Installing Solar on Houseboat: Complete Guide

Have you ever thought of having a solar-powered houseboat? If yes, installing solar on houseboats will address all your houseboats and solar energy concerns.

Your next outdoor living idea can be awesome and cost-effective if you are planning to go solar for the houseboat instead of a generator.

Solar panels will produce the power that you need to run devices and appliances on the houseboat.

All you need to install a solar system on houseboats are solar panels, battery, inverter, and charger. Furthermore, follow the proper steps to install them and get an independent and reliable power source.

With this complete setup, you will get a flexible power system for use on your dream houseboat.

In this writing, we describe everything regarding running your houseboat on solar energy and installing a solar houseboat will be listed in this very long article. We also include eight easy and effective steps to install a solar system for houseboats.

Stay tuned!

ThePhoenixsun Video Series
ThePhoenixsun Video Series

Solar System for Houseboat

Solar System for Houseboat
Solar System for Houseboat

Can you run a houseboat’s electric appliances on solar power? Yes, with the latest technology from solar panel manufacturers, you can run a houseboat on solar power without any problem. You will need to learn some basic knowledge about solar to start installing solar panels for your houseboat.

People who have used solar panels before always know that you need four important things for your solar panel to operate effectively and efficiently.

If you have never installed one before, you need to get yourself a solar panel, an inverter, solar batteries, and a charge controller.

The batteries and the charge controller are essential as your solar panel will not function correctly without them. All four components are essential as one needs the other to operate.

If you plan to have a houseboat, you will need to research and find out what type of solar panels you require for your houseboat, how much they cost, what exactly are the tools for installation, and many more.

Doing your research will help you ease your work when it comes to installing solar boat panels.

Even though installation is not an easy process, you will need a helping hand if you do it first.

8 Steps Of Installing Solar On Houseboat

Before getting started, you should make a professional work plan to complete the installation accurately and effectively. Unless you have a clear idea about how much power and what devices you need, you can not set it properly.

Having the right steps will enable you to get sufficient power for the houseboat and buy the right elements for the system.

To install solar for houseboats, you can follow these 8 steps.

  • Calculate Your Needs 
  • Check If You Can Install Solar Panels On Houseboats Roof 
  • List Out The Equipment To Run Detached Houseboats on Solar
  • Purchase products
  • Install Solar Panels 
  • Connect The Equipment
  • Test Out The Output Energy 
  • Complete Your Installation

Let’s explore the steps in detail.

8 steps of installing solar on houseboat

Calculate Your Needs

It’s not your house rooftop, and you have a limited space that you can use to install the solar panels. So, the calculation must be accurate to utilize the space for several solar panels.

The calculation is the measurement of the boat’s roof and solar panels and the consideration of power productions.

You have to compare the size, power, and efficiency of the solar panels with the needs of the boathouse. It is the only way that provides the right direction and choices.

Decide how many devices you have and the number of solar panels that require the same power.

For instance, a 300-watt solar panel is needed for the houseboat, and you can install a single 300-watt solar panel or two 150-watt solar panels depending on the design and space of the houseboat.

It will help you utilize the power production and space with the right calculation. So, complete the first step perfectly that will enable you to do the next steps properly.

Check If You Can Install Solar Panels On Houseboats Roof

In general, most houseboats have a simple and wide roof to protect them from sunlight and rain. This space is perfect for installing solar panels.

But, you should check the houseboat’s roof to ensure the possibility and durability of the top. It makes the installation secure and helps you select a strong base for the solar panels.

Next, you have to understand the pitch and direction of solar panels. South-facing is the standard direction for solar panels, and the sun can provide more lights in this direction.

But, it does not apply to houseboats because you will stay in an open space on a lake or river. So, the houseboat will get sunlight all day long.

The important thing is to maintain the slope and pitch of the solar panel. Proper balancing will help you to move the houseboat securely on the water.

Furthermore, a perfect slope will enable you to remove rain and dust from the solar panel.

List Out The Equipment

The houseboat solar system requires several pieces of equipment to start power production. You can not use solar electricity directly from the solar panels. 

Solar panels produce direct current (DC), and sometimes you need alternating current (AC) for appliances.

Like this, you need a battery to store and get power when sunlight is unavailable. 

Here is the list of equipment that you need to establish a solar system on detached houseboats.

– Solar panels
– Batteries
– An inverter
– Charge controller
– Cables 

Solar panels absorb sunlight, and photovoltaic cells convert them into DC electricity. You will install solar panels according to your needs.

