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Solar Panels for Narrowboats

Super Solar Systems has long loved British narrow-boats. Their interest made us aware that our solar water heating system was just as useful on a narrowboat as on a sailing yacht and we branched out from there.  Many owners are constant cruisers and have extensive solar panel installations because mains power is not widely available away from marinas and running the engine is expensive and unfriendly to neighbours.
The sections below provide narrowboat solar panels advice specific to the needs of narrowboat owners. We know that you are traditionalists and very protective of your style of life. Despite that, we offer innovative products as well as more traditional ones. In particular we urge you to read the section entitled “Energy Management & Storage”.

We offer 2 different ways to buy what you need:

  • 1

    Choose the products that are right for you or that need replacing. We hope that the sections below help you make the right decisions. Feel free to Contact Us if in any doubt.

  • 2

    Buy a standard narrowboat solar power kits that contains all that you need for narrowboat solar installation. There are 3 different types of kit; each has optional extras to meet your exact needs. All use components of which we have personal installation experience.

Your Complete Narrowboat Solar Panels Solution

Our Narrowboat Solar Expertise:

  • High-Quality Solar Panels: We offer a wide range of durable and efficient solar panels specifically designed for the unique challenges of narrowboats.

  • Expert System Design: Our experienced technicians will assess your energy requirements and create a tailored system that maximizes your solar power potential.

  • Targeted System Advice: Dive into the sections below for specific solar system advice tailored to narrowboat owners. We’ll guide you through energy management, storage solutions, and product selection to ensure solar panels for narrowboats perfectly complements your lifestyle.

  • Traditional & Innovative Options: We understand the importance of preserving your narrowboat’s aesthetic. That’s why we offer a variety of narrowboat solar power kits, both traditional and innovative, to fit your specific needs.

  • Seamless Integration: We ensure your narrowboat solar panels are seamlessly integrated with your existing electrical system for hassle-free operation.

  • DIY Kits & Professional Installation: Choose from our user-friendly DIY kits or let our team handle the entire installation process for complete peace of mind.

Narrowboat solar panels are an easy way to make life on the cut much less costly without too much hassle. Panels rated at 400w now cost little over £100! Fitting 5 gives 2000w nominal output. Knowing how much power you would like is the essential first step. Our Electricity Consumption Estimator comes with a nifty extension that also shows you roughly what you can expect by way of daily solar production, month by month. Contact Us for your FREE copy.

The sections below are guides to what you need to consider before buying anything. Please take the time to read that on Energy Management & Storage. That decision controls so many others. Consider too the advantages of the new large capacity LifePo4 batteries that save both money and space.


There are now three ways to manage and store the solar energy from your panels.  Connect them to:

  1. appropriate simple MPPT solar energy controller(s) to charge your batteries. To have 230v mains electricity you will need to add an inverter, the capacity of which is determined by your 230v power consumption. Contact Us for your FREE Electricity Consumption forecaster. For historical reasons, most narrowboats basic electrical system is 12v with some 230v. All our controllers can handle 12 & 24v panels, but if connected in series to provide 48v,  make sure that the model you select can handle that voltage.
  2. An MPPT hybrid solar energy controller(s) to charge your batteries. If you use 12v batteries, the inverter capacity is limited to 1500w. This solution is right for narrowboats with a primary 12v circuit and some 230v outlets. Hybrid inverters also include a mains charger. More powerful hybrid controller/inverters need 48v batteries; the cost is the same as 12v for a given capacity. The cost of a 5Kw hybrid controller inverter is as low as £700.
  3. Directly to a power station. Those with a 2Kw inverter capacity are not expensive but as well as the limited inverter capacity, their solar input is limited to 900w. Battery cost, although falling, is still higher than for conventional batteries. However if you connect a 2Kw power station to 5 x 400w solar panels, it will recharge in under 3 hours and can accept a further 500w from mains or a generator. They can also be charged directly from the alternator – much more difficult otherwise to charge lithium. All power stations are hugely convenient. You take them out of the box, connect them to your solar, plug in whatever you need to power, and you’re away. No installation of any kind. Output is both 12v DC and 230v AC. This versatility and their sheer convenience makes them our first choice in most circumstances if the inverter power rating of 2Kw is acceptable. On a narrowboat it probably will be.

Simple Controllers.

These devices are connected to your solar array and their sole purpose is to charge your batteries. Two technical controller technologies are offered – PWM and MPPT. The former is cheaper but some 20% less efficient, and we do not advise it.

Our chosen suppliers are Epever and Ecoworthy. We have good personal experience with both and they are compatible with both lead/acid and lithium batteries. Capacities run from 20 to 60A and what you need is directly linked to the power output of your solar array. The output of a typical 400w 24v panel is 17A. All our controllers will accept 12 and 24v panel output, but for 48v only one does. Please choose carefully.

