A Yacht with mounted solar panels (Photo credit: Energysage)
When at sea, in the middle of nowhere, running out of battery is a nightmare. Sometimes, you may have your routes planned but unforeseen problems causes delays that leaves you longer at sea till your battery is totally drained. Therefore, keeping your battery charged for extended boating trip can be a serious challenge. Today, boaters and sailors are using solar panels to solve that problem. However, that has created other problems.
When dealing with solar panels, price and durability are crucial. Some of the solar panels have components that are not waterproof. This makes them unsuitable for marine use. Also, boats come in different shapes and sizes and you need solar panels that will perfectly fit on the available space on your boat. The numerous types of solar panel technologies on the market can be confusing too. We want to take away the stress and time it will take you to choose the best marine solar panels.
What marine vessels can use solar panels?
Virtually all boats can use solar panels. However, the size of the solar setup will vary depending on the size of the boat. For small boats, solar panels can keep the battery at full charge for longer boating adventure. However, in larger marine vessels, solar panels are often used as alternative light power source for onboard appliances. By channeling other devices to the solar power, the engines can be used for longer hours.
Review of the Best Marine Solar Panels
Marine solar panels can either be monocrystalline, polycrystalline, or amorphous. This refer to the technology used in the manufacture of the cells of the panel. The panels can also be flexible or rigid. Therefore, you need to study the available space on your boat to determine which type of solar panel will fit better. That said, here are the best marine solar panels.
Newpowa 200W Monocrystalline Solar Panel – Best overall
- Heavy-duty frames
- Weight: 27.56 lbs
- Current rating: 11.76A
- Warranty: 25 years transferable power output warranty
If you have a limited space on your boat that can only fit one solar panel, Newpowa 200W monocrystalline solar panel will help you to make the most of that space. Instead of having 2x 100W solar panels, you can have this one. There are other benefits with this product besides the conservation of space. One of them is the support for a wide range of mounting options. This includes flat surfaces, poles, and wall mounting.
Newpowa 200W monocrystalline solar panel is designed to withstand high wind pressure (up to 2,400Pa) and snow load (up to 5,400Pa). Also, the solar panel and junction box are protected from all weather conditions. Thus, it comes with an IP65 waterproof rating. You can rely on the heavy-duty anodized frame to provide maximum protection for the panel. Likewise, the multi-layered sheet laminations enhance cell performance and prolong the lifespan of the cells.
The icing on this product is the 25-year transferable power output warranty provided by the manufacturers. However, this unit comes at a steep price. Most of the solar panels for boat reviews on this product claim it produces less than 50% of the rated power. Also, customer service is almost absent. Perhaps, with the right angling and high solar intensity, you will be able to get the most off this panel.
- High watt rating helps to conserve space
- Rugged build to withstand wind and pressure
- Weatherproof with IP65 waterproof rating
- Supports numerous mounting options
- Up to 25-year warranty on power output
- Customer support is almost inexistent
- Energy output is far below the rating
WindyNation 200W Solar Panel Kit – Best solar panel kit
- LCD PWM charge controller
- Mounting brackets
- Solar cables
- Weight: 40.8 lbs
- Current rating: 6.7A
- Warranty: unspecified
If you are new to solar power and want to get the best value for money, one of the ways you can do that is by buying a solar panel kit. WindyNation 200W solar panel kit strikes a balance between price and performance. The kit comes with 2x 100W solar panels, 1x WindyNation 20A PWM solar charge controller, mounting brackets, and cables. So, you have all you need to get started with your solar system immediately.
The accompanying charge controller features user-adjustable settings. The LCD screen gives you real-time information on the voltage, battery charge state, and solar panel status. The panel can be used for charging AGM, gel, lead-acid, and lithium-ion batteries. The two solar panels can be wired in series (for charging 24V battery) or parallel (for charging 12V battery). According to the manufacturer, the charge controller can handle one more solar panel giving you the possibility of future upgrades.
Those on a slim budget can easily be swayed by this kit because of its low price. One of the biggest complaints about this kit is the charge controller. You also need to purchase the cable for the battery bank separately. If you get really unlucky, your delivery will come with missing parts. Regardless, it is still a great product that proves its worth over time.
- Comes with all the components to get started
- Charge controller support upgrade to 3 panels
- Solar panel is built tough to withstand impact
- Highly affordable
- Charge controller is inefficient
- Battery cable not included
Renogy 100W Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel – Most flexible solar panel
- Flexible up to 248 degrees
- Waterproof (IP68)
- Weight: 4 lbs
- Current rating: 5.29A
- Warranty: unspecified
When it comes to flexibility, only a few manufacturers can match Renogy 100W monocrystalline solar panels. This solar panel can flex up to 248 degrees. Pair this with its ultra-lightweight of just 4 pounds and you will get a product that be transported with ease. The insane flexibility also makes it suitable for curved surfaces including boats and yachts. Beyond the insanely gorgeous aesthetics, this unit has a lot to offer in terms of performance.