You need a battery to store power to use at night. You can not generate power at night because there is no sunlight.

An inverter will convert DC power into AC. It is mandatory because you can not run AC devices and appliances on DC power. 

The charge controller will manage the charging and discharging of the battery that you have already connected to the solar system. It will show you solar panels and batteries’ current status and performance. You can monitor stored power, voltage, and more.

Cables will connect everything, and you have to complete the wiring with a quality cable. Faulty or low-quality cables can destroy the entire solar system.

Purchase Products

Purchasing equipment for the solar system is not easy, and it is your responsibility to find out the best product with outstanding performance.

Now, you have everything about the solar system based on your needs. So, make a shortlist before ordering or purchasing anything. 

It is better to do light brand research to identify the best brand, efficiency, durability, and warranty of every product.

You can check our solar panel buyer’s guide here. The article will show you what to consider before selecting solar panels and other equipment for your houseboat solar system.

Finally, compare the price and quality of the products for different brands. It will enable you to get several services, offers, and facilities at the same price.

Install Solar Panels

The installation process for houseboat solar panels is slightly different and more technical than the home solar system.

In general, you can install solar panels on the rooftop or the open space at home. But, this step is complex for a houseboat due to the space, measurement, and diversity of the boat’s roof.

It is suggested to call a professional solar panel installer who is familiar with houseboats. There are many things that you can not do yourself.

The balancing and weight distribution issue is the main concern when installing solar panels on a boat. Besides, it requires special attachment to perform outdoors in any undesirable condition.

Maintain the slope and direction of the solar panels to ensure maximum sunlight during the day.

Connect The Equipment

You learned that the houseboat solar system needs solar panels, inverter, charge controller, and cable equipment.

You have already installed a solar panel that means the outdoor unit is set up successfully. Now, it is time to connect other equipment to complete the solar system on houseboats.

Install the charge controller, battery, and inverter in a safe and easy to access place. It enables you to monitor the power production rate and change the voltage based on your needs.

Furthermore, you are installing a solar system on a houseboat. So, you have to put the inner unit of the system securely, especially from the water.

Imperfect installation and risky places will enhance the risk of short circuits. It is your responsibility to keep everything safe and secure.

Test Out The Output Energy

You have a complete solar panel on the top of the houseboat. But, before you start everything, run a test to check the output energy.

Through this process, you will be able to understand the efficiency of solar panels and batteries. Try the testing at different times and days to get an unbiased result. You will get real-time power production data because the sun provides diverse light at different times.

At the same time, test the efficiency of the battery. You can do it with the charge controller to understand that it is getting charged and discharged properly.

With the correct measurement and calculation from the test, you can ensure the solar system’s output in the future.

Complete Your Installation

The last step is to complete the installation if you are satisfied with the output energy. Connect all the devices and equipment with the solar system and enjoy the blessing of sunlight.

Install power distribution cords and ensure that every piece of equipment is getting stable voltage. Low and high voltage can bring electrical problems that are disturbing in a houseboat and detached solar system.

You have to make a chart about the devices if you have installed a low-powered solar system.

For example, you have installed a 500-watt solar panel and want to run several devices at a time that need more than 500 watts of energy.

In this situation, you can run one piece of equipment at a time and turn off other devices that don’t always require power.

Solar Panels for Houseboats

Boat Solar Panels
Boat Solar Panels

Is Solar Power Good for Houseboat?

There are several reasons you will need to power your houseboat with solar energy. Check our full list of benefits of solar energy to get a deeper understanding.

Before purchasing solar panels for your houseboat, you need to know which solar panel brand is good and how many panels you need to power your houseboat.

How many solar panels do you need for a houseboat?

How much energy does a houseboat need daily? Typical houseboats require 6 to 7 kWh of power a day to run their appliances. Some bigger houseboats need more energy than the small ones.

The number of solar panels for your houseboat will depend on your appliances. The more appliances you have, the more solar panels you need. With 300-watt solar panels, you need 4 to 5 panels to have your houseboat operate well, including overnight power usage.

How to get that number?

Well, 300 watts solar panel generates 300 watts of energy every hour, 4 of them will generate 1200 watts (1.2KWh). You will get 6 sun hours on average every day, which means 1.2 kWh * 6 hours = 7.2 kWh.

If you have appliances like TVs, fans, GPS displays, lightbulbs, microwaves, and mini-fridge, you will have to think of more than five solar panels. These appliances require a lot of energy, which means you need more than 7 kWh of energy a day.

