The 5 Best Rugged Solar Panels For Sailboats (Weighing Less Than 40 Lbs)

Installing solar panels on a sailboat is an excellent decision because it gives you a source of power that doesn’t rely on another entity. Not only does that power give you access to essential items, but you’ll be able to use your comfort items without wasting fuel.

However, choosing the right panels can be challenging, considering there are so many out there. Fortunately, we’re here to help. Keep reading if you want to learn more about why you should invest in solar panels for your sailboat and which ones are the best for you.

Why Solar Panels Are a Good Choice for Power

When you look at solar panels, you might wonder if they’re really the best choice for a sailboat. They often have a hefty buy-in cost, and you’ll have to figure out how to mount them to get adequate sunlight.

However, there are several reasons why solar panels will make a good addition to your sailboat.

One-Time Cost

Although solar panels might be pricey, there’s no recurring cost involved. You won’t have to worry about monthly bills, dock electric, or lugging around fuel. All you’ll need is access to natural light.

Easy To Move

Perhaps one of the most convenient things about solar panels is that they’re easy to move. You can mount almost any panel if you have a good spot. However, when you’re in an environment where you’re constantly moving, such as a boat, you’ll need solar options that can move with you.

Corrosion Resistant

Most solar panels are made from corrosion-resistant aluminum and multi-layered cells. These two factors help your panel stand up to harsh conditions, including wind, rain, snow, and salty air, for years to come.

Save Money

Despite what might be a hefty up-front cost, your panels will definitely save you money going forward. You won’t have to worry about only receiving electricity at the dock or paying a monthly bill. Not to mention, if you purchase the right panel, you’ll have “free” power for decades.

Great In an Emergency

Whether you’re on a boat or hunkering down at home, solar panels can help provide essential power. You’ll be able to maintain access to many of your crucial electronic needs, which can minimize the amount of fuel you use in your generator or on your boat.

Access To Comfort Items

If you’re installing a solar panel on your boat, you know having one isn’t just about essential power. When you’re out on your boat for an extended period, you’re bound to run into a bit of boredom. These panels give you access to your comfort items, including phone chargers, radios, and computers.  

Environmentally Friendly

If you’re the environmentally friendly type, solar panels will let you do your due diligence to protect the environment. You won’t need grid power or gasoline, which is beneficial for two reasons. First, it’s better for the planet. Second, you’ll be able to leave heavy gas cans behind.

The 5 Best Rugged Solar Panels For Sailboats (Weighing Less Than 40 Lbs)

What To Consider When Buying Solar Panels

Buying solar panels isn’t as simple as searching your favorite shopping website. There are tons of options and other things to consider when looking over your list of potential panels. Here are just a few things to consider when purchasing your panels.

Power Output

To determine how much power you need from your solar panels, you’ll have to calculate your power usage. So, take a look at what’ll need power on your boat and how much it uses. You can do this by checking the labels on your devices and reading what wattage is listed.

Charge Controller

A charge controller is a device that’ll keep your battery from getting overloaded by your solar panels. You don’t need to buy one, but it’s a good idea to invest in one when you get your panels. Using a charge controller can help extend the life of your battery and keep your boat from using too much power.

Space

Another thing to consider is how much space you have to install your panels. Solar panels come in all sizes, but you need to make sure you can put them in a spot that gets full sun. Sailboats often have limited deck space, so take note of measurements before buying your panels.

What’s In the Box

Some solar panels come with everything you need to put them to work right away. Others come with just a panel. For beginners, a starter kit will be the best choice. If you’re an experienced solar-user, you might prefer having to purchase all of your equipment separately.

The Top 5 Best Rugged Solar Panels For Sailboats

1. Renogy 100 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit

Dimensions: 42 x 20 x 1.38 inches

Weight: 14.3 pounds (panel)

Voltage: 12 watts

The Renogy 100 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit is a good choice if you’re looking for an all-in-one package for your boat. In addition to the rigid solar panel, you get a charge controller, adaptor kit, a tray cable, and a set of Z-brackets.

This panel provides up to 400 watt-hours (Wh) per day with 21% solar efficiency. However, you’ll need to make sure it has direct access to sunlight for at least 4 hours to get that. It’s ideal for smaller applications, which makes it perfect for use on a sailboat. The charge controller is Bluetooth enabled, but you’ll need to buy the adapter separately.

