If you are wondering how to add solar power to your sailboat, look no further. Inside we walk you through Yacht solar panel arch options, and we give you a few more pieces of information that are essential to this project.
A sailboat or yacht solar panel arch is an aftermarket add-on for your boat. In short, it is a metal arch frame that attaches to the stern of the boat, where you would then attach solar panels.
Solar accessories, such as batteries, solar regulators, and inverters become housed in a water-tight cabinet above or below deck.
Note: Because of the force of winds and the corrosive nature of saltwater, stainless steel is the best material to use to build an arch.
In this blog, we discuss
- What a sailboat arch kit is
- Determining solar need
- What to look for in a DIY kit or Solar panel kit for your boat
- Shading and what that means for solar energy production
- We also share a few essential tips along the way
Sailboat Arch Kit
You have two options when it comes to a yacht solar panel arch installation. You can go with a kit, or you can go the DIY route.
What are you looking at in terms of components for a sailboat arch installation?
Some of the information below will change as the boat gets larger. Generally, you want:
- 3 X 185-250 watt — 24volt solar panels. You can go more extensive on the wattage if you need to power more gadgets. On larger boats, you might have the space to add a fourth panel. If this is a DIY project, be sure to note the physical size of the panels, as that will dictate how many you can install on the arch.
- Charge Controller with enough input ports to handle the wires for each solar panel. If you use three panels, the controller will need three input ports. If you use four panels, the controller will need four input ports. An MPPT charge controller works well for this application.
- An inverter that will handle charging smaller gadgets
- A Battery Storage System with enough amp-hours to cover your power needs
- An arch kit to attach the solar panels and other gear is good. Some arch kits include all the above components, and others are just the arch.
To figure out the size of the sailboat solar panel kit you need, calculate the electrical usage for things like:
- Computer laptop, and cellular charging or usage
- Entertainment such as music and TV or DVD
- You may also need power for things like radar, communication, etc.
Other considerations include seasonal fluctuations for incoming solar radiation and the location of the boat. It is better to have more energy than you need than not enough.
Storms, cloudy days, and other shading events can cause a drop in power production. Storms or clouds can last for several days.
Solar Arch Cost & Options
There is a range in pricing for solar panel kits for a sailboat. Many are in the $2,500 range. It is more important to shop based on what you need rather than solely on price. Larger kits can cost above $10,000.
Sailboat and yacht builders may have options if you are going for a custom boat build. As you consider the cost of a solar arch, focus on:
- Aesthetically pleasing design – The arch should fit the general style of your boat, not be an obvious add-on to it.
- Durable — Boats take a beating in storms, high winds, rough seas, and other natural elements. The arch must be able to hold the solar panels firmly without warping or breaking.
- Functional — The function of the arch is to look nice and hold the solar panels in place. Stainless steel is a good option over other metals, including aluminum.
- Sealed — Not always an option but having the arch sealed against weather and water is a good investment.
Options for Solar Arches
Solar arches can hold a lot more than solar panels. You can look for options in kits or have them built into a custom or DIY project. Those include
- Radar Risers — These can be permanently attached to the arch or designed for easy removal as needed.
- Radar Pole — a taller version of the radar risers
- Wind Generator Pole — when you want to harness the power of the wind and include solar energy too. These can be permanently installed or added as a removable option.
- Antenna Riser or Pole — You can opt for an antenna pole or riser when you need more clearance for your antenna. These can also be removable.
- Davit Extension Arms for hanging a dinghy
What Is the Best Solar Arch Kit?
Figuring out which is the best solar arch kit for your boat is difficult to say. The best solar arch kit will differ based on your solar energy needs and the type of boat you have.
Larger boats tend to need more energy than would a smaller boat. A sailboat might need more panels than a yacht because the sails and masts can cause a shading effect.
Shading means that less sunlight falls on the panels, which decreases energy production.
Also, since we are discussing shading on a sailboat, you would likely want microinverters over string inverters.
The reason is that when you have a string inverter if one panel becomes shaded, it causes the total output of energy to drop for all panels.
With microinverters, a single shaded panel would cause the energy from that panel to drop, not from all panels.
You could apply this also to a yacht. However, it would not be the sails or mast that causes shading; it would more likely be something blocking the sun while moored at a dock.
In terms of what is best for your boat, look for:
- Stainless Steel for strength
- Options for add-ons that fit your needs and lifestyle
- Options — You may not need risers or poles, but you may need them in the future, and it is an excellent option to have that ability now rather than paying someone to install them later or replace the solar arch.
- Warranties — be sure to compare warranties to see if there are differences. Some repairs may be covered by insurance, but they can be better and less expensive in the long run if a warranty covers them.
These variables will change from one boat to the next, but they help make it a more informed decision when choosing a solar arch kit for a yacht or sailboat.