily and a generator will require petrol. With solar panels for boats, you wouldn’t have to worry about losing power during your trips.
You won’t need to load up too much on gasoline (except, of course, to run your marine vehicle’s motor) as the sun and your solar system will take care of the power that you need. A one-time investment can go a long way in saving you hundreds of dollars annually on electrical costs. Of course, this source can totally give you peace of mind and allow you to enjoy your trip even more.
Another plus side to getting solar panels for your boat is the noiselessness. The motor in a generator can generate a lot of noise and can ruin the peace and quiet that you may be hoping to get on your trip. So, you can enjoy music through your stereo without the hassle of filling up your generator for power and dealing with the raging sound it makes.
Finally, if you stop to rest or get away from your boat for a while, your solar system won’t stop working and producing the energy you will need for your next trip. This is a major downside to using generators as they require manual labor and will constantly have to be monitored to achieve the desired results.
There are types of solar panels for marine use that you can use. The next section will explain what these are and help you choose the best option for your vehicle type.
Types of Solar Panels for Boats
If you decide that you’d like to be sun-supported on your next aquatic adventure, then you must decide on the kind of panels that will best suit your needs. There are three types of sun-powered panels. These are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and amorphous silicon types. Now, if you have panels fixed on your roof, you may recognize these names because the roof panels are also classified this way. What exactly are their differences, then?
- Monocrystalline – Cut from a singular crystal of silicon, mono type-panels are considered to have the highest efficiency among the three. The cut silicon is fashioned into bars and then sliced into wafers. This structure allows electrons to have more mobility and for current to flow better within the structure, making its electricity production better. Because of its quality and longevity, it’s also considered the most expensive. However, it pays to invest in this type as its lifespan can be up to 25 years.
- Polycrystalline – You may have guessed it already, but polycrystalline types are made from various cuts of silicon. These cut pieces are melted to fashion the wafers for the panel. Because of its lower purity and being composed of multiple crystals, electrons are less mobile, making the electricity production less efficient. However, they are significantly cheaper than the mono ones and are more eco-friendly because they are made of somewhat recycled silicon.
- Amorphous Silicon – More commonly known as flexible solar panels marine compatible, this type is the least efficient of all three. However, it is also the most malleable and most environmentally friendly because they are not made with heavy metals that may be considered toxic. If you wish to fix it in uneven or non-flat surfaces, you can easily do so. It is ideal for systems (or equipment) that requires less power because of its low energy yield.
How to Choose the Best Marine Solar Panel
Now that you know the different types of panels, how do you know which are the best marine solar panels from all the brands out there? There are various factors to consider when selecting solar cell brands for your system. See below to learn more about them.
- Maximum power – Power is measured in watts, and power is defined as the rate of energy generation or consumption. The higher the wattage of your panel is, the more capable they are of handling bigger devices. Therefore, the power that you’ll be recommended to get will be dependent on the devices you will use the panels for. If the purpose is to charge cellular devices and other mobile gadgets, then you can opt for lower wattage panels. If, however, you wish to run refrigerators or navigation systems through sun-sourced energy, then it is recommended that you go for high wattage panels. The trick is to check the power of your device and compare that with your panels. If you have an 80-watt device, go for panels with power 20% higher than that, so get panels that are 100 watts. This way, you can make sure that your equipment will work well.
- Voltage – Voltage is measured in volts, and it is defined as the electric potential between two units. Voltage is also the electric pressure from the panel’s circuit to push current to a device. There are two types of voltage: DC voltage and AC voltage. DC voltage is involved in batteries while AC voltage is often involved in plugged devices. In this case, a higher voltage does not mean better. A 12-volt battery requires about 10.5 to 14.6 volts to be charged. However, a 20-30-volt system will need to be controlled through a voltage regulator to not cause overheating or overcharging.
- Weight – The panel’s weight plays a huge factor when it comes to vehicles, especially vehicles that need to stay afloat like motorboats. You want to go for panels that are as light as possible without compromising the above aspects.
- Dimension – The height, width, and length of the panels also make a difference in your decision making. Of course, if your yacht does not have much space, you don’t want to buy a long panel just because it can generate more power as it is will constrict your movement or even affect the aesthetics of your vehicle. However, it is important to note that bigger, longer panels usually yield more power.
- Panel type – As mentioned above, there are three types of marine solar panels to select from. If you wish to have longer-lasting panels, then prepare to spend a little more with monocrystalline ones. If you want to save a bit more, polycrystalline panels can do just fine. Amorphous silicon ones are only preferred for devices with low power requirements, but they can also be proven useful for fitting into irregularly-shaped spaces.