The panel is made of corrosion-resistant metal that can withstand high winds. So if you plan to take your boat out into the salty air, you won’t have to worry about damage. It’s also pretty easy to mount because it has pre-drilled mounting holes. An added advantage is that there are a lot of mounting holes, giving you ample flexibility.

2. Newpowa 210 Watt Solar Panel

Dimensions: 64.57 x 26.57 x 1.38

Weight: 24.41 lbs

Voltage: 12 volts

The Newpowa 210 Watt Solar Panel is the largest panel on the list, making it better suited for larger sailboats and heavier loads. Although this doesn’t come with mounting equipment, you’ll get diodes pre-installed with two 3-foot MC4 cables.

You could get up to 200 watts of power on a good day. Overcast days might be tricky, but of all the panels listed here, the Newpowa is excellent at handling dimmer circumstances. In addition, the updated monocrystalline cell design has a higher efficiency rating and conversion rate than older models.

The Newpowa is made of corrosion-resistant aluminum with multi-layered laminations to get the biggest boost out of your cells. Not only does this let them withstand rough conditions, but they’re great on cloudy days or in semi-shady areas. The pre-installed diodes also help keep your panel efficient in low light.

3. Topsolar 100 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel Starter Kit

Dimensions: 45.6 x 20 x 1.37 inches

Weight: 15.84 lbs

Voltage: 12

Topsolar’s 100 Watt panel is another excellent choice if you only want to place a single panel and get everything you need. This starter kit comes with a panel, 20A charge controller, Z-brackets, and solar cables. In addition, the holes are pre-drilled, so you’ll be able to get your panel up and running quickly.

This panel is made of tempered glass and a corrosion-resistant frame, which makes it perfect for extended use. In addition, it can handle high wind and snow loads. So, if you get stuck on the water on a windy day, you won’t have to worry about stowing your panel to keep it from getting damaged.

The included charge controller means your solar panel won’t overcharge your batteries. It’ll also protect against over-voltage and short-circuiting. The monocrystalline cells are excellent and produce high-efficiency power. It also has the benefit of USB ports, so if you have any USB chargers or items, you’ll be able to run them without extra equipment.

4. HQST 100 Watt Monocrystalline Panel

Dimensions: 32.5 x 26.4 x 1.18

Weight: 13.2 pounds

Voltage: 12

The HQST 100 Watt solar panel is great if you’re looking for solar panels that are easy to install. The package comes with the panel, junction box, and MC4 connectors with pre-drilled holes. You’ll have to buy the mounting brackets separately.

You’ll have 100 watts of power with this panel at a 21% efficiency rate. In addition, the bypass diodes help prevent power drops when you’re in the shade, giving you optimum performance even if the sun isn’t directly on it.

The HQST is also really well-made. The aluminum frame and multiple lamination layers can hold up against heavy winds, snow, and saltwater. The junction box is fully waterproof against splashes and low-pressure jets. You won’t have to worry about water damage from general use, but take care not to blast it with a hose when you’re cleaning up.

5. Renogy 175 Watt Flexible Solar Panel

Dimensions: 59.2 x 26.5 x .08

Weight: 6.2 lbs

Voltage: 12

The Renogy 175 Watt Flexible solar panel is one of the most versatile panels on the list. This completely waterproof unit comes with the necessary MC4 cables and connectors and pre-drilled mounting grommets that make it easy to hang up on hooks.

Made of lightweight polymer, this panel can flex up to 248 degrees, significantly increasing your mounting options. Its thin, flexible shape makes it a great choice on uneven surfaces. At 175 watts, it’s a bit underpowered compared to other options. Still, this is a convenient option if you have a smaller watercraft or don’t need to power much.

The monocrystalline cells are approved for marine use and can hold up to high wind and snow loads. The main thing you might have to look out for is corrosion. However, since they’re so easy to stash away, you can easily store them while you’re not using them to help prevent damage.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right solar panels for your sailboat can make your days on the water even more enjoyable. Fortunately, you have a lot of options to choose from, including those listed here. Although the up-front cost might seem like a deterrent, you’ll make your money back in no time.

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