Notwithstanding the small size, this solar panel was designed to withstand extreme wind of up to 2,400 Pa and snow of up to 5,400Pa. Also, the manufacturers had durability in mind while making this one. This unit comes with super thin lamination. Although hardly noticeable, it confers protection to the panel. The junction box has an IP68 waterproof rating. This should be able to withstand water jets at low pressure.
While Renogy products are usually of high quality, they have a number of flaws that are often not product-related. For example, Renogy products usually have a high price tag. Another non-product-related flaw is the poor customer service offered by the manufacturer. On the part of the product, the power output is poor and tends to degrade quickly over time. Nonetheless, it is still a great unit to have.
- Extremely flexible
- Waterproof junction box
- Withstand high wind pressure and snow
- Extremely lightweight makes transportation easier
- Poor power output
Dokio 100W Foldable Solar Panel Kit – Best foldable solar panel
- Foldable and enclosed in a thick fabric
- Weight: 6 lbs
- Current rating: 6.1A
- Warranty: unspecified
Perhaps, you don’t want to deface your boat with the sight of solar panel installations. If you are looking for a solar panel that you can easily fold into a suitcase, and throw into your boat, Dokio 100W foldable solar panel kit will be your best bet. The panel is enclosed in thick fabric with a carrying handle. This does not only protect the panel but also makes its transportation easier.
When you make this unit your choice, you will also get a charge controller, alligator clamps, and other accessory cables for immediate use. The accompanying PWM charge controller has 2x 5V USB ports where you can plug in your mobile devices and digital cameras and charge them off the panel—even if you don’t have an installed battery. Although the unit is waterproof, it is made for emergency use and not to be permanently installed outside. Moreover, the sun can damage the fabric.
This unit is fairly affordable which is another big plus for those on a slim budget. While many agree that this is a good panel, the opposite is the case for the charge controller. A good number of marine solar panel reviews on this product show that the charge controller is unreliable. Also, the durability is questionable. Some customers say the panel started falling apart after short use.
- Foldable and easy to carry
- Protected with a cloth fabric
- Comes with a charge controller and other accessories
- Moderate pricing
- The charge controller is potentially problematic
- Durability is questionable
ECO-WORTHY 100W Monocrystalline Solar Panel – Best waterproof 100W marine solar panel
- Weight: 14.77 lbs
- Current rating: 5.78A
- Warranty: unspecified
This is one of the most efficient solar panels on the market. With this panel, you are sure of getting a daily output of over 500wh—depending on the availability of sunlight. The panel is waterproof too and can withstand environmental elements. It is built tough to withstand high wind of up to 2,400Pa and snow load of up to 5,400Pa. The monocrystalline panel is framed with an aluminum alloy which is slightly wider than other panels.
ECO-WORTHY 100W monocrystalline solar panel comes with connector cables pre-attached which makes it plug and play. Likewise, the pre-drilled holes on the back of the panel make mounting on the roof or bracket faster. The best way to install the solar panel is to place it facing the south with a 20 to 30 degrees tilt.
Interestingly, this product is also affordable compared to competing brands on the market. One of the biggest problems with this solar panel is the poor shipping. The panels usually arrive damaged. Also, the panel appears to be heavily affected by shading. Even the slightest shade can lead to a massive drop in energy production. The sealing of the junction box appears to be poorly done too. If only ECO-WORTHY can pay more attention to quality control, this can easily become the best solar panel on the market.
- Highly affordable
- Offers high efficiency
- Comes with pre-attached cables and holes for easy installation
- Withstand harsh environmental condition
- Product often arrive damaged
- Experience massive power drops from shading
HQST 70W Monocrystalline Solar Panel – Best 70 watts marine solar panels
- Bypass diodes
- Multilayer sheet laminations
- Weight: 15.52 lbs
- Current rating: 2.55A
- Warranty: unspecified
If you are looking for an affordable 70 watts solar panel for your boat, HQST 70W will easily catch your attention. It comes with bypass diodes that minimize power drop caused by shade and ensure excellent performance in low-light environments. The pre-drilled holes on the back of the panel allow for fast mounting and securing. You can choose different mounting options for this product including Z-bracket, tilt mounts, or pole mount.
