Marine solar panels are a useful addition to your boats, especially if you’re looking to build a clean energy system that is sustainable and free. Plus, having the best marine solar panels offer you a convenient and ready energy source to charge your boat’s batteries. Not only that, but they can also supply maximum power to the boat’s electrical system if they are powerful.
Due to high demand, more manufacturers have invested and started manufacturing these marine solar panels. And because of that, different sizes and configurations become available. For this reason, it can be tricky to look for a marine solar panel that matches your needs in terms of performance.
For help, here are the reviews of the top picks as well as factors to consider. If you’re ready, let’s get started!
- Best Marine Solar Panel Reviews
- 1. Renogy Solar Starter Kit
- 2. SUNER POWER Solar Panel Kit
- 3. Newpowa Marine Solar Panel
- 4. TP-solar Solar Panel Kit
- 5. SUNER POWER Solar Panel Kit
- 6. WindyNation Solar Panel Kit
- 7. DuraVolt Solar Panel Battery Charger
- 8. ECO-WORTHY Solar Panel Kit
- 9. Renogy Extremely Flexible Solar Panel
- 10. SUNER POWER Solar Panel Kit
- 11. Newpowa 30W Monocrystalline Solar Panel
- 12. RICH SOLAR Polycrystalline Solar Panel
- What Is A Marine Solar Panel And Who Is This For
- How Does It Work
- What Are The Different Types Of Marine Solar Panels
- Advantages And Disadvantages Of Using A Boat Marine Solar Panel
- How We Picked And Tested
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Marine Solar Panel Reviews
1. Renogy Solar Starter Kit
- Has all the necessary parts for easy set-up
- Trusted brand that you can count on
- Easy adjustments with the pulse width modulation technology
- Sturdy and efficient monocrystalline solar panels
- Boasts durability and gives an excellent performance
- Expensive when compared to similar models
- Unit doesn’t come with color-coded wires
Renogy solar panels are known for longevity. Not to mention, they are also top-performing products on the market. This solar starter kit also carries that brand of excellence.
The Renogy solar starter kit comes with all the necessary parts that you’ll need for a system, making it ideal for beginners. The package includes a 100W 12V monocrystalline solar panel, a Wanderer charge controller, an MC4 adaptor kit, an 8-ft tray cable, and two pieces of Z-brackets.
With this, you can easily install the system right then and there as it already has the necessary parts for installation.
What I like the most about the Renogy solar starter kit are its flexibility and versatility. It utilizes the Pulse Width Modulation technology, which enables the user to control just how much electricity is supplied to different devices. It adds an extra layer of protection and safety as you can monitor your machines from over- or undercharging.
It’s also flexible since you can quickly expand the solar power supply of the Renogy marine flexible solar panel from 100 watts to 400 watts just by increasing the kit’s equipment.
Moreover, the solar power kit is quite safe to use. The system’s LED indicators help the user monitor and keep track of the solar kit’s various aspects. The Renogy solar starter kit even comes with a negative ground controller that deals with standard battery and electrical problems.
Another thing I like about this marine solar panel kit is its solar panels. Made of pure silicon, the kit’s solar panels have an efficiency of 21%. Under ideal conditions, these solar panels can effectively charge a 50Ah battery in just 3 hours.
Not only that, but the solar power panel is also very durable due to its aluminum frame. More so, the whole system is coated with fluoro resin to slow down the aging process. With this, the panels can resist most elements such as rust, corrosion, and the like.
The whole system is also very compact and lightweight, measuring only 47×1.5×20.9 inches and weighing 19.8 pounds. With this, you can easily transport and move the product.
2. SUNER POWER Solar Panel Kit
- Durable construction to withstand elements, UV rays and extreme heat
- 3-stage charging algorithm for optimal protection
- Features MPPT charge controller
- LED indicator for easy battery monitoring
- Allows straightforward installation
- Slow to charge multiple devices
- Loose clamps
SUNER POWER marine solar panels are known for their efficiency and portability. As this company is a trusted name over the years, many users have come to depend and recommend many of its products. One of these is the SUNER POWER solar battery charger and maintainer.
Made from sturdy ABS material and coupled with glass, the solar charger is durable and long-lasting. This and its IP65-rating solar panel can withstand various elements, extreme temperatures, and harsh UV rays.
Moreover, it measures 12x8x0.7 inches and weighs 3.08 pounds. With this, you can quickly move and transport this tiny and portable solar charger.
One thing I like the most about the solar charger and maintainer is its efficiency. Considered as one of the best solar panels for boats, the SUNER POWER solar panel is built-in with the maximum power point tracking (MPPT) chip, which enables it to generate 10%-20% much power.
With this, the solar battery charger packs a considerable amount of punch in just a tiny body. Under ideal conditions, this solar charging system can quickly charge small devices in just an hour.
Another thing I like about the product is that it’s entirely safe for use. The SUN POWER marine solar charger runs on a 3-stages battery charging algorithm that fully protects the battery from common problems like short circuits, under- and over-charging, reverse polarity, and the like.
