Solar power is becoming more common on narrowboats and canal boats.
One big advantage of solar panels is that they allow you to minimise the time you spend using your engine, generator or marine shore supplies to charge your DC boat batteries.
Solar is also a cleaner energy source, and if for example you live on your boat and want to leave for a day or two, you won’t need to turn off your fridge.
The best solar panels for narrow boats are probably the rigid/solid mounted panels, but flexible solar panels are an option too.
Let’s have a look at your best narrowboat solar charging options.
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Top Rated List Of Solar Panels For Narrowboats
Rigid/Hard Solar Panels
200 Watt Rigid Solar Panel Kit (2 x 100 watt panels) – RENOGY 200w Solar Panel Kit – 2 100w panels (on Amazon)
100 Watt Rigid Solar Panel Kit – RENOGY 100w Solar Panel Kit (on Amazon)
Flexible Solar Panels
Best 100 Watt Flexible & Bendable Solar Panel – Windynation 100 Watt Bendable Solar Panel (on Amazon)
Best Solar Panels For Narrowboats: Reviews
Renogy 100 Watt Solar Panel Kit
We already reviewed this rigid/stiff solar panel kit in this guide.
But, some of the things that make this solar panel kit good for narrowboats are:
- The solar panel kit is designed for off-grid applications, such as RVs, trailers, boats, sheds, and cabins
- Starter kit – friendly for all types of people to install on their boat
- Corrosion resistant aluminium frame – good for saltwater and marine environments
- Can be purchased with either a mono or polycrystalline solar panel options – both are efficient in direct sun
- Junction box is protected against debris and water – good for a water environment or rain
- Wanderer controller has the following electronic protections for your battery – overcharging, overload, short-circuit and reversed polarity
- Wanderer controller allows up to 400 Watts in it’s system – room to use more than one 100 Watt panel with the controller
- Kit comes with 100W 12V Monocrystalline Solar Panel, a 30A PWM Wanderer Charge Controller, a 20ft 10AWG MC4 Adaptor Kit, an 8ft 10AWG Tray Cable, and a set of Z-brackets
So you know how much room to make space for on your boat –
Mono panel dimensions are: 47.0 X 21.3 X 1.4 inches
Poly panel dimensions are: 39.7 X 26.7 X 1.4 inches
Can I Get An Adjustable Mounting Rack With This Panel?
- Consider this rack by Windy Nation – Adjustable Solar Panel Mounting Rack & Bracket (on Amazon)
Where Can I Check This Solar Panel Out?
- You can also view the RENOGY 200w Solar Panel Kit on Amazon
Windynation 100 Watt Flexible Solar Panel
We already reviewed this flexible solar panel in this guide.
But, some of the things that make this solar panel good for narrowboats are:
- Can be mounted to your boat surface, or velcro-ed or adhered
- Works at 18 volts and can charge 12 volt lithium and lead-acid batteries – good for most 12 volt batteries on narrowboats
- Can be curved to a maximum 30 degree arc
- Very lightweight – only weighs 4lbs – easy to transport, install and remove
- Frameless design, and 6 pre-fab metal reinforced mounting holes
- Weather resistant
- Dimensions are 41.7″ (length) x 21.3″ (width) x 0.1″ (thick)
Where Can I Check This Solar Panel Out?
Best Solar Panels For Narrowboats: Buyer’s Guide & FAQ
What are solar panels for narrowboats?
Solar panels for narrowboats are panels that gather solar energy from sunlight, which is used to trickle charged your narrowboat batteries.
What types of solar panels are there for narrowboats?
The two most common options for charging boat batteries are:
Rigid/solid solar panels
Flexible solar panels (semi-flexible, and bendable panels)
Small folding solar panels could be used for small handheld devices, and USB devices (smartphones, tablets, radios, GPS devices etc.).
What are solar panels used for on narrowboats?
A narrowboat will have a starter battery for the engine, and deep cycle batteries for things like refrigeration
Traditionally, they have to run the engine or generator to charge their batteries (or use marina shore supplies).
Solar panels mean you can forget about or minimise the use your engine or a generator to charge your boat batteries.
This comes in handy for example if you live on your boat and want to leave it, you don’t have to turn off your fridge to save the batteries.
It’s important to note solar doesn’t have the straight out power of a mains charging. And, solar will only only be able to run AC devices like a washing machine for example with ample wattage, and a solar inverter.