- Price – Budget is always a factor to consider. If you can spend a bit more, go for high-quality materials, especially brands that offer warranties. This way, your one-time spending can cover two decades or more. With so many brands out there, mono panels are much cheaper now than they were a few years back. So, if you can, go for this type.
Top 5 Best Marine Solar Panels
Are you confused yet? Well, you won’t have to think about what the best one is from the hundreds of brands of marine solar panels for sale out there. We have already researched and checked out the reviews on what the best among the best of these brands are, and we have provided you with the top five below.
5. ACOPOWER HY010-12M 10 Watt 10W Mono Solar Panel for 12V Battery Charging RV Boat, Off Grid
If you’re not looking for anything too powerful but just enough to charge your mobile devices or batteries, then Acopower’s 10-watt monocrystalline solar panel could be what you need. Upon purchase, you can already install it to your RV boat without too much hassle as it has pre-drilled holes, making it convenient for installation. This is one of the best-priced marine solar panels for sale that you can get within this power range without compromising quality of efficiency.
This panel brand can manage 12/24V/36/48V systems with an optimum power voltage of 17.5 volts and endure high winds of about 2400 Pascals and snow loads of up to 5400 Pascals. At 1 kg, it’s quite lightweight for its capacity and made durable with its anodized aluminum frame and 3.2 mm-thick anti-reflection glass. Its display junction box is IP65-rated waterproof and it’s got a workshop warranty of five years and an output warranty of 20 years.
- Has a warranty
- Suited for small marine vehicles
- Has low wattage
- Does not include mounting parts
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4. WindyNation 100 Watt Solar Panel Off-Grid RV Boat Kit
If you’re looking for high wattage at a more affordable price, WindyNation’s polycrystalline panels for your boat can be a wise choice. This 19-pound device has a 100-watt panel that can supply 350 watt-hour or 33 amperes of charge daily. It also includes a P30L LCD-display solar charge controller with a battery temperature sensor, a 40-feet UL-listed 12 AWG solar cable, connectors, mounting parts, and installation manual.
This means that you won’t need to buy installation equipment. The system is extendable to up to four panels for a 12-volt system and eight panels for a 24-volt system. With its package-included LCD display, you can avoid overcharging or overheating and lengthen the lifespan of your solar device. With this wattage, you can power up more devices in your boat for more hours using only renewable, healthy, solar energy.
- Good wattage
- Can handle more devices
- Has all the needed equipment for install
- Mounting can be challenging
- Fuses not part of the package
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3. DOKIO 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel
Another 100-watt system that made it to our list is Dokio’s Mono Solar Panel. It trumps WindyNation concerning efficiency because it uses monocrystalline panels. This system is compatible with 12V and 24V battery charging and can generate up to 500 watt-hours of output daily. It’s less heavy, weighing only 15.5 pounds at a size of 46.3 by 20.9 by 1 inch.
Its design makes it easy to fix onto your boat with pre-drilled holes. It can endure up to 2400 Pascals of high winds and snow loads of up to 5400 Pascals and it’s got a five-year workmanship warranty and a 25-year power output warranty.
This is to add to its IP67-rated waterproof junction box and IP67-rated waterproof MC4 connectors. With its capacity and size, it’s perfect for larger boats that can house more appliances and need more energy input.
- Has good energy output
- Has high efficiency
- Extended manufacturer warranty
- Frame is quite thin
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2. HQST 100 Watt 12 Volt Polycrystalline Solar Panel with Solar Connectors
Coming from one of the most popular solar brands, HQST’s 100-watt marine solar panels for sale can exceed your expectations. This 35.6 by 25.9 by 1.18-inch system only weighs 14.3 pounds, which is surprising considering its power output. Its IP65 waterproof, anti-reflective, high-transparency, low-iron tempered glass covering the polycrystalline panels can generate up to 500 watt-hour of output daily while resisting up to 5400 Pascals of snow loads and 2400 Pascals of wind.
It’s got pre-drilled holes for your installation convenience. It is also manufactured through an advanced encapsulation material and has multi-layered lamination to further its lifespan. With a maximum system voltage of 600 volts and optimum operating voltage of 18.2 volts, it easily delivers your energy needs. For a lower price, you can have satisfactory output to power up numerous devices during your cruise.