Not to mention, this boat solar system also comes with LED indicators for easy battery monitoring. The system flashes different lights that pertain to different battery conditions. A green flash indicates that the battery supplies much power, whereas a red flash means it does not. A steady green light denotes that the battery is full, while a steady red light signifies battery errors.
The solar charger and maintainer are also quick to install. The package comes with a 3-piece SAE cable, suction cups, and clamps, making it a breeze to install.
3. Newpowa Marine Solar Panel
- Comes with various options to choose from
- Durable design; can withstand various elements and weather conditions
- Having monocrystalline solar panels
- Promotes easy installation
- Unit is lightweight and portable for easy handling
- Slightly flimsy wires
- Edges may need extra sealing
When you read marine solar panels reviews, you’ll find Newpowa units are quite popular since they offer conversion efficiency at only half of the cost. One of these products is the Newpowa monocrystalline solar panel.
Measuring 44.49x 19.88 x 1.18 inches and weighing 16.31 pounds, the Newpowa solar panel is quite portable and lightweight. In this product, the company offers various options for different needs. It comes in 100w and 200w versions, and you have the choice of buying it with or without brackets or in singles or pairs.
What I like about the marine solar panel is its durability. The solar cells are snugly enclosed in an EVA sheet and low-iron glass and have a TPT backing. Meanwhile, the rest of the solar panel is made of anodized aluminum.
Moreover, the Newpowa marine solar panel is also built to withstand various elements and weather conditions. It has a wind rating of 2,400 Pascal and a snow load rating of 5,400 Pascal. With this, these products are durable solar panels on boats.
Being made of pure silicone, this solar panel is also highly-efficient. As mentioned, it provides 100-200 watts of power, depending on the unit purchased. Along with this, it has a voltage of 17V at 5.89 A. This amount is more than enough to power up small loads and for batteries found in small boats, yachts, and ships.
Another thing I like about this marine solar is that it’s quick to install. It comes with MC4 connectors that you can comfortably connect to any battery system. The solar panel also comes with four pre-drilled holes located at the back of the panel, where you’re meant to insert your mount.
If you buy the bracket version, then you can just insert it easily. However, if you don’t, the holes can accommodate the standard 4-point mount.
I also appreciate that the Newpowa solar panel comes with color-coded wires. This is especially helpful for beginners and those with limited installation knowledge as it serves as a guide.
4. TP-solar Solar Panel Kit
- Quick and easy installation due to its design
- Durable construction which protects it from various elements
- Features a monocrystalline solar panel for quick charging
- Equipped with safety features for user’s protection
- Comes with color-coded wires and cables
- Ideal for small loads and boats only
When it comes to harnessing the sun’s energy for boat use, many users tend to use marine solar panel kits as they are easy to procure and install, like this TP solar kit. The TP-solar panel kit includes a monocrystalline solar panel, a solar charger regulator, a pair of 6.5-ft cable with alligator clips, and an O-ring terminal. With this, you have all the essential parts you’ll need to build our solar charging system.
Aside from boats, users also tend to utilize the solar panel kit in a variety of applications like RVs, greenhouses, sheds, cabins, cars, gardens, and the like.
What I like about the solar panels for boats batteries is their durability. The kit’s solar panel is made from a combination of high-quality glass and an anodized aluminum frame. With an IP65-rating, it can comfortably withstand various elements, extreme temperatures and weather conditions, and harsh UV rays.
Made with pure silicon, the solar kit’s solar panel can offer conversion efficiency. It has 20 watts of power, which are sufficient to power up small loads and devices as well as supply much power to small boats, ships, and yachts. The panel’s efficiency increases by 25% if you tilt it upwards.
Another thing I like about the solar kit is that it’s safe to use. The kit’s charge controller comes with the necessary safety features that protect the battery from common issues like reverse polarity, short circuits, over- and under-charging, and the like.
Not to mention, this sailboat solar panel kit also comes with an LED display and a user-friendly interface. With this, you can easily monitor and keep track of the battery’s health and other aspects of the solar system.
The solar panel kit is also straightforward to install. The solar panel is lightweight and portable, weighing only 4.18 pounds. It also has pre-drilled holes located at the back for the brackets or mounts to go through. With this, you can easily mount it right away.
5. SUNER POWER Solar Panel Kit
- Full battery protection due to 3-stage charging algorithm
- Adjustable bracket for easy installation
- Durable design to withstand various elements
- MPPT charge controller that increases power
- LED indicator for easy battery monitoring
- Insufficient power to charge multiple devices or big batteries
If you read different solar panels for boats reviews, you’ll notice the SUNER POWER solar battery charger and maintainer is undoubtedly popular among boat owners.
The SUNER POWER solar panel comes in 3 different options, differing in the number of watts. You can choose from a 10-watt, 20-watt, or 30-watt model. All choices come in a durable design with an aluminum frame and protected by high-quality glass.
