We boaters are a power hungry bunch… and I don’t just mean for horse-POWER. We bring a ton of electronics on board. Cell phones, tablets, laptops, TVs, Bluetooth speakers and more. All of these electronics need juice or regular recharging, which takes a toll on your batteries.
If you don’t already have a generator, you might be looking at one. If you do have a genny, you probably run it every single day. But what if you didn’t have to fire up a noisy fuel-burner to recharge your batteries?
Solar panels have been around for decades, but have recently become relatively affordable, driving demand and bringing costs down. A high-quality marine specific 220 watt flex panel kit costs under $1,000 from SunTech Solar. These are not basic home or RV kits with questionable components, they actually include marine grade tinned copper wiring and digital charge controllers.
Imagine mooring in a remote location for days without having to run a noisy generator.
Silent power in 10 easy steps:
- Figure out how much power you need by adding up all of the electronics pulling a 12-volt load from your home bank.
- Check the house batteries to ensure you have enough capacity. For lead banks, recommended total capacity should be three to four times the daily load.
- Determine where you plan to install the panels (typically above a hard top or bimini) and measure the location for panel fitment. 110 Watt panel dimensions are 54 cm x 102 cm, and you don’t want to place a flex panel directly on top of a bimini support.
- Choose a mounting location for the charge controller. They are not ignition protected and should not be located in the engine bay.
- Plan and measure the wire run from the bank to the charge controller and solar panels. We added about 25% to our measurements just to make sure we didn’t come up short.
- Before running the wire, mark one with tape to make it easy to identify later.
- Install the main breaker and leave it open (tripped) prior to install.
- Mount the panels. For mounting above a bimini, you might want to consider SunTech’s magnetic fastener system, which makes panel install a breeze.
- Cover the panels prior to connecting them to avoid any arcing.
- With the panels connected we can flip the breaker and start producing power.
If you chose a Victron controller, download their app to your smartphone to monitor the solar system remotely. It provides real time charging information, battery voltage and will store up to 30 days of history.