A good solar panel kit can transform your sailboat into an off-grid vessel, and save you a lot of money in the long run. The technology behind solar panels is constantly improving – the panels are getting smaller and cheaper while giving you more power. Nowadays, it’s pretty amazing what a solar panel sailboat system can do.
When looking for the best solar panels for sailboats, you should know roughly how much energy you’ll need from them. Besides, factors like panel type (mono- or polycrystalline), dimensions, max output, and durability should also have a part in your decision. This way you’ll get the best marine solar panels that will easily charge your batteries and power the onboard appliances.
If you want to know which are the best solar panels for sailboats, you’ve come to the right place. Here are our top 10 best solar panels for sailboats in 2021.
How To Choose The Best Solar Panel For Sailboat – Buying Guide
The main consideration when buying a solar panel is the amount of energy you will need. If you need a lot, then you better not skimp on a small panel. If you only need a little, then there is no point in buying the biggest solar panel. For this reason, we featured panels ranging from as little as 30 Watts to over 400 Watts. This way you’ll be able to find the ideal balance between power and cost.
Solar Or Engine?
If you are going to rely solely on the power of the sun, then you will need panels that are big enough or powerful enough to be able to convert enough sunlight into electrical power. If you are mostly going to be using the engine to power your craft and everything inside, then you won’t need as big or powerful a solar panel because your alternator will be providing you with your electrical needs.
For example, if you are sailing in an area where you are taking advantage of the wind (with your engine off), you’ll want to take advantage of your solar panel. On the other hand, if you need to use the engine to move the boat, you won’t mind a little of it going to power the appliances and devices. For short trips, this is an easy way to think about it, but if you are going on long sailing trips, having more solar means you will not be relying on your engine for electricity. If you run out of fuel or your fuel gets contaminated (or if your engine dies), solar panels will be there to make power for you to keep your boat’s electrical system functioning. This means that you will be able to use your radio, run your electrical navigational equipment, and most importantly, keep the beer cold.
What are you going to be powering? If you know how many appliances are going to rely on a solar panel, you can easily calculate the amp draw and buy a solar panel that can fulfill those needs.
Check the product information which came with the item you are powering or look online to find out how many amps your product will draw per day. Once you have your total amp count, you can decide on a panel.
Another trick you can do is to use an amp logger which tells you how many amps flow out of your batteries in a given period of time. Take a reading of it daily for several days so you can average out how many amps you consume in a day. Then you can begin to design your solar setup according to the amount of power you actually need to have. When in doubt, more is always better! Don’t forget about cloudy days.
Actual Output VS Maximum Output
When you are looking at the power rating of your solar panel, you need to take into account that the max specified output requires a perfect sunny day. Do you live in a place where every day is sunny and perfect? You should expect the power to be less than the advertised maximum and make a purchase accordingly. Winter sun is less powerful than summer sun, and cloudy or foggy days will further reduce your solar panels ability to make power. Take all this into account when you’re sizing your panels so that you don’t end up with a slightly smaller setup than you realistically needed.
Are you setting sail from the arctic circle to Honduras? Your fridge and air conditioning may be working overtime. Always remember to plan for the climate you will be sailing in because sometimes you’ll require more power.
The size of your panel will depend initially on the size of your boat and the area in which you can install it. Generally, the more energy your boat consumes, the bigger the panel you will need. Don’t forget to always check the efficiency. The panel you have in mind may be the biggest, but it may not be the most efficient, and therefore will not produce as much power as another panel that is more efficient in that same space. Ideally, try to find a panel that will give you the largest amount of power while having the smallest footprint.
Mono- And Poly-Crystalline
Most solar panels for boats are made from silicon. However, based on the production process, they can either be monocrystalline or polycrystalline. Mono panels offer higher efficiency and power output, but also cost more. Poly panels produce slightly less power, but their affordability makes them great if you’re on a tighter budget.
Amorphous Thin Film Silicone
As an alternative to crystalline panels, you have film panels. In comparison, film panels are cheaper and more flexible. They are great for fitting into curved spaces, but they are not as efficient as crystalline panels and tend to last a lot shorter time.
Solar panels for boats can be expensive, but the good news is that you will not need a lot of power for your sailboat. One or two panels will be enough to power most items on board as long as they are not being constantly used. You do not need to fork out a massive amount of money to go off-grid.
Q: How Much Solar Power Do I Need For My Sailboat?
The number of marine solar panels you should get depends on the amount of power you need. After you have counted up the number of amps you will draw per day, you will have a general idea about the wattage you need. Sometimes this means having several panels or getting a single large one. It is important to remember that the Amp Rating of a solar panel refers to how many amps it will make in one hour in ideal conditions. It is safe to assume that the panel will make that kind of power for about 3 hours per day, and will make less than the advertised amount for about 8 hours out of the day. Therefore, you can estimate that you will be able to produce five times the amp rating of the panel in a day. If your panel is rated to produce 8 amps, you can expect to gather 40 amps (8 x 5 = 40) in a day of full sunlight.
Q: How Do Marine Solar Panels Work On Boats?
Simply speaking, the photovoltaic cells on your solar panel collect the sunlight and convert it into electricity. Most marine solar panels come with a set of cables and a solar charge controller that allows you to safely charge the batteries on your boat. This gives you a clean and convenient power source no matter where you are. However, the amount of power you’ll get depends on how much sunlight the panels get during the day and how often the solar panels are shaded by items on the sailboat. Sails, spars, and rigging are great for casting shadows that will decrease your power production from the panels.
Q: Which Is Better Monocrystalline Or Polycrystalline Solar Panels?
Monocrystalline. They are made of single-crystal silicon which allows for a better flow of electricity and results in higher efficiency. On the other hand, polycrystalline panels use compressed fragments of silicon which results in a less efficient panel. However, this also means that polycrystalline panels are cheaper, which can be an important factor when deciding.
Q: How Long Do Marine Solar Panels Last?
It depends on the panel you have, but most crystalline panels will last for 25+ years. Many of them will even continue working long after that time (at lower efficiency, of course). It’s said that a panel loses 0.5 to 1% of its efficiency per year, making them a long-lasting investment. On the other hand, if you choose a film panel, you can count on 2 to five years of lifespan.
Globo Surf Overview
Sailboats are becoming more and more self-sufficient, but they also require more power. With the solar panels for boats from our list, you can get that power from the sun and take your sailboat completely off the grid. Sailing is about being out on the water, and having solar panels allows you to spend more time there. The best marine solar panels not only keep harnessing nature’s power, but they also take the hassle out of your sailing adventure.
More Sail Reviews:
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- Sailing Jacket
- Sailing Shorts
- Sailing Bags
- Marine Battery
- Boat Shoes
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- Inflatable Boat
- Outboard Motor
Have you tried one of our solar panels for your sailboat? Let us know how you like it in the comment section below.