What I like the most about the solar panel is its attention to safety. Running on a 3-stage charging algorithm, the system is committed to improve and protect the battery from everyday issues and problems. This includes but certainly not limited to over- and under-charging, short circuits, reverse polarity, and the like.
This solar panel even comes with a LED indicator that the user can use to monitor the battery’s health and status. Different colors and flashing patterns indicate different conditions. For example, a steady green charge denotes that the battery is full, whereas a flashing red light means that the battery is experiencing some problems.
Another thing I like about this product is its efficiency. Integrated with an MPPT charge controller, the solar panel quickly generates 10%-20% more power than similar units.
For a 3.74-pound unit, this packs quite a punch and is enough to power up small loads and devices. In fact, under ideal conditions, the solar panel offers a quick charging time of an hour or less.
Mounting solar panels on sailboats can be quite tricky, especially when the unit is small. However, you won’t have that problem with the solar panel.
The alloy ball in its mounting bracket enables the user to easily adjust the solar panel’s angles and position, making it one of the most flexible solar panels. You also have the option of either installing it on the wall or the ground. This makes it easier to install the unit, and also enables it to gather more sunlight. Moreover, the solar panel comes with its SAE cable kits that enable users to connect it to batteries conveniently.
6. WindyNation Solar Panel Kit
- Support up to eight 100-watt solar panels
- Has different mounting options for practically any set-up
- Charge controller enables user to adjust settings
- Durable construction and design for all-around use
- Provides a reliable and consistent performance
- Might require additional wiring for some set-ups
As one of the popular boat solar panel kits, this model boasts high-quality and high-efficiency at only a fraction of the price.
The panel kit comes with a monocrystalline solar panel, solar charge controller, cables, connectors, and mounting hardware. You have the option of purchasing the kit with a 100ah AGM battery should you wish.
One thing I like the most about the solar panel kit is that it’s a breeze to install. For one, the package already comes with the necessary parts you’ll need for installation and an easy-to-follow installation guide. Not to mention, the solar kit comes with different cables and connectors. This not only eases the burden of installing, but it also means that you can install the solar panel in practically any set-up.
Another thing I like about the solar panel kit is its flexibility and versatility. The kit initially comes with a 100-watt solar panel that quickly provides about 33 amp-hours or 330 watt-hours of charge every day, depending on the amount of sunlight available. This amount is more than enough to power up small loads and for small applications.
However, being a solar panel kit, the model is also expendable. This means the user has the option to increase its power and watts.
Due to its superior charge controller, this solar system can accommodate up to 4 pieces of 100-watt solar panels for a 12v system and eight pieces of 100-watt solar panels for a 24v system. With this, it accommodates large electrical loads. This feature makes the solar panel quite a reliable solar panel for boat batteries.
This flexibility can also be seen in the solar panel kit’s charge controller. The controller displays different information about the system through its LCD screen, such as the voltage, amperage and amp-hours, load draw, temperature, and the like. You can even adjust these conditions in the settings.
7. DuraVolt Solar Panel Battery Charger
- Unit features a lightweight and simple design
- Rugged construction for weatherproof protection
- Different charging options for user’s convenience
- Ideal for maintaining battery charge and health
- Polycrystalline solar panel provides high energy conversion rate
- Limited applications due to its low voltage
The solar panel battery charger features a simple design. Measuring 11.8 x 10 x 0.75 inches and weighing only 1.7 pounds, this device is small and easy to transport and install. Because of its small size, it’s perfect for on-the-go use, and it wouldn’t obstruct the design of your boat.
Covered in plastic film and equipped with aluminum backing, the rugged solar battery charger is built to withstand various elements, extreme temperatures and weather conditions, and harsh UV rays.
Because of its construction, the solar panel battery charger is also quick to install. It’s one of the most flexible solar panels for boats as the user can slightly bend the charger into flat and curved surfaces.
Moreover, it comes with a rubber gasket that contains four mounting holes in its corners. The battery charger is also a plug-and-play device and comes with different charging options such as its SAE maximum output plug, alligator clips, charger terminals, and adapter.
What I like about the battery charger is its efficiency. When compared to similar products, this solar battery charger has the highest conversion rate and efficiency. This crystalline solar panel easily converts solar energy into 8.3 watts of electricity, which can be used to trickle-charge its 12V battery.
With this power, the charger is ideal for maintaining the charge of your boat’s battery. This is quite useful, especially when your boat’s sitting idly for hours or in storage. With this device plugged in, the boat’s battery will not be fully drained, and thus, it is still ready for the next use.
Another thing I like about the battery charger is that it’s self-regulating. Hence, unlike other battery chargers, the DuraVolt variant doesn’t come with a charge controller or a blocking diode due to its low voltage.
However, the company is more than willing to send a free blocking diode should the buyer wish. You’ll just need to contact customer service, and they’ll send one right away. Nevertheless, reviews have noted that the battery charger still runs smoothly despite the absence of these components.
