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 concerns when it comes to houseboats and solar energy.

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 right 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 stepsto install a solar system for houseboats.

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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 there are four important things that you need for your solar panel to operate effectively and efficiently.

If you have never installed one before, you will need to have 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 the solar boat panels.

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

8 Steps Of Installing Solar On Houseboat

Before you get 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 for the installation of the solar panels. So, the calculation must be accurate to utilize the space for several solar panels.

The calculation is not only the measurement of the roof of the boat and solar panels but also 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, 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 to 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 of the houseboats have a simple and wide roof to protect 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 to 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

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 will 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 the current status and performance of solar panels and batteries. You can monitor stored power, voltage, and more.

Cables will connect everything and you have to complete the wiring with 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 got 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 a little bit 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 equipment including solar panels, inverter, charge controller, and cable.

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 and 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. To get an unbiased result, try the testing at different times and days. 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 output of the solar system in the future.

Complete Your Installation

The last step is to complete the installation after being 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 make sure 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 require power always.

Solar Panels for Houseboats

Boat Solar Panels
Boat Solar Panels

Are 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 you need for houseboat?

How much energy a does houseboat need on daily basis? Typical houseboats require 6 to 7 kWh of energy 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 what appliances you have. 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 are able to 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.

Want to get deeper? Let’s walk you through how solar panels work for a boat as well as guiding 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 operation.

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 regulates 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 used 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 also a good option for you 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.


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 does not have 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:

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 to have 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 daytime.

There are two different types of solar batteries, they are lithium acid batteries and lead-acid batteries. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Choosing which one will all 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 the lithium acid batteries.

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

They can serve a period of 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.

Many people think that any batteries are suitable for the boathouse just 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 chose 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 supply of power. 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 battery do you need for 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, only then will you decide on the number of batteries to purchase.

Batteries are mostly used at night, and that 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 that has 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 energy for your houseboats. You can go with three 1000-watt batteries and one 500-watt battery to store extra energy for extra use.

For some batteries, they don’ specific how much power it can store, manufacturers only list its 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 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, which will 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 houseboat 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 needed for any houseboat solar system.

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, means that your whole system will not operate properly and effectively.

It is better to have an inverter that can handle more watts then to have 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.

Like we shared, charge controllers prevent batteries from overcharging and regulates 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 from 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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