If you can go with five solar panels, installing them will be helpful in the future. One 300-Watt solar panel will cost you around $300 to 400$ per panel.

SUNGOLDPOWER 200 Watt 12V Polycrystalline Solar Panel Solar Module:2pcs 100W Polycrystalline Solar Panel Solar Cell Grade A +20A LCD PWM Charge Controller Solar+Solar Panel Extension Cables+Z-Brackets
  • The long-lasting 2pcs 100W polycrystalline solar panel and the tough, sealed, aluminum frame will give you years and years of consistent, free power.The waterproof design ensures that the panel can be used in all weather conditions.
  • Solar controller: 20A output controller, PWM charge management,12V/24V system auto-sensing, LCD display can indicate the battery battery voltage and charging current, multiple Electric Protection.
  • Hard plastic connectors at each end; female and male connectors. Solar Panel Extension Cable runs between the solar panel and charge controller or between two solar panels, allowing for greater space between both items.

Want to get deeper? Let’s walk you through how solar panels work for a boat, as well as guide you to pick the best solar panels for your houseboat.

How Do Solar Panels Operate on Houseboats?

How do Solar Panels Operate on a Boat?
How Do Solar Panels Operate On Houseboat?

Houseboat solar systems operate just like other solar system operations.

All you need are four things to ensure your solar houseboat operates without any problem. You will need solar panels, a charge controller, an inverter, and a battery.

Charge controllers prevent batteries from overcharging and regulate the voltage and current coming from the solar panels going to the battery [Source]. If you do not have a solar charger, you might end up blowing your batteries.

Most appliances you will have in your boat will require AC for them to operate appropriately. You will need to have an inverter to convert direct current into AC currents.

Some boats will use DC if they do not have a lot of household appliances.

Solar panel kits are also a good option if you do not want to go through a lot of hustle. The kit comes with cables, wires, and equipment that you will need to mount the marine solar panel.

WindyNation 200 Watt (2pcs 100 Watt) Solar Panel Kit with 1500W VertaMax Power Inverter for RV, Boat, Off-Grid 12 Volt Battery Systems
  • Complete kit includes: (2) 100 Watt Polycrystalline Solar Panel, 30 amp P30L Solar Charge Controller w/ LCD display and user adjustable settings, 40 feet of UL Listed 12 AWG Solar Cable, all necessary connectors, all necessary solar mounting hardware, 1500 Watt (3000 Watt surge) VertaMax Modified Sine Wave DC to AC Power Inverter w/ 2pcs of 3 ft. 2AWG Battery Cables (for connecting the inverter to a 12V battery)
  • Designed for RVs, cabins, homes, boats, backup and remote power use
  • Perfect kit for a off grid 12 volt battery system. 1500 Watt VertaMax Inverter provides plenty of AC power to run your household appliances

Best Solar Panels For Houseboats

Solar panelsCostWattEquipment Included 
Renogy Flexible 100 Watt 12 Volt$127100WNone
WindyNation 100 Watt$256100WCharge controller, connectors, mounting brackets
Renogy 160W 12V High Efficiency$175160WNone
Newpowa 100 Watt$95100WNone
TP-solar 100W Foldable$199 + 20% OFF100WFull install kit
Best Solar Panels For Houseboats

When it comes to purchasing a solar panel for your houseboat, several things come to help you purchase a good solar panel kit.

If your solar panel kit does not have a charge or an inverter, you will have to buy them from your nearest solar store.

Some solar panel kits do not come with everything.

That is why you will need to purchase some equipment separately. Most battery storage products usually come with inbuilt inverters and charge control.

Our pick for houseboat solar kit:

WindyNation 200 Watt (2pcs 100 Watt) Solar Panel Kit + 1500W Power Inverter + 200ah 12 Volt AGM Deep Cycle Battery Bank for RV, Boat, Off-Grid
  • Kit includes: (2pcs) 100 Watt Polycrystalline Solar Panels, P30L Solar Controller w/ LCD display andadjustable settings, 40 feet of UL Listed 12 AWG Solar Cable, all necessary connectors, all necessary solar mounting hardware + 1500 Watt (3000 Watt surge) VertaMax DC to AC Power Inverter w/ 2pcs of 3 ft. 2AWG Battery Cables (for connecting the inverter to a 12V battery) + 2pcs 100 amp-hour (200 amp-hour total) AGM Deep Cycle 12 Volt BattaMax Batteries with 2/0 AWG interconnect battery cables
  • Perfect kit for a off-grid 12 volt battery system. 1500 Watt VertaMax Inverter provides plenty of AC power to run your household appliances. 200 amp-hour battery bank will provide plenty of energy for light to moderate everyday use.
  • Bundle and save. Purchase all the components together and save time and money

Solar Saves on Bills

If you want to save money on electricity bills, all you need to do is install a solar panel at your home residence, business office, and boathouse.