8. ECO-WORTHY Solar Panel Kit
- Comes with complete parts for easy installation
- Expandable system as you can add more solar panels
- Reliable performance due to its power and voltage output
- Comes with safety features for your protection
- Versatile as it can accommodate various loads
- Unit suffers from a few quality control issues
The ECO-WORTHY solar panel kit comes with a polycrystalline solar panel, a charge controller, battery clamps, an SAE connector cable, and an O-ring terminal. Moreover, it comes in two options. You can either choose the 10watt solar panel or the 25watt version.
This kit is easy to use and can even be applied in several situations, aside from boat usage. This includes but is not limited to shed, cabin, camping, RV, cars, chicken coops, greenhouses, and the like.
As mentioned, the solar panel kit comes with a polycrystalline panel. Its solar cells are protected by high-quality glass and an EVA film and backed with a durable anodized aluminum frame. With an IP65-rating, the solar panel can withstand various elements, extreme temperatures, weather conditions, and harsh UV rays.
The solar panel comes in 10-watt or 25-watt versions. With these numbers, the power is enough for it to power up small loads and applications, making it one of the preferred solar panels for sailboats.
I like its versatility and flexibility. Owning this solar panel kit, you have the option to expand the system further. This means that you can install additional solar panels to increase the power it can supply. With this, the solar system can accommodate various loads, ensuring reliable and consistent performance.
The solar panel kit’s charge controller also exudes this flexibility. With an LCD, the user can easily monitor the battery’s health and condition, such as its charge, load, and voltage.
Another thing I like about the solar panel kit is its attention to safety. Its system is made to protect the battery’s health from various issues like short circuits, over- and under-charging, reverse polarity, and the like. The system itself is even made with materials that aim to protect the user.
The solar panel kit is also easy to install as it already comes with the necessary parts and mounting tools. Both the solar panel and charge controller have pre-drilled mounting holes for easy mounting. The system also comes with various cables and alligator clips.
9. Renogy Extremely Flexible Solar Panel
- Features a sleek and slim design
- Rugged construction to ensure all-around protection
- Curves up to 248 degrees making it the most flexible model
- High-efficiency rate, supplying 18.9V of power
- Easy to set-up and install due to its form
- Relatively expensive due to its features
- Slightly shorter lifespan than traditional models
With all its features and excellent performance, the Renogy solar panel is undoubtedly one of the most popular products.
One thing I like about the Renogy solar panel is portability and user-friendliness. Dubbed as the most flexible model in most flexible marine solar panels reviews, the Renogy unit can curve and bend up to 248 degrees, which is more than 2/3 of a circle. With this, the solar panel can be easily installed in various applications and surfaces.
The product also comes with six mounting holes with motel grommets for your convenience. Renogy, however, recommends installing the panel using silicone adhesives for stability.
Aside from that, the Renogy solar panel is also easy to install due to its slim and sleek design. Measuring 49 x 21.3 x 0.08 inches and weighing at just 4 pounds, this solar panel is arguably one of the thinnest and lightest units available in the market.
Despite its measurements, the Renogy solar panel is surprisingly a rugged model. Unlike other models, this product is made of polymer materials instead of glass, which only increased its durability.
To further increase its ruggedness, Renogy subjected the product to rigorous tests. The solar panel has a water-resistance rating of IP68 and can withstand 2,400 Pascal winds and 5,400 Pascal of snow pressure.
Another thing I like about the product is its efficiency. The thin laminated design gives the solar panel a sleek and slim look, but it also features a dotted surface arranged to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight.
With this, the solar panel can supply a maximum of 18.9 volts of power, which is enough to power up several 12V appliances and even battery power stations. The user can also combine multiple units of these solar panels to speed up the charging time and increase the power supply.
The solar panel is also compatible with any set-up due to its MC4 connector. With this, you can seamlessly integrate it into any system without problems.
10. SUNER POWER Solar Panel Kit
- MPPT technology, increasing its power output
- All-around battery protection due to charge controller
- Easy to install and set-up thanks to form
- Rugged construction allows it to withstand various elements
- LED indicator for easy battery monitoring
- Applicable to limited situations due to low power and voltage
The solar trickle charger boasts a durable and rugged design with its high-quality aluminum frame and tempered glass. The device is shockproof and even comes with a water-resistant rating of IP65, protecting its components from oxidizing.
Measuring 14.7 x 9.8 x 3.1 inches and weighing 3.94 pounds, the solar trickle charger is also one of the most compact and lightweight models in the market. Along with the adjustable mount bracket, this makes the solar panel compatible to use in various applications. Many consider it’s earned its place as one of the reliable yacht solar panels to use.
One thing I like about it is its reliability. The SUNER POWER trickle charger comes in 3 varieties, differing in the power the panel can supply. You can choose from 10w, 20w, or 30w options.
Installing the trickle charger helps prevent your battery from completely draining itself. It’s ideal to use when your boat is in storage or when you’re just idling for a few hours.
