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solar panel

  • Interview: Why I installed solar panels on my narrowboat


    The benefits of installing solar panels on your boat are many, with the most obvious being the reduced reliance on a noisy generator!

    But of course there are many more and despite creating a more peaceful environment, solar panels are also a much greener and cheaper way of powering your boat. After the initial financial outlay the panels rely solely on the sun’s free renewable energy.

    We spoke to former nuclear submarine engineer, Martin Cowin who decided if he could rely on solar energy during the ten year period he lived in Africa, he could certainly try and do it on a boat in the UK.


    solar panel narrowboat

    Hi Martin, how long have you been living in your narrowboat (pictured) and how did you decide this was the life for you!?

    We have only been living on our boat for 6 months now. Before that we lived in a house which we built on a farm in Namibia about 40 miles from the nearest town.

    Our return to the UK was based upon a new lifestyle choice which came in the form of a narrowboat.

    After 10 years living in a hot dry country we wanted a complete change.


    What made you decide to get solar panels?

    Since we needed power and no power supply was available during our period in Namibia,  I installed a total solar system for all our needs. We managed 10 years without any extra power available.

    Once on our boat we just worked out the best way to get the self-sufficiency set up so that we could a few extra luxuries while not connected to a mains power supply.


    narrowboat solar panels

    How easy was it to install the solar panels?

    We have installed a 1.6kw inverter to give us our ac power and now the 1kw solar array to keep the batteries fully charged without running the main engine or installing a separate generator.

    Installation was pretty easy as the wiring is pre-configured so the only difference between fitting solar-panels to a boat and to a house is the lack of space available for the panels.

    The reader is pictured to the left.


    What have the main benefits so far been?

    Solar is quiet, of course, and the energy from the sun is free as once the initial set up costs are paid everything is free as the systems are very reliable. On top of that maintenance requirements are virtually non-existent.


    Thanks so much for speaking to us :)

  • Should I Get Solar Panels for my Caravan or Motorhome?

    Getting away from it all is a wonderful experience, but as much as we love getting back to nature not having electricity can make for a miserable trip.

    While many people opt for a LPG generator, there are actually huge benefits to investing in portable solar panels to power your appliances when camping, caravanning or boating;

    solar panels generator caravan motorhome
    • Solar panels help you save money - the sun’s energy is free!

    Not only is a portable solar panel cheaper than a generator but you'll also no longer be spending money on petrol, LPG or diesel for a generator. The more you use it, the more your solar panel will begin to pay for itself.

    • Solar Panels are good for the environment

    First of all, solar panels don't produce carbon emissions and secondly if you knock your panel over by accident there won’t be any dangerous spillages.

    • They make little to no noise.

    If you find the constant buzzing of a generator ruins a peaceful getaway then solar panels will make a welcome change to your caravan or boat holiday.

    • They are more portable than a generator.

    In fact, you can fold up portable solar panels.

    • They don’t actually rely on it being sunny.

    Logically you would assume that for a solar panel to work it has to be sunny. However, this isn’t actually the case and your panel will still generate energy in cloudy conditions. It is important for them not to be too shaded, though.

    While your solar panel won’t work at night, the energy it produces in the day can be stored in a battery.

    solar panel caravan motorhome

    However, it is important to bear in what your solar panel will actually be able to power:

    What can I power with a 40-Watt solar panel?

    A 40-Watt solar panel like this one will be able to power a wide range of small objects you might want to take away on your caravan or motorhome holiday including a clock radio, stereo, mobile and tablet.

    What can I power  with a 60-Watt solar panel?

    A 60-watt solar panel (which we sell for £240) is enough to recharge your laptop, tablet or smartphone, as well as to generate enough electricity to power a lightbulb (though be sure to check the wattage before you take to the road!).

    Depending on the wattage you may also be able to power items like a portable fridge as well as all the things a 40-Watt solar panel can power.

    What can I power with a 90-Watt solar panel?

    We sell a 90-Watt solar panel for £299 and with this you should be able to power items like a fan, run a mac book pro, even a printer and tv should you want.

    You will also be able to power all the things a 40-Watt and 60-Watt solar panel can power.

     One last thing:

    And finally, another thing worth remembering is that while there has been a lot in the news about home and landowners being paid by the government to generate solar electricity (Feed In Tariff) this scheme does not apply to off grid devices.


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