They will trickle charge your batteries over the course of a day when the sun is out and shining directly on the panels.
It is also possible to get a solar regenerator to store DC energy, and charge your batteries when sun isn’t available.
What solar panel to get for a narrowboat – how to choose?
1) Choose the type of solar panel you want – rigid, or flexible panel
If you are new to solar, or you want more value for money, rigid solar panels are probably a better option – especially with a kit.
If you are familiar with flexible panels or have done your research on them, they could be better depending on your use.
One of the benefits of rigid panels is you can use them with adjustable/angled tilting racks.
Flexible panels are lighter, and can even be temporarily installed, and used for other applications.
2) Make sure the watts and voltage specs of your solar panel/s meet the A/h and voltage requirements of your battery, or battery bank
As a guide only…
A good setup for a 12volt battery system that powers a boat refrigeration system, LED lights and a few other small DC devices, would be 1 or 2 100 Watt panels, and a solar charge controller.
Read more in this guide for calculating the solar panel setup you might look at getting.
NOTE: you’ll get more sun in the hotter months than the winter months, so take that into consideration with your calculations.
What features to look out for, and considerations to make with solar panels for narrowboats?
You may look at the following things when looking at a solar panel for your narrowboat or canal boat:
Compare the cost per Watt you are getting with your panels
Look at the accessories you can get with the panel – what extras DO you need?
Check out the resistance ratings of the panel
Are the watts and voltage of the panel suited to your battery, or battery bank?
Is the solar controller rated for the total wattage of your panels
How much does the panel weigh?
What is the warranty guarantee, and the customer/tech support like from the company you want to buy from?
Is the junction box sealed against water and debris?
Is the panel a mono or poly crystalline panel – these types of panels are more efficient in direct sunlight
What is the panel designed for – can it be used for a number of applications
What are the surface area dimensions of the panel – do you have enough room for them?
Solar panels for narrowboats – accessories
LCD display to monitor battery and solar panel health, and performance
Panel mounting brackets, or adjustable stand (to angle your panel into the sun)
Solar Panels For Canal Boats: Buyer’s Tips
1) Understand the benefits and drawbacks between rigid/mounted, and flexible solar panels
– Rigid/Solid Panels
Companies who manufacture and sell these panels are generally more established and reliable – better chance of good customer support, tech support and easier to follow through on warranty if required
Are mono and poly crystalline panels – are more efficient in direct sunlight than other types of panels
Tend to be cheaper and more cost effective compared to flexible panels in terms of the total watts you get vs. the price you pay i.e. a 100 watt rigid solar panel tends to be better value for money than a flexible solar panel
Can get these panels in kits with solar controllers etc., whereas its harder to find good quality flexible solar panel kits
Can setup rigid panels on adjustable tilt racks, so you can angle your panels into the sun off the ground
– Flexible Panels
Can bend up to a certain curvature, so are good for uneven surfaces and curved surfaces compared to a solid panel
Much lighter than rigid panels
Can be temporarily installed, or permanently installed
Can be used across a range of applications – camping, on Rv’s, boats, vans and cars, golf carts + more
You can read more about these solar panel types in this guide.
2) Understand your boat battery requirements
Get across how many batteries you have, the A/h of each battery, and the total voltage of your battery bank or individual batteries:
How many batteries do you have
What is the total A/h of the batteries
Are they individual batteries, or are they in a joined bank – look at the voltage of the individual or banked batteries (a standard 12 volt battery will be 12.6 volts when fully charged)
You can read more in this guide to get an idea of how many solar panels to get and power requirements.
3) Understand how solar works so you know what to expect from your
Solar trickle charges your batteries throughout the day, so you don’t have to use your engine, generator or marine shore supply.
The panels will only go close to full output when in direct sunlight – so, factor in sunlight hours in the day, shade and the winter months.
A solar regenerator battery can capture DC energy and store it to use when the sun isn’t out.
4) Understand a basic solar setup
A basic solar panel setup on a narrowboat would include:
Rigid solar panels on an adjustable tilt rack, or flexible panels floor mounted on your upper level
MC3 or MC4 connectors running from the panel to a solar controller
Controller cables running from the controller your batteries or a regenerator
You might also have an LCD display monitoring the health and performance of your batteries and panels
Inverters are also an option to convert DC energy to AC energy for household type items
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