Moreover, the trickle charger’s charger controller is integrated with the MPPT chip that enables the devices to draw 20%-30% more power than the traditional versions. Since you can easily tilt the panel’s angles, you can easily adjust it in a position that can get the most amount of sunlight.
Another thing I like about this product is its great attention to safety. The MPPT chip increases efficiency and aims to protect the boat’s battery health and status from issues like over- and undercharging, short circuits, reverse polarity, etc.
The solar trickle charger also runs on a 3-stage charging algorithm, which aims to improve battery charge regardless of the situation. Aside from that, the SUNER POWER trickle charger also comes with an LED display to indicate the battery’s status. Green signifies that the system is running and charging, while red denotes that the system is experiencing some problems.
The SUNER POWER charger also comes with 3 SAE cable kits, which makes it easy to install and set-up. This plug and play design also make for easy compatibility and integration to existing systems.
11. Newpowa 30W Monocrystalline Solar Panel
- Rugged construction which allows it to withstand various elements
- Simple design which facilitates easy use
- Easy to install due to color-coded wires and pre-drilling mounting holes
- Provides a decent amount of power due to 30W solar panel
- Lightweight and portable for easy transport
- May require further sealing in the sides and edges
Newpowa is known to be the less expensive or dupe version of the Renogy solar panels. It is no surprise since the company is known for conversion efficiency products at just a fraction of the price. One of their popular products includes its 30W monocrystalline solar panel.
The Newpowa solar panel sports a durable and rugged construction. Its solar cells are sandwiched between an ECA sheet and low-iron tempered glass and backed by a high-quality TPT back sheet. On the other hand, the panel structure itself is made of heavy-duty aluminum frames.
Moreover, these solar panels for boat batteries are also built to last and made to withstand various elements, weather conditions, and temperatures. They can still efficiently run despite being exposed to 2,400 Pascal winds and 5,400 Pascal snow loads.
What I like about the Newpowa solar panel’s is its efficiency. Equipped with a 30w solar panel and monocrystalline technology, the solar panel can comfortably supply enough power to charge battery systems and most appliances and devices.
Under sunny conditions, the solar panel is quick to charge. As such, they are quite ideal to use in some situations and applications.
The panel also boasts simplicity and versatility. With its Anderson connectors, the device is compatible with most units. With this, users can easily integrate the panel with most solar systems.
Another thing I like about the solar panel is that it’s easy to install. Measuring 22 x 13 x 0.91 inches and weighing about 5 pounds, this solar panel is relatively easy to transport and maneuver.
More so, the product already contains mounting holes for a more straightforward installation process. Like most solar panels, it also comes with its own set of color-coded wires and connectors.
12. RICH SOLAR Polycrystalline Solar Panel
- Comes with multiple mounting brackets for easy set-up
- Durable design and construction for all-around protection
- Can still charge even in low-light conditions
- Easily connects to solar and battery systems
- Multi-layer solar panel design boots its energy rating
- Unit is quite heavy at 16.5 pounds
- Not ideal for small boats and cramped spaces
The RICH SOLAR panel, like the Sunpower marine solar panels, is made of durable and long-lasting construction. The solar panel’s 36 solar cells are snugly enclosed between high-quality tempered glass and an EVA sheet and backed by a TPT back sheet.
On the other hand, the rest of the solar panel is made of top-rated aluminum and is made to withstand various elements, temperatures, and weather conditions. It has an IP65-waterproof rating and can withstand winds up to 2,400 Pascal and snow loads of 5,400 Pascal.
The panel also comes in two options. You can either purchase 1 or 2 solar panels for your set-up. What I like the most about the panel is its high-efficiency rating. Due to a multi-layered design and its polycrystalline technology, the product’s solar cells are arranged to collect an ample amount of sunlight.
Under ideal conditions, the solar panel can generate 100W and 5.4 amps of power. This amount is sufficient to charge several appliances and devices and provide power to a battery system.
Moreover, the solar panel also contains bypass diodes that provide reliable performance. With this, the solar power panel can still collect and convert electricity in low-light conditions.
The panel is also easy to set-up and install. The package contains Z-brackets, side pole and tilt pole mounts that you can insert into the 14 pre-drilled holes located in the solar panel’s back. With this much leeway, users can easily install the device in numerous locations and use it in several applications. However, you’ll still need to purchase additional wiring for complicated mounting and installation.
Not to mention, the panel is also user-friendly. With both female and male connectors, the solar panel can be easily integrated into existing solar systems and the like without any hitches.
What Is A Marine Solar Panel And Who Is This For
Vacations are always something to look forward to, whether on land, air, or sea. Unlike before, vacations nowadays have become quite comfortable and a lot easier due to improvements in technology. One of the essential areas is traveling and vacationing by boat.
For one, boats and yachts already have their energy sources that enable you to use your gadgets and devices. With this, you’ll have a source of entertainment, especially during long trips.
However, this doesn’t negate the fact that it also has its problems. Boat owners know that sustaining these energy sources requires a considerable amount of the boat’s fuel. To consume the boat’s fuel, the boat itself must keep running.