The entire solar panel is made of advanced encapsulation material with multilayered sheet laminations to enhance cell performance as well as extend the life span of the panel. Its compact design makes it suitable for multiple applications. The junction box has an IP65 waterproof rating which provides complete protection from environmental particles and water jets at low pressure.
According to multiple reviews, this solar panel produces more than the 70W rating. Sometimes, it produces up to 83W. That means you will be getting more than you paid for. On the downside, having this panel may mean that you will need to upgrade your charge controller—especially if you have two or more connected in series. But, that should not be a deal-breaker, right?
- Highly affordable
- Produce more than the rated wattage
- Built tough with IP65 waterproof rating
- Bypass diodes minimize power drops
- Warranty is not available
- Slightly heavy
RICH SOLAR 100W Polycrystalline Solar Panel – Best polycrystalline marine solar panel
- Anti-reflective coated tampered glass
- Weight: 17.5 lbs
- Current rating: 5.4A
- Warranty: 25 years limited on power output and 5 years on material and workmanship
Polycrystalline solar panels are not as good as monocrystalline panels but you can bank on RICH SOLAR 100W polycrystalline panel to give you the best in low-light environment. This solar panel was built to withstand challenging environmental conditions. In fact, it can withstand winds of up to 2,400Pa and snow load of up to 5,400Pa. Also, the junction box has an IP65 waterproof rating.
It features strong high transmission anti-reflective coated tempered glass and an anodized aluminum frame. It comes with 14 pre-drilled holes which are compatible with ground mounting. This solar panel can also be mounted using side pole mounts and tilt mounts. The vast mounting choice gives you some level of user flexibility. One of the coolest addition is the bypass diodes that ensures stable power in low light conditions.
RICH SOLAR 100W polycrystalline panel is cheaper than many of the competing brands. However, it has its own problems. The majority of marine solar panel reviews on this product emphasize the poor power output of this panel. At best, you will get 50 watts on a sunny day. Well, it is expected for polycrystalline panels since they are usually less efficient.
- Highly affordable
- Tough build with IP65 waterproof rating
- Offers diverse mounting options
- Bypass diodes maximize power in a lowlight environment
- Extremely heavy
- Polycrystalline panels are not as effective as monocrystalline
ACOPOWER 35W Polycrystalline Solar Panel – Best budget
- Waterproof (IP65)
- Weight: 9 lbs
- Current rating: 2.00A
- Warranty: 5 years workshop warranty and 20 years output warranty
Sometimes a low budget is usually the major obstacle stopping us from having what we really want. However, it should never stop you from having a solar panel. ACOPOWER 35W polycrystalline solar panel is a little above $50 but still has all the cool features you will get from traditional panels—and more. They come with pre-drilled holes and 90cm cables for easy installation.
They are quite heavier than some of the solar panels with higher watt ratings. However, all that weight helps it to withstand high wind (up to 2,400Pa) and snow load (up to 5,400Pa). To further secure the integrity of the panel, it has anti-reflective coated glass. Also, the junction box is reinforced, giving it a waterproof IP65 rating. To top it up, the manufacturer is offering a 5-year workshop warranty and 20 years output warranty.
Due to their smaller size, they have multiple applications including in solar monitoring systems and solar lawn lights. They can squeeze into tighter locations where traditional panels won’t fit. Sadly, this comes with alligator clips attached to them. This may trick novices to think they can hook it up straight to your battery. That is definitely a bad idea. Since it doesn’t have a charge controller, it can overcharge your battery which can lead to an explosion.
- Highly affordable
- Built tough with waterproof junction box
- Pre-drilled holes and 90cm cable for easier installation
- Up to 20 years warranty on output
- Smaller size fits into tighter areas
- Accompanying alligator clamps can lead to an accident
- Power output is far lower than the rating
SunPower 110W solar panel – Most efficient marine solar panel
- Flexible up to 30 degrees
- Weight: 4.4 lbs
- Current rating: 5.9A
- Warranty: 5 years on power and 2 years on product
Arguably the most exciting feature of SunPower 110W flexible solar panel is the efficiency. SunPower solar panels have a reputation of up to 22.6% efficiency. That is the highest in the industry to date. This particular unit has an efficiency of 25%. Another feature of this product that is hard to ignore is bendability. This solar panel can bend up to 30 degrees. This property makes it suitable for curved areas of a boat and other irregular surfaces.
Also, SunPower 110W is extremely lightweight. Therefore, it can sit comfortably on the roof of your boat without weighing it down or causing it to cave in. Although this solar panel has the size and dimension of a regular 100W solar panel, it delivers more power. This panel is constructed with top-grade lightweight polymer materials which makes transportation and installation easier.