- Holes pre-drilled for easy install
- Quite economically priced
- Has a good power output
- Well-designed to overcome shading
- Accessories not included upon purchase
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1. Renogy 100W 12V Solar Panel High Efficiency Module PV Power for Battery Charging Boat
Topping our list of the best solar panel sets for your marine adventure is Renogy’s 100-watt polycrystalline panel system. Its rust-resistant frame makes it ideal for cruises while its anti-reflective, high-transparency, low-iron tempered glass is further enhanced for stiffness and impact-resistance provides outstanding protection to its panels, making it more long-lasting and worth the investment. It is further designed to include multi-layered lamination and advanced encapsulation to mitigate power loss due to shading.
It comes with a 25-year power output warranty and a 5-year workshop warranty for an added peace of mind. With its pre-drilled holes, installation won’t be difficult. This 42.2 by 19.6 by 1.4-inch and 16.5-pound device can also endure strong winds of up to 2400 Pascals and snow load of up to 5400 Pascals.
Combine it with its IP65-rated waterproof junction box and MC4 cable connector and you’ve got almost the perfect package. Its maximum system voltage is up to 600V on direct current and its optimum operating voltage is up to 17.8 volts.
- Made with durable materials
- Has a good warranty offer
- Higher output due to large surface area
- Suited for larger boats
- May be quite hefty
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Marine Solar Panels Mounting
Installing solar panels for boats may not be an easy task. There are only a few flat spaces in the vehicle and you have to find the spot that’s most exposed to make the most out of your solar system. Lucky for you, we have searched for the best spots to fix your sun-powered system. These spots to put your flexible panels, if you’ve chosen this type, are mostly at the rear of your boat like through your arch, on top of dinghy davits, the bimini top, in between stanchions, or on a pole on the rail.
Of course, it is not recommended for you to use heavier panel types in these spots as you may end up losing your panels with the waves. Decks and hard tops are more suited for the hard panel types. If you have a lighter set, you can hang them tilted in the lifelines and they can absorb sunlight much better.
Some boats can handle solar panel fixing better than others. For example, canal boats are ideal for mounts because of their lengthy size and hard, flat roofing. Therefore, if you need to generate more power, it won’t be a problem as you can get larger panel types to fit on the roof and get the best sunlight absorption possible. Yachts have plenty of flat spaces, too.
It can also handle pole mounts if you have lighter or more flexible panel sets. This means that you won’t need to cut your trip short if you run out of batteries for your appliances or diesel for your generator as your solar panels will continuously produce the power that you require.
There are various methods to properly fix your panels onto your boat. One way is to mount it by the holes of the frame. Luckily, some of the solar panels have pre-drilled holes, so you can easily make the attachment if you prefer to do it this way. Another option is to utilize adhesives to fix the panels onto the chosen flat surface on the boat.
Of course, it is recommended that you use strong adhesives to ensure that the panels won’t fall off the boat while you’re on a trip. There are also panel types that can either be attached through Velcro or zippers. This way will require you to use flexible and lightweight panel types to keep the panels attached well to the chosen portion of the boat.
Since you’re dealing with easy water damage, it’s best to go for waterproofed parts for the panels. The wires that you’ll use should be marine-grade tinted to prevent short circuits or electrocution and reduce conductivity degradation.
It’s always better to have a charge controller if you’re using the panels to juice up your batteries so you can increase the lifespan of your power cells and prevent overcharging or overheating. You may also need an inverter if you’re appliances require alternating current as panels generate direct current, which is not suited for most plugged in appliances.
Going on sea trips is proven to be relaxing. It can also be a good bonding experience for a family, especially if it’s a month-long cruise. The trip can further be enjoyed if you don’t have to worry about running out of power or not being able to charge your mobile phone to take pictures of the scenery along the way. For better peace of mind and a more enjoyable trip, get a solar panel for your boat.
There are various choices to go for. You can have a highly-efficient mono panel, an affordable yet productive polycrystalline, or a versatile amorphous silicon type. If you’re confused about what to get, consider the power that your boat (or your appliances in it) will need and check the maximum power and voltage specifications of your panel. If you have a smaller boat or plan to mount panels onto light sections of your marine vehicle, it’s best to go for lightweight panels.
For better power output, consider the dimension of the system that you’re going to buy. Finally, don’t break the bank and go for affordable yet investment-worthy options. Good panels will often have long warranty offers and be made of carefully designed materials, so watch out for these. Check out the choices of the best marine solar panels we’ve provided above and you’ll have more eco-friendly trips in the future.