The problem with engaging in this practice in the long-run would be the added costs. Since you’ll need to keep the boat running, there is a need to purchase additional fuel. Otherwise, you risk running low on fuel or worse, being stranded on the sea. However, boat fuel can get to be quite expensive, especially when you are going on long trips.
Fortunately, there is an alternative available in the form of solar panels. They often have a voltage of 20V, which can efficiently charge 12V batteries with ease. They are also usually measured in amps, watts, or both.
Installing a couple of these on your boat will ease the burden off your boat’s engine and provide a stable source of battery charging power. These solar panels can be a great tool to use in both big and small boats and ships.
On the one hand, for small boats, having a solar panel installed help in battery charging. This is especially helpful at the times when your boat is docked and moored or on the trailer. With a solar panel, you won’t have to worry about depleting your batteries as it will continuously charge them.
On the other hand, bigger boats like cruising and racing boats would benefit from installing a solar panel. For one, it provides another battery charging source. With this, they can conveniently switch from using the engine or the panels when it comes to charging the batteries.
Not only that, but solar panels can also even be used in powering up and running the boat’s electrical system. With this, it will have its stable power source, which lessens the burden on the boat’s engine.
How Does It Work
Solar panels collect and convert solar energy into electricity that can be used to power up batteries and run appliances. While it may sound simple, it runs on quite an intricate process.
Solar panels contain numerous units of photovoltaic cells, which are sandwiched between two pieces of conducting material such as silicon, boron, and the like. These photovoltaic cells are responsible for collecting and converting sunlight into electricity.
The photovoltaic cells first need to establish an electric field. This is done by giving the cells and their respective conductor material different electrical charges. One side of the conductor metal possesses a negative charge while the other side has a positive charge.
When photons of light particles hit the solar panel, this electric field knocks out the electrons from their respective atoms, which produces electricity.
The energy the solar panels produced is usually direct current (DC) electricity. Some of this energy is directly stored into the battery, while a portion may be used to power up various gadgets and appliances.
However, before it can be used, it must first be converted into alternating current (AC) energy. This is done via a power inverter.
What Are The Different Types Of Marine Solar Panels
Solar panels for sailboats and ships come in various shapes and sizes and terms of the technology used. This section will highlight and discuss these differences for your perusal.
One way to differentiate marine solar panels is in terms of their design. Under this category, these panels can be grouped into two types.
- Fixed Solar Panels
As in their name, fixed solar panels are mounted in a fixed place and only have limited movement. You only have the option of tilting and swiveling the solar panel’s angle. These types of solar kit are usually mounted to most surfaces.
Because of their position, fixed solar panels can generate more electricity than their flexible counterparts. This is because sunlight can directly hit the solar panel when angled perfectly. With this, you wouldn’t need to purchase a lot of solar panels.
Fixed types of solar kits are also more durable than their counterparts. This is because they have fewer moving parts. They also don’t require much care and maintenance, aside from routine wiping and cleaning.
Even so, fixed solar panels also have their problems. Since they’re set, they can be challenging to install and mount. Moreover, they tend to be more expensive than their counterparts due to the material used.
- Flexible Panels
These panels have the advantage of being flexible and versatile. With this, they are easy to mount on various surfaces, whether it be smooth or flat. They also come with adjustable mounts that you can curve and bend in certain angles.
With this, flexible panels are ideal for small boats as their flexibility is an advantage in these cramped spaces.
However, these panels are generally less robust than their fixed equivalents. They are usually made for temporary use and such. They are not as weatherproof. You’ll have to chip in a little more cash to get a better and higher-quality product.
Moreover, they are also not as efficient in generating electricity. As such, you might need to install a few or more, depending on your electricity consumption.
Marine solar panels can also be grouped in terms of the technology they use. Under this classification, these solar panels are categorized into three types.
Using the oldest technological process, monocrystalline solar panels are made of pure silicon, which is sliced and distributed into thin wafers. With this, these panels are distinguished for their black wafer-like solar cells.
Monocrystalline solar panels are the most powerful out of the three types with a high percentage of energy efficiency. This is due to their pure silicon cells, which gives the electrons more space to move.
When sized correctly and paired with the correct battery, these solar panels can power up huge electrical loads like TVs, radios, lights, and the like.
This high-efficiency also makes them more space-efficient in the sense that you’ll only need a few of them to power up your boat’s batteries and electrical system. As such, they are ideal to use in limited and cramped spaces.
These solar panels are also quite durable and have long lifespans. They can withstand extreme temperatures, with some variants even performing their best during warmer weather.
However, monocrystalline solar panels can be quite expensive. Moreover, making them generates a lot of waste as most of the silicon gets discarded.
While still a crystalline solar panel, polycrystalline variants are cheaper to produce since they are not made of pure silicon. Instead, manufacturers used various silicon fragments to form the panel’s solar cells. With this, they often have a blue hue.