The biggest challenge you may have to deal with if you are considering this product is the huge price tag. This product costs up to 40% more than regular flexible solar panels. Another headache you will have to deal with is that you will need a special tool to disconnect the MC4 connection. Lastly, don’t expect to get 110 watts off this unit. If you get over half the rating, you are lucky. However, the warranty is among the largest you will get in the industry.
- Extremely lightweight
- Flexibility makes it suitable for curved boats
- High efficiency of up to 25%
- Up to 5 years warranty
- Extremely expensive
- You need a special tool to disconnect the MC4 connection
Topsolar 100W Monocrystalline Solar Panel – Best ETFE marine solar panel
- Made of ETFE material
- Weight: 3.97 lbs
- Current rating: 4.4A
- Warranty: unspecified
Topsolar 100W monocrystalline solar panel is made of ETFE material which gives it a high resistance to dirt and offers self-cleaning capabilities. According to the manufacturers, this solar panel use high-efficiency single crystal solar cells which improves conversion by 50%, twice more than regular solar panels. The ultra-thin nature and lightweight make transportation and installation and uninstallation easier too. But that is not all.
This solar panel is highly temperature resistant and easy to clean. The backplate makes use of TPT which enhances heat dissipation giving the solar panels long-time stable performance. Also, its flexible nature makes it suitable for the arched roof of boats and yachts. The majority of the solar panel is made of advanced waterproof material which is more durable than glass models. In other words, you don’t have to worry about cracks on your panels.
Notwithstanding all the cool features, the manufacturer has been able to keep the price on a low ebb. However, like most cheap products, this one has its own flaws. Some of the flexible marine solar panel reviews about this panel mention burning of the panel with exposure to the sun. For those that work, durability is sometimes an issue. One thing is sure, it seems to produce more power than other panels.
- Made of ETFE material which has numerous advantages over glass
- Flexibility makes it easier to mount on curved surfaces
- Highly waterproof
- Seems to burn up quickly
- Customer support is inefficient
Buying Guide for the Best Marine Solar Panels
Choosing the best marine solar panels requires critical thinking. This is because there is no one-size-fits-all. What may seem a perfect product for one person may be a total disaster for another. Perhaps, you want to do your own research, here are some of the factors that you should strongly consider before coming to conclusion.
Choosing the right marine solar panels will be easier if you know the energy requirement of your boat. The first thing you need to do is make a list of the equipment in your boat and add their wattage. With this in mind, you will have a better idea of the size and number of solar panels that you should have.
Depending on the size of your boat, you may have a small area left for mounting your solar panel. Therefore, you need to choose a solar panel that can fit into that space. If you have a curved roof and would like to install solar panels on them, your best bet would be to choose a flexible solar panel.
Solar panel technology
There are three main types of solar panel technologies mainly monocrystalline, polycrystalline and amorphous. Monocrystalline is made from pure silicon crystals without impurities and are usually more efficient than the other types. However, they are usually more expensive. However, when you choose them, you will likely be able to conserve more space. This is because a 100W polycrystalline panel is usually bigger than a 100W monocrystalline panel. However, if you are low on budget, polycrystalline panels may be a big financial relief.
Solar panels are mostly unpredictable. Also, some manufacturers are not meticulous with quality control. Therefore, there are huge marine solar panel reviews that mention products arriving with damages. Having a warranty can save you a lot of headaches. The rule of thumb is to always choose a product with the longest warranty cover.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the best and most efficient solar panels?
Newpowa 200W, WindyNation 200W, and Renogy 100W are some of the best solar on the market for various reasons. In terms of efficiency, Sunpower remains a force to contend with. SunPower solar panels boasts up to 22.6% efficiency.
- Do solar panels work off moonlight?
The amount of energy from the moonlight that reaches the earth is too small to power a solar panel. This is in contrast to the sun. About 1,368 watts of radiation per square meter of energy reach the earth from the sun.
- What will a 100 watts solar panel run?
A unit of 100 watts solar panel will power regular marine boat devices including laptops, router, fans, light bulbs, and so on.
- How much solar power do I need for my boat?
The amount of solar power that you will need for your boat will depend on the number of devices that you want to power. In locations like Massachusetts and Boston with an average daily sun of 3.89 hours, you should be able to get 389 watts per day from a 100W solar panel.
The best marine solar panel can help you to extend your boating experience without running out of power. With the fear of running out of power eliminated, you can relax and enjoy your holiday or tour. Make sure you pair your solar panel with the right charge controller. They will not only protect your battery from overvoltage, overcharging, or short circuit they can also help to maximize the energy from the solar panels.