How Solar Panels for Boats Can Cut Fuel Usage and Save You Cash
You know what's lots of fun? Climbing aboard your boat before an exciting weekend outing only to find that the battery has died and you're going nowhere. Wait... actually, that's no fun at all. Good thing you always keep a spare boat battery in your back pocket, right? No? Well, then you're gonna need a different solution here. Marine solar panels are a great way to prevent your boat's battery from going dead between voyages and to reduce the amount of fuel the batteries drain for recharging while you're aboard. With enough well-placed solar panels, you can harness sunlight as the power source for your boat's lighting, small appliances, and to charge your phone, tablet and other smaller electronics. Boat solar panels make powerboats more energy efficient and can help reduce the need for use of propulsion systems on sailboats, too. From small cabin cruisers to larger yachts, all recreational boats can benefit from marine solar panels, and there are myriad types of solar panels with which you can retrofit your watercraft.
Can Boat Solar Panels Save You Money?First and foremost, boat solar panels prevent batteries from going dead during periods of disuse. This can help you avoid an expensive battery replacement, as well as avoid the need for a repair tech to come and recharge a fully-functional but drained battery. Solar panels for boats also save you money while you are enjoying your boat by providing some of the energy needed to use radios, microwaves, lighting and all the other electrically powered parts of the vessel. Harnessing power from the sun, instead of it being generated by the engine, you reduce the costly gallons of fuel your vessel consumes. And this is true for powerboats as well as for sailboats, which typically run a propulsion system at least once daily to charge their batteries.
What Kinds of Boats Can Use Solar Panels?
The short answer is that every single boat on the water can use solar panels, except perhaps submersibles. As previously mentioned, sailboats can use solar panels to minimize the need for propulsion system charging. Cabin cruisers and yachts can supplement battery power with solar power. Even personal watercraft like canoes and kayaks can be upgraded with a compact solar panel to charge cell phones, GPS units, cameras and more. These can be small solar panels affixed to the hull or temporary solar chargers like hikers and campers often use. I've paddled along with a compact solar panel that's kept my phone charged numerous times.
Why Permanent Boat Solar Panels Are a Good Idea
One of the most important times your boat solar panels are at work is when you are nowhere near your boat. Provided with decent weather, solar panels can gather more than enough energy to prevent the slow-but-steady battery drain that occurs when a boat is resting at anchor, in its slip, or up on the trailer. With permanently mounted solar panels, you'll never worry about finding a dead battery the next time you head out on the water.
Why Permanent Boat Solar Panels Aren't Always the Best Solution
You'd think large, permanent boat solar panels would be ideal for keeping the batteries charged, right? After all, once they're in place and connected, you never have to worry about them again. The fact is that permanent solar panels for a boat will only operate at their full capacity for a short period of the day, because solar panels work best when positioned perpendicular to the sun's beams. Panels that can be repositioned several times a day to aim directly at the sunlight will gather much more power, though they will also require regular adjustment. Thus many boaters choose both a permanent solar panel bank as well as a movable panel.