Polycrystalline panels have lower energy-efficiency percentages than their monocrystalline counterparts. The various silicon fragments meant having more crystals in the solar cell, which limited the movement of the electrons. However, this difference only amounts to 1-2% percentages.
Because of their manufacturing process, these solar panels are cheaper and generate less waste. While they are also durable like their monocrystalline equivalents, these types are more suited for colder weather as they have lower heat tolerances.
- Thin Film Solar Panels
Thin-film panels are made up of putting a photovoltaic substance into a hard surface to form the solar cells. With this, they are the cheapest to produce while generating the least amount of waste.
Compared to the other types, these solar panels are only about 50% as efficient. Because of this, they are often used for battery maintenance or low amperage charging.
Moreover, they tend to perform better in low-light conditions. You might need to purchase a few of these solar panels if you plan to use it in more prominent applications like recharging powerful batteries or supporting big electrical loads.
Thin-film solar panels are also lightweight and flexible. Their material enables you to fold, roll easily, or manipulate the panels into shape. With this, they are easy to install on most surfaces. However, they are less durable than other types. Hence, they often have short warranties and are cheaper.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Using A Boat Marine Solar Panel
Please keep in mind that like all products, marine solar panels also have their fair share of pros and cons. Learning what these are is important for a consumer to determine if the product can suit their needs.
- Convenient Energy Source
Marine panels provide an optional charging source for your boat. You can even use it to power up your boat’s electrical system. This not only eases the burden on your boat’s engine but also helps you save in the long run.
Moreover, installing solar panels also prevents your batteries from completely dying. Even when your boat is docked or moored or kept in its trailer, the solar panel will still be able to charge the battery, albeit at a slower pace.
Keep in mind that solar panels rely on solar energy to generate electricity. Because of this, it doesn’t require any fossil fuel to work, nor does it produce any waste in turn. Hence, you can lessen your carbon footprint and help save the environment.
Moreover, marine panels utilize sunlight, which is a renewable and unlimited source. As such, you won’t have any trouble accessing it. If there’s sunlight, you can use and generate electricity.
- Cut Costs
With a marine solar panel installed, your boat will rely less on its fuel and power. As such, you can significantly save on fuel, which in turn cuts on your costs and helps you save in the long-run.
- Easy to Install and Maintain
Marine solar panels are relatively easy to install. Regardless of the solar panel type, they come with their mounts and a set of instructions to guide you. Because of their design, you can install them without the need for a professional.
They are also quite easy to maintain, as they are quite durable. As such, you don’t have to adopt a caring method aside from the occasional wiping and cleaning.
- Relies on the Sun
As in their name, boat battery charger solar panels rely heavily on the sun to generate electricity. Sunny days are ideal since this is when the panels offer the best performance.
However, this cannot always be the case. While it will still convert and generate electricity on cloudy and overcast days, it will take a longer time to produce the same amount of power. Nevertheless, these panels can be problematic on cloudy days.
- Can be Expensive
Aside from charging issues on cloudy days, marine solar panels can also be quite expensive, especially when you want an energy-efficient model. There are cheaper variants; however, they tend to be less durable and give poor performance.
The costs here often pertain to high upfront costs. While solar panels often produce long-term benefits in the long run, these high initial costs often deter a significant number of users from purchasing them.
How We Picked And Tested
Marine solar panels offer a convenient alternative in charging your boat’s batteries. Depending on the situation, you can even use these panels to power up the boat’s whole electrical system. Aside from that, going solar also gives a lot of benefits.
With this, marine solar panels are quite popular because the market is flooded with different designs and types. This array of choices, while welcome, makes it challenging to select what model to get, especially for beginners.
However, you don’t have to worry. This section will list all the factors you need to consider when purchasing a marine solar panel.
To determine the solar panel’s power, you’ll first need to ascertain your boat’s total electrical consumption. You’ll need to purchase a solar panel that can adequately meet these loads; otherwise, you’ll risk undercharging your appliances or gadgets, which can produce a new set of problems.
Marine solar panels usually provide 12V of power, which is sufficient to charge most batteries found in boats. This amount is also capable of powering up less powerful batteries with charges of 6V and under.
Ideally, you get a solar panel that can provide 20% more power than your actual load. With this, you can cover any problems and issues that might crop up along the way.
Moreover, if you have a big boat, it’s best to select a solar panel with a dual charging design. This provides you with flexibility in terms of usage. For example, you can quickly charge two or more batteries.
- Recharging Time
This factor hinges on the current of your solar panel. Measured in amps, this factor refers to the time it takes for the solar panel to charge your batteries. The higher this amount is, the quicker the charging time.
- Type of Solar Panel
As explained above, marine solar panels come in different monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film variants. Depending on the solar panel type, it can provide varying amounts of power, which in turn dictates its price.
The monocrystalline variant provides the maximum output due to its material. However, it’s also the most expensive. On the other hand, polycrystalline panels are the more affordable versions, but they provide slightly less power.