Hybrid Controller/Inverters
PowMr 12v 1500w solar hybrid inverter

combine the functions of MPPT solar charge controllers, mains charge controllers, and 230v mains inverter in a single, low-cost, easily installed unit.  With 12v batteries, the inverter output is however limited to 1500w. The 3 and 5Kw products need to be connected to 48v batteries.

Our chosen suppliers are Epever, EcoWorthy, and EASun with all of whom we have personal experience.


What is right for you will be determined first by the nature of your narrowboat’s primary electrical installation. If it is 12v with some 230v, then a hybrid controller/inverter is an excellent solution subject always to not needing inverter output of less than 1500w. If your boat is primarily 230v then a hybrid inverter and 48v domestic batteries will be the best solution if you decide against a power station.  If you have 12v domestic batteries and need more than 1500w of mains power then a large capacity 12v to 230v inverters will be the only viable solution.

The price of LifePo4 batteries has now fallen to the point that we no longer consider lead/acid to be a sensible solution for a narrowboat. Lithium is lighter, smaller, charges much faster, and is more tolerant of regular deep discharge. Total lifespan is over double that of lead/acid. We offer the EcoWorthy range in 12 and 48v with storage capacities up to 2400w. You can connect up to 4 in parallel for a maximum of 9600w. If you need more than that, please consult the next section.

These are relatively new, 48v only, products. Power for power they are cheaper and less bulky than multiple smaller batteries. They need no inter-battery parallel wiring making them even more convenient and saving money and time. They are however heavy, if supplied on wheels for easy mobility.

They are available in multiples of 5 and 15Kw. There is no relevant restriction on the number that can be connected.

Power Stations have long been the favourite of outdoor campers, as well as motor-home and camper van owners. With the greater storage and inverter capacities now available, they deserve the close attention of narrowboat owners.

In a single package,  they provide

  • MPPT solar controller, 
  • a large LifePo4 battery, and
  • extensive AC, DC, and USB power outlets.

They can be charged from solar, the mains, a generator, or another external battery. 

Power stations can be divided into three broad product types: small, medium, and large. The latter are not relevant to a narrowboat.

  1. Small portable units designed to be moved around for use as a mobile source of electricity. Most are usually charged by portable panels. They store 1Kw of electricity and offer the same inverter output.
  2. Medium-sized units with inverter ratings of 2, 3, and 5Kw. Batteries are of 2 and 3Kw capacities and up to 4 can be connected to a single unit. The 2Kw models are keenly priced- those of 3 and 5Kw remain relatively expensive. None in this category can handle more than 1200w of solar input but mains/generator power can add another 500w. On a narrowboat that is unlikely to be an issue.

We are distributors of the Bluetti range. An AC200Max is part of our houseboat system. It has been invaluable. These medium-sized units offer an outstanding solution for narrowboats. They provide a total easily installed solution. For instance the AC200Max that we have offers a 30A 12v outlet and 4 x 230v AC plugs as well as an array of USB outlets to charge phones and laptop computers. Because they can be charged directly from the alternator when there is insufficient sunshine, they allow the power and safety of lithium without additional equipment and installation cost.

The 2Kw models like the AC200Max are very keenly priced but the inverter capacity will be a problem for some. In practice it means that you cannot use more than one domestic appliance at a time. If the dishwasher is in use, no toaster or coffee machine! Maybe not a big deal!

We offer the italian made Quick range of electric water heaters in capacities from 20 to 60 litres. We use 60l. They are equipped with an engine heat exchanger and a 230v/1000w heating element with a 1 1/4″ BSP thread compatible with our solar water heating systems. Our replacement heaters are 12v/300w, 48v/600w, and 230v/900w.

Our solar hot water controllers are an established favourite on sailing yachts. Owners long ago discovered the comfort of having free hot water from surplus solar energy, and it is thanks to them that we realised that not having hot water was not only a problem/need on sailing yachts, but on all boats, and at remote off-grid land sites. Our solution is much easier to install than thermal panels and much safer than gas – always a hasard on a boat.  It is ideal for a narrowboat.

The digital controller unit is connected to your 12 or 48v domestic battery bank (lead/acid or lithium) and from there on to your water heating element either directly or via a 230v mains connection. The default configuration switches on the heating element if

  • 12v battery voltage is greater than 12.2v (51.2v for 48v)
  • solar panel output is greater than 900w (prevents accidental use when there is insufficient solar input)
  • water temperature is less than 40°C and not over 52°C

This means that you are using any surplus solar energy to heat your water. There is a manual over-ride so that you can turn on the