If you’re looking into getting solar panels for your canal boat, this guide will be a useful read.
We’ve listed and explained a few things to look out for, including:
- Rigid/stiff panels vs. flexible panels
- Boat batteries
- How solar works
- Basic solar setup
Let’s have a look…
Solar Panels For Canal Boats: Buyer’s Tips
1) Understand the benefits and drawbacks between rigid/mounted, and flexible solar 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
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