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  • Writer's pictureEthan Barr

Marine Solar

In this blog, I will touch on a few key points that I believe every boater needs to know about marine solar and provide a few installer tips.This is purely my opinion on the matter, and I acknowledge that other installers may think differently. That's okay. Without further delay, here it is:every boat should have one. Simply put, this is a great redundant means to charge the batteries. Shore power fails, whether intentionally or by mistake; it just does. i can't tell you how many times have I received a call after a rainy day from a boat owner who noticed more water than usual and that the batteries are drained? The short answer is... a lot! If all you can afford is a small solar panel for now, get it. Don’t hesitate. It will also give you some peace of mind.On a quick side note, there are systems out there that can send you a text when your bilge level is rising or when your AC power is interrupted, just so you know. But I digress.Let's go back to solar. You will need three things to make your solar system function: one will be the actual solar panel, obviously; two will be a solar controller (yes, I know some go straight to the battery... don’t); and three is a battery. Every 100 watts panel should realistically give you about 6 amps (assuming you are running on 12V DC onboard); however, you can only expect it for about 6 hours. As the sun rises and sets, the angle of the sun to the panel will greatly affect its power production (shade also, but that is a lengthy topic), and your panel will produce way less current.If you choose to do it yourself, you will need to consider the following: solar panel sizing (numbers, voltage, currents to calculate fuses and circuit breakers), panel placement, solar panel and cell technology (which will affect efficiency), sizing your solar charge controller, and the length and size of wires to the controller and battery, etc.Here is what I do: I will get the biggest and most technologically advanced solar panel your boat and budget can accommodate with high VOC to allow me to use smaller conductors with plenty of safety margins (overcurrent, temperature variations, etc.), this way  I won’t have to drill big holes or make drastic changes to your boat. i will also get high-quality solar charge controller with a good user interface and after-sales warranty. And finally, follow the ABYC guidelines for fusing and wiring to the battery. I have done many installs; some produce more than 1 kW, and certain boats had the privilege to coil back their shore power cord and stow it away.

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