If you’re on a tight budget, thin-film solar panels are the cheapest on the market. They also come in flexible designs, which is excellent if you have limited space. However, they are not as efficient as the other two and degrade at a much faster pace.
The solar panel’s durability is also an essential factor to remember. Since solar panels are exposed to various elements, you must select one made of high-quality and long-lasting materials.
Make sure that you select a solar panel made of corrosion-resistant materials like steel, metals, or plastics. You also need to make sure that it’s waterproof and weatherproof.
Select a solar panel that is also easy to install and fit your boat’s dimensions. For one, ensure that it comes with all the necessary bolts and hardware required for installation.
You’ll also have to consider its size and weight to see if it can fit with your boat’s dimensions. For example, bigger solar panels provide more electricity, but they are also heavier and vice versa.
This is also where you’ll have to consider its design. If you have limited space, then a flexible solar panel is recommended since it consumes less space and is easier to install and adjust. You might also want to check one that comes with an installation manual.
- Safety Features
Marine solar panels should also come with the necessary safety features. Look for a model that comes with a plethora of these, such as spark-proof technology, reverse polarity, ignition protection, thermal protection, overcharging protection, to name a few.
The more safety features it has, the better the solar panel. With this, you can protect your boat’s battery from everyday problems and increase its lifespan.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most trusted marine solar panel brands?
Driven by the demands of an alternative energy source and the benefits of solar technology, it’s no secret that the market for solar panels is flooded with different types, designs, and styles to entice a wide range of users. While this wide selection is welcome, it also tends to confuse some users, especially beginners.
Another factor when choosing a solar kit is its brand. Popular brands in the market include Renogy, SUNER POWER, Newpowa, TP- solar, WindyNation, DuraVolt, ECO-WORTHY, RICH SOLAR, to name a few, are well-known manufacturers.
These brands have been in the market for a long time and are known to produce durable and efficient products.
How to use & install?
The first step to remember for installation of a solar panel type is to determine the number of solar panels you’ll need. To do this, you’ll have to know and calculate your boat’s total electrical consumption.
Once you’re done, it’s time to fit the mounting brackets and panels. You’ll need to outline the desired location and layout of the brackets to ensure that they fit. Next, you’ll need to clean the area thoroughly.
Use your sealant gun, apply a bonder on your bracket, and place them in your outline position. Once they’re in place, you can then lay out the marine solar panels.
Then, you’ll need to drill in holes for the solar panel’s cables to pass through. After this, you can install the wires and apply a sealant or other bonding agent to keep them in place.
The third step is to install the solar panel’s charge controller and fix the cabling. Ideally, the charge controller should only be about 1-2 meters away from the boat’s battery and at most 5 meters away from the solar panels. The shorter the distance, the safer and better it will be since it will reduce the likelihood of electrical problems.
Once you know the distance, you can then position the controller in place and attach the cables to connect it with the battery. The charge controller will then undergo the start-up process. If there are no issues, you can then connect the wires to the solar panel.
Again, the charge controller will go through the start-up process. If there are no issues, you can proceed to connect the controller to your devices.
How to care & clean?
While marine solar panels may be low-maintenance, caring for them is still essential, especially when you desire to prolong their lifespan and improve their performance.
The first step is to clean the solar panels routinely. In the sea, these panels are regularly exposed to various elements like saltwater deposits, debris, bird droppings, dust, and the like. How often you should clean it depends on the location you are currently traveling or vacationing.
Before you get to it, make sure to consult the manufacturer first as there might be special instructions or recommendations for the cleaning. But generally, mild soap and warm water are sufficient to clean it.
After that, wipe the solar panels down with soft fabric cloth. You can also even use denatured alcohol to remove stains like grease.
When the panels are clean, it’s best to apply a plastic coating or a polisher to protect it from corrosion, scratches, and other damage.
It’s also ideal to regularly check the solar panel’s structural integrity and electrical wirings before using it. Be sure to check the panel’s charge regulators to see if the system is still running smoothly. If there’s any damage, make sure to replace it immediately.
Where to buy?
Due to their popularity, marine solar panels are easily accessible. You can find them in most boating stores and other specialty shops. There are even some sold in your local hardware stores and home depots.
If you want, you can also choose to purchase marine solar panels online. Amazon and eBay offer various models that you can choose from. If you have a specific manufacturer in mind, you can also choose to purchase a solar panel by accessing their website.
It’s recommended, however, to purchase the panel if you can personally. This way, you can see and evaluate the product for yourself.
Like everything in a competitive market, the top-rated marine solar panels come in various types, designs, sizes and whatnot. There are certainly some characteristics and factors to consider and prioritize above everything else.
However, ultimately, defining and purchasing the best marine solar panel hinges on your opinion and decision. For many users, the best solar panel unit would be one that can adequately meet and support their needs.
Nevertheless, finding a reliable solar battery charger for a boat can be a painstaking process and involve a lot of time and effort on your part. Scouring and researching the market is a must since you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the different brands and products. We’re hoping this guide has given you an insight in the buying process. Buy a solar panel for marine applications today!