There are different solar panels that you can choose from if at all you ever want to save on electricity.

Most people today opt for solar panels because of the benefits that come with using them. Renewable energy is the way to go if you want to save money on electricity.

Battery For Houseboat

If you are thinking of getting solar panels for your boathouse, you will also need batteries that will store power for you to use at night.

Even though you do not need to use a lot of power at night, having solar batteries ready will be a good idea.

Solar panels are useful during the daytime because they are more effective in the peak sun hours, which means producing a lot of power during the day.

There are two different types of solar batteries: lithium acid batteries and lead-acid batteries. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Choosing which one will depend on how much you are willing to spend and how you intend to use batteries for your boathouse.

The cheap option is the lead-acid batteries. Lead-acid batteries have a short lifespan compared to lithium acid batteries.

Renogy Deep Cycle AGM Battery 12 Volt 200Ah, 3% Self-Discharge Rate, 2000A Max Discharge Current, Safe Charge Most Home Appliances for RV, Camping, Cabin, Marine and Off-Grid System, Maintenance-Free
  • 【Maintenance Free & Safe to Use】 Manufactured with thick absorbent glass mat (AGM) separators and advanced valve regulated technology, Renogy Deep Cycle AGM Batteries save you from acid leakage and frequent maintenance. No acid leakage, no water refilling, and no harmful hydrogen gas.
  • 【Outstanding Discharge Performance】Proprietary quinary alloy plates and exclusively treated plate grids enable low internal resistance and high discharge currents of up to 10 times the battery rated capacity. This means that Renogy AGM batteries can power home appliances with high current ratings.
  • 【Longer Shelf Life】Made of high purity materials, Renogy Deep Cycle AGM Batteries reduce the monthly self-discharge rate below 3% at 77℉ (25℃), which is 5 times lower than their flooded counterparts. No need to recharge the battery frequently when not in use.

Lithium acid batteries are more expensive. That is because they have a longer lifespan compared to lead-acid batteries.

They can serve ten to fifteen years before they are replaced. That means that if you purchase lithium acid batteries, you will have a perfect boathouse for the next ten years.

Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 1000, 1002Wh Solar Generator (Solar Panel Optional) with 3x110V/1000W AC Outlets, Solar Mobile Lithium Battery Pack for Outdoor RV/Van Camping, Emergency
  • MASSIVE CAPACITY & IMPRESSIVE ENDURANCE: With the 1000W wattage and 1002Wh capacity, this Explorer features 3 PURE SINE WAVE AC outlets, 2*USB-C, and 1*Quick Charge 3.0 port. It will power your full-size refrigerator, TV, mini cooler, electric grill, fan, and more for your outdoor and home needs.
  • UPGRADE ENDLESS SOLAR POWER: As an option to own the endless solar power, the Explorer 1000 can gear up with two Jackery Solarsaga 100W solar panels, upgrading into a Solar Generator 1000 System. The revolutionized MPPT technology provides a 23% higher conversion charging efficiency.
  • POWERFUL & VERSATILE PORTS: The Explorer 1000 features 3 standard PURE SINE WAVE AC outlets, which will provide extra capacity to power more AC devices and appliances. Extra bonus for the built - unlike most other portable generators, this supports PASS-THROUGH CHARGING while its battery life is protected.

Many people think that batteries are suitable for the boathouse, as they are good for cars and trucks.

That is never the case. Car batteries cannot be used to operate a boathouse. There are some differences between a car battery and a solar battery for a boathouse.

Read more: Complete guide to choosing batteries for your solar system

They are both designed differently and do not operate the same way. A car battery only uses a lot of power during the starting period. Their power lasts for a short period compared to the solar batteries for a boathouse. Once your car has started, the batteries are recharged for the next time you start your car.

A solar battery has been designed to last a more extended period with a low power supply. That means that you can use the batteries at night without any problems.

They have a “deep cycle,” which means the batteries can run for an extended period repeatedly without being damaged at all.

Now that you see the difference between car batteries and houseboat batteries, the next question is, how many batteries do you need for a houseboat?

The number of batteries you need will depend on how much power you intend to use in your boathouse.

So, when you get to know how much power you will need, you will only decide on the number of batteries to purchase.

Batteries are mostly used at night, which means you need to know how many can take you overnight.

A typical houseboat needs 400 watts of energy for an hour operating during the night on average. You will need a battery with a capacity of 3200watts (8 hours).

How many batteries can store 3 kWh of energy for your houseboat? Three lithium batteries (1000-watt type) can store enough power for your houseboats. You can go with three 1000-watt batteries and one 500-watt battery to store extra energy for extra use.

Goal Zero Yeti 200X Portable Power Station, 187-Watt-Hours, Solar-Powered Generator (Solar Panel Not Included), USB Ports and AC Outlets, Portable Generator for Camping and Emergency Power
  • POWER YOUR PASSION: Whether you’re embarking on a road trip with your friends, camping under the stars, or hosting an outdoor gathering, our Yeti power station powers your devices and adventures anywhere and everywhere with five versatile lithium-battery-powered ports.
  • COMPACT & LIGHTWEIGHT: Live in the moment with long-lasting power. Stay connected, power your portable fridge, and keep your smartphones and tablets charged with Goal Zero. The Yeti 200X electric generator and 187-watt-hour (14.4 V, up to 13 Ah) battery capacity keeps your small devices running.
  • EASY TO USE: This portable power generator keeps devices powered with a 5-volt USB-A port, a 5-to-12-volt USB-C port, a 5-to-20-volt USB PD port, a 6-millimeter 12-volt port, a 12-volt car port, an AC inverter, and an 8-millimeter 13-to-22-volt charging port.

Some batteries don’t specify how much power they can store, and manufacturers only list their volts and amp.

But the good thing is that you tell how many watts you can store. The number is gotten by multiplying the volts by the amp hours, and then you will get how many watts the batteries can hold.

Let assume you have a 12volts and 100 amps battery. That means you will get 1200watts (1.2 kWh) from your battery.

So, if you want to run your boathouse overnight, you will need three solar batteries to produce 3200watts.

Solar Inverters For Houseboats

Lastly, you will need to get yourself an inverter.

An inverter is a device that takes current from your solar panels using direct current and changes it into AC, used by most of your boathouse devices.

Some devices can use DC directly, but most of the appliances in houseboats require AC to operate properly. Those appliances are TVs, computers, fridges, laptops, etc., …

You can see that almost everything in your houseboat uses AC to operate, and that is why an inverter is needed for any houseboat solar system.

A solar inverter is measured by the load that it can put out.

If you have 3000 watts coming from your solar panel, but your inverter only handles 1000 watts, it means that your whole system will not operate properly and effectively.

It is better to have an inverter that can handle more watts than one that can only handle fewer watts.

Charge Controller For Houseboat

The final equipment that you will need for your solar panel to operate correctly is a charge controller.

EPEVER MPPT Solar Charge Controller 60A 150V PV Negative Grounding, Suitable for 12/24/36/48V Battery System with Remote Monitoring Display MT50
  • Negative Ground 150V PV Input, Compatible with 12/24/36/48V Batteries (Lead Acid) Charging. Lithium Battery :LiFePO4/ Li(NiCoMn)O2,Only Solar Panel and Battery Connector Available
  • 60 ampere Charging Current Max with big heat sink, Max. PV input power: 750W/12V battery, 1500W/24V battery , 2250W/36V battery, 3000W/48V battery system
  • Dual RS485 Port (RJ45 Connector), it can be paralleled up to 8 units together linked by 8pin ethernet cable to make the data monitoring easy and accurate.

Like we shared, charge controllers prevent batteries from overcharging and regulate the voltage and current coming from the solar panels going to the battery [Source]. If you do not have a solar charger, you might end up blowing your batteries.

Most solar panels emit volts between 15 – 20 volts, which can sometimes be very harmful to batteries.

You need to control volts generated from solar panels to batteries. It is only possible when using a solar charge controller.

The charge controller enables the power to get in without damaging your batteries.

Another function of charge controllers is to prevent reverse current from going back to solar panels, especially at night.

Many people do not know how important solar charge controllers are until they experience problems with their batteries or if their batteries explode and can no longer function.

Solar Power For Houseboat Conclusion

In conclusion, you will get an independent power source for a houseboat. The solar system makes it possible to get electricity in a detached boat.

You will feel natural with the blessings of science. You don’t have to worry about the electricity in a remote place.

This system can be removed from the boat anytime and used for another project when you don’t need the houseboat.

So, the total investment is cost-effective and has several advantages. Enjoy your living on solar power that gives you more opportunities.

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