Best Solar Panels For Narrowboats

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

View on Amazon

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?

Where Can I Check This Solar Panel Out?

View the RENOGY 100w 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?

Windynation 100 Watt Bendable Solar Panel (on Amazon)


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

Solar controller

Solar regenerator

Solar inverter

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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