It’s always exciting to break away from life’s hustle and bustle and escape to calming waters to relax. However, if you’re sailing out in the wilderness, you’ll need continuous and reliable access to a power supply that can keep you and your devices running.
Buying solar panels for your sailboat is a great way to charge your batteries. Once the solar panels are properly installed, they can provide clean, quiet energy you can use whenever the sun is out. But before you can focus on batteries and components, you should consider the best type of solar panel for your needs.
Not all solar panels are created equal. Some are more efficient than others, and each individual component will have different needs to address. It’s important to make sure you have a solar panel that fits your lifestyle.
Three Things to Consider When Buying a Solar Panel
i) Solar Panel Size
It may be important to perform some simple calculations prior to purchasing a solar panel. Start by making a list of equipment you’ll bring with you on the sailboat and record how many amp-hours of DC they use every day. Add 20% on top of that. For instance, if your fridge draws 5 amps for 5 hours per day, that unit will draw 25 amp hours of DC current. Convert this to watts by multiplying with 12.8V (which is the voltage of the average marine battery) to arrive at 320 watt-hours.
Account for 20% of additional power usage by multiplying this figure with 1.2, and then divide it by the number of hours of sun exposure, which maybe 3 to 4 hours depending on where you live. So to keep your fridge powered up, you’ll need 320*1.2 = 384 W-hrs divided by 4 hours of exposure to the sun = 96 Watts of solar per day.
ii) Solar Panel Type
When it comes to solar panels, we have a tendency to ‘go big or go home’ because it would convert more solar energy into electrical power. However, it’s better to prioritize a more efficient solar panel than just going for the biggest option you can find. There are three types of cells available, including:
- Monocrystalline cells: The most efficient type of solar cell, and a price tag that reflects this.
- Polycrystalline cells: Made from silicon fragments fused together, they aren’t as efficient as monocrystalline cells but come at a lower price tag.
- Amorphous cells: They are not very efficient but have improved in terms of conversion efficiency over the years. These cells can also be placed on curved surfaces and perform well even in poor lighting.
iii) Marine Grade Wiring
Buy a panel that is specifically designed with marine-grade wiring so that it can sustain the long-term exposure to moisture, salt, sun, and water. Otherwise, it will just fail quickly.
In this blog, we’ve listed down our round-ups of the best solar panels for sailboats.
1. Windy Nation 200 Watts (2pcs 100 Watt)
WindyNation has created a solar panel kit that would address the power needs of most sailboat owners with relative ease. Their solar panel kit will provide 67 Ah per day of charging to the battery, which is more than what most sailboat owners will need. This will give you enough energy to use your devices freely and without having to rationing your power usage.
Their solar panel battery kit also comes with two polycrystalline panels, brackets, adaptors for the battery, and a host of wires. The system also features a digital display to make it easier to read the amount of energy your panels are collecting at any given time. This lets you monitor performance and alter your energy usage accordingly.
- Features the entire kit in one package
- Bundle together and save time and money
- Only provides 1500 watts of power, so you’ll have to be careful not to attach anything too heavy.
- Uses polycrystalline panels instead of monocrystalline panels
2. DOKIO Foldable Solar Panel (100W) With Charge Controller
It’s clear that DOKIO designed their foldable solar panel with convenience in mind. They opted for a foldable version that their user could set up anywhere they wanted with ease. This puts the products better for anyone who wants a quick and easy fix for charging their batteries and gear on the go.
The only problem with foldable solar panels is that they often don’t provide enough power for all your equipment. This isn’t the case with the DOKIO. It can generate 100W of electricity, enough to keep your sailboat performing to satisfaction.
- Monocrystalline cells
- Foldable and can provide power to most of your devices
- Can slip if you make sharp turns, so be cautious
3. Renogy 100 W Foldable Solar Panel
The Renogy Monocrystalline Portable Solar Panel is a versatile option for sailboat owners. It weighs around 12.8 pounds and comes with two 50 watt monocrystalline solar panels that can provide up to 500 watt-hours per day. Made out of heavy-duty materials, these solar panels are corrosion resistant and ideal for use on a sailboat where moisture and salt can be a real issue.
The best part about Renogy’s solar panel is that it is fully modular. If you don’t like the build quality, you can easily swap it for another one. You can also use mounting brackets of your own if you need them, although Renogy does provide their own. It’s also possible to expand the total size of the portable solar charger depending on your needs. Simply place an order for more panels.
A convenient storage case allows for easy transportation when not in use.
- With a corrosion-resistant aluminum stand, this is one of the best portable solar panels for sailboats
- The instruction manual could be more user-friendly.
Our Final Thoughts
The Windy Nation 200 Watts is our pick of the best solar panels for sailboats. They can provide reliable power and are efficient enough to cover long distances. The polycrystalline cells ensure that you get your desired results without having to ration your energy needs.
Agree or disagree with our list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.