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If you own a boat, the odds are that you know that you have to keep the battery recharged for you to use it correctly. The big issue with these batteries, however, is that they usually require the engine to be running to recharge them, which can prove quite costly thanks to all that extra gas you will be burning. Thankfully, there is an alternative nowadays that will allow you to save gas and keep your batteries topped off. All you need to do is find the best marine solar panel for your boat’s needs, and you’ll be all set!
Of course, this is much easier said than done. There is a lot to take into account when you are looking for a solar panel for your boat. You need to think of the power requirements for your battery and the working current of your panel, which will also help you choose the solar panel type to purchase. From there, you can decide on the weight and dimensions of your new panel, as well as the working temperature.
If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry! We have done all of the hard work for you. We have read through hundreds of user reviews, which has helped us to compile a comprehensive list of marine solar panels. In this article, we have also done in-depth reviews of these products, so that you can choose the best marine solar panel for your needs. If you are still not sure exactly what to look for before you buy, then read our buying guide, which details every key feature you need to think about before you make your final purchase.
More features: compatible with on-grid and off-grid inverters; diodes are pre-installed in junction box; comes with a pair of 31-inch cables with MC4 connectors
If you are looking for a great starter solar panel with a large coverage area, then this might be the panel for you. Renogy has built a long tradition for being an easy to use, and reliable brand of panels and this model is no different. These panels are weatherproof and can be grouped or used by themselves. This versatility helps make them an excellent option for new and experienced users alike.
These are some of the most durable panels out there, which makes them great for a boat since they are designed to withstand ice, snow, rain, and wind and keep on working for you. They are able to do this because they are made extra thick, thanks to its rigid aluminum frame. While this does make them a bit more cumbersome, you will not need to worry about them falling apart on you any time soon thanks to this rugged design.
The frame also has pre-drilled holes that will allow you to mount the panels pretty much anywhere on your boat quickly. This makes it simple to put them in the place that makes the most sense for your needs, without having them in your way while you are trying to move about your boat.
While these panels do have a large surface area and are relatively easy to install, they will take a long time to achieve the level of energy production that you might want. While it is possible to get a maximum output of 100 watts, you will need to make sure that the panels are aimed directly at the sun. If they are not, or if it is a cloudy day, you will probably get closer to 76 watts, which is still pretty good.
More features: pre-attached 3-feet wire with bare ends
If you are in the market for the best marine solar panel overall, then you definitely will want to check out this offering form Newpowa. Unlike lots of other solar panels where you have to decide between whether or not the panel has a high capacity or is thick or thin, these offer you the best of both worlds. First off, they are capable of creating a humongous amount of electricity in a short amount of time as long as you are in full sunlight. While that might not sound all that surprising with a polycrystalline panel, what sets these apart is their thickness.
While lots of other panels that offer this same capacity are much thicker, these panels are ultra-thin. They are only about one-inch thick, which helps make them easy to install pretty much anywhere on your boat. This slight thickness also makes these panels some of the lightest on the market. The fact that they are not all that heavy, and yet large enough to soak up plenty of sun, helps set them apart from their competitors.
It must be said, however, that if you intend to purchase these panels, you will also want to invest in a regulator. Since these panels are so efficient at soaking up the sun’s rays, they tend to overdo it when it comes to charging your batteries. With a regulator, you won’t need to worry about your batteries being ruined.
Another consideration that you will need to keep in mind if you select these panels is that the durable framework’s mounting holes are not always easy to keep in line. Thankfully, since these panels are so lightweight, it makes them a perfect candidate to be put up and taken down whenever you need them.
More features: cells are encapsulated in EVA and placed between high transparent low iron tempered glass
As is the case with all of the panels that Newpowa makes, this model is nice and thin. No matter where you intend to install this on your boat, you will not have any issue making it fit. These are especially good for use on a rooftop since they are so thin and lightweight. Even if you have a smaller boat with a thinner style roof, you will not need to worry about these panels causing any damage, since they themselves are nice and light. This will still be the case if you choose to use an array of them on your roof. Since each panel only weighs in at around four pounds, they shouldn’t be too heavy up on top of your boat.
Of course, this thin design does come at a price. Since these panels are designed to be as lightweight as possible, they are not as durable as other models on the market. If you do choose these panels, you need to make sure that you are not too rough with them, or they will end up breaking down on you. They do come with a long 25-year warranty to help protect you against failures.
Even though these panels are easy to attach to your boat, they are not as easy to connect to your batteries as they could be. The three-foot wire that they come with might be a bit too short for some arrays, which might make it tough to hook up quickly without having to buy an extra cable. These panels also do not come with a preinstalled diode, so be prepared to buy one on your own. Thankfully, since these panels are already so cheap, this shouldn’t add too much to your overall purchase price.
More features: pre-drilled holes on the back of the panel for fast mounting and securing; corrosion-resistant aluminum frame
These solar panels from DOKIO are some of the largest solar panels available. This makes them great for larger sized boats where you can mount them permanently. Since they are relatively hefty as far as solar panels go, you won’t want to have to move them around all that often.
Thankfully, these solar panels come with pre-drilled holes on the back panel. These holes help make mounting and securing the panels a snap. Thanks to this quality design, you won’t have to worry about the panels shifting around on you once they have been installed. The frame is also corrosion resistant, which makes it perfect for use on a boat.
One way that DOKIO has tried to reduce the overall size of these panels is by making them incredibly thin. While this does make them a bit more maneuverable and lighter than they would be if they were thicker, it cuts down on their durability. You will need to be sure that you are gentle with them until you have them in place. Once these panels are in place, the added rigidity of your boat will help make them more durable.
Once you have them in place and they have a chance to charge, these panels have the highest amp rating of any solar panel on the market. This high amp rating is another reason that they would work so well on a larger boat. They can move a ton of energy in a short amount of time, as long as they are angled correctly towards the sun’s rays on a beautiful sunny day. These panels are made with high conversion efficiency modules that can generate plenty of electricity, as long as there is enough sunlight.
What makes it stand out?
Large surface area
Easy to install
Corrosion resistant frame
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
Thin frames make the overall construction less durable
More features: anodized aluminum frame and reinforced safety and anti-reflection coated glass; 3.2mm thick and waterproof display
These are some of the smallest panels that you can get. This is great for two reasons. First off, they are incredibly budget-friendly. Even if you wanted to get a large array of these panels, it isn’t going to cost you too much. Plus, the more of them that you purchase, the more cost-effective they will be, since the larger the array, the better it will be at collecting energy from the sun for you.
This small size also makes the solar panels a great option for smaller crafts. This is especially true if you have a limited amount of space on your deck. While you certainly could permanently attach these panels, they are a good candidate for a temporary display that you take up and put down at need. Since each panel only weighs around two pounds, you won’t have any trouble maneuvering them around your boat whenever you need them.
Of course, the small size of these panels could be a bit limiting when it comes to energy production. Since they are so small, they can only produce around ten watts of power per panel. Their limited surface area might make it difficult to create enough energy for your needs, so be sure to look carefully at how much power you need before you make your final purchase.
Even though these panels are on the small side, they are still highly durable. The frame has pre-drilled holes for easy installation but is still corrosion resistant. The entire panel is also waterproof, which makes it an excellent choice for use on a boat.
More features: flexes up to 30 degrees; copper foundation
One of the biggest issues facing any solar panel is the fact that they need to be properly aimed at the sun’s rays in order to power anything. While this might seem like an easy problem to solve, it isn’t always true, since the flat design of the panels makes it tricky to get just the right angle for the sun to hit them. These panels from BougeRV seek to solve this issue by being flexible.
This flexible design makes it easier for the sunlight to hit a portion of the panel even if your boat isn’t aimed directly at it. Their flexible construction also makes it possible to attach them to curved parts of your boat that you otherwise would not have been able to put a solar panel on. Since these panels are extra lightweight, you also have the option to move them around your boat with ease. This helps make them even better at collecting the sun’s rays.
This is one of the most efficient solar panels you can buy as it has outstanding performance and can produce up to 25% more solar efficiency than other panels. It is also fully water-resistant, which makes it perfect for solar applications.
It must be stated, however, that this flexible design is not without its issues. The company had to make some sacrifices to achieve the desired flexibility. These panels are made without a frame, which allows them to bend up to 30 degrees. Unfortunately, this also makes them a bit flimsy, since they are not reinforced in any manner.
In this section, we will go through everything you need to know to find the perfect solar panel for your boat.
Why do you need a solar panel on your boat?
While there is a bit of an upfront cost to purchasing a solar panel for your boat, you will more than make up that money over time. This is because the savings of using a solar panel will outweigh the costs quickly. Without solar panels on your boat, the only way to run any lights or appliances is running the engine. This can quickly become problematic since the price of gas is only going to continue to go up.
Solar energy, on the other hand, is only going to save you money. Once you have purchased and installed solar panels, there is not a lot more cost to maintain them. In this way, you will end up saving a ton of money, since all of those extra gas funds you were burning through to run your lights and appliances is now staying in your wallet.
Not only that, but solar panels are much better for the environment as well. Since they do not create any sort of exhaust or pollution, you can do your small part to help our planet stay cleaner, which is to everyone’s benefit.
Features to consider while choosing a marine solar panel
There are several different factors that you need to take into consideration when you are looking for the best solar panel for marine use. In this section, we will go through everything you need to know to find the best solar panel for a boat.
Monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline
When you are looking for solar panels for your boat, there are two basic options to choose from. You can either go with monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels.
If you are looking for the most efficient type of solar panel, then you can go with the monocrystalline. They are much more common on the market and believed to be more energy efficient and long-lasting. However it entirely depends on the particular model, so read the customer reviews carefully to ensure that it will serve you well for many years to come.
For example, our second product on the list, the Newpowa 30W Solar Panel, despite being polycrystalline still provides you with enough power and sturdy design.
Maximum power (Pmax)
Depending on what type of appliances you intend to run off of your batteries, you need to decide how much wattage you need your solar panels to supply. The best guideline is to get panels that will provide 20% more power than you need. This will help alleviate any issues you might encounter on cloudy days.
Voltage at Pmax (Vmp)
The voltage is the amount of energy that is required to move energy from one source to another. Depending on what the voltage requirements are for your batteries and appliances, you will need to make sure that the solar panels provide the proper amount. Otherwise, they will not be able to move the proper amount of electricity along to charge or run your equipment.
Current at Pmax (Imp)
The current, or AMP, is how quickly the power will flow from the solar panel to your batteries. This will help you figure out how long it will take for your batteries to recharge after you have been using them to run your lights or appliances. The higher the current, the quicker the batteries will recharge.
The dimensions of the solar panel will play a big part in how much energy they can provide you. Basically, the larger the panel, the more sun they can soak up.
The size of your boat will limit the dimensions of your panels since you only have a particular amount of space to install the panels.
If you have a limited amount of space, then the ACOPOWER HY010-12M is a good option, since they aren’t too big.
Solar panels are, by and large, relatively light. Even the heaviest panels, such as the Renogy 100W Monocrystalline Solar Panel don’t even weigh twenty pounds. This makes them perfect for pretty much any craft. It will also allow you to choose from permanently installing them or just putting them up when you need them, which can help save space on a smaller boat.
Since you are going to be mounting these panels onto a boat, you need to make sure that they are entirely waterproof. Otherwise, they are going to fail quickly when you are out on the water. Another good feature to keep in mind is whether or not you want the panel to be rigid or flexible. A flexible panel can be better aimed towards the sun, while rigid panels are more durable and less expensive.
Something that you might want to purchase to help protect your batteries from overcharging is a small and inexpensive charge controller. These devices, which are also called regulators, are rated by the maximum number of amps in your solar array. Regulators help to keep batteries from overcharging, which will help them to last a lot longer.
Depending on how many batteries you have, you might also want to get a wire for each. This will help protect from shorts since it will allow you to connect one panel to one battery.
In order to charge a laptop, the amount of power you need all depends on if you are using it or not. If you are using it, then you will need 60 watts of power. If it is in standby mode, however, you can get by with 15 to 30 watts.
A phone needs much less power to charge. Even if you are actively using your phone, you will only need between 15-20 watts to charge it quickly.
The best way to control the amount of energy that is being used to charge your battery is to purchase a regulator. These inexpensive devices help control the amount of power coming into your battery to make sure that they do not overcharge.
While there are tons of quality solar panels on the market today, we’ve picked the top three that boast the most exceptional features out there.
If you are looking to use just one powerful and reliable panel, then you might want to use the Renogy 100W Monocrystalline Solar Panel. They have high wattage and the largest surface area of any panel on the market, which makes them a great option for single panel setups.
The second best marine solar panel has got to be the Newpowa 30W Solar Panel. These panels are lightweight, efficient, and easy to install. They can be used alone or in an array and can harness enough power for even the larger appliances. This makes them a great solar option for any size boat, and we highly recommend that you check them out.
One of the best places to install solar panels on a boat is on the roof. This spot is out of the way and gets plenty of sunshine. If this is the setup you have in mind, then you might want to try out the Newpowa 25W Monocrystalline panels. They are lightweight, yet powerful enough to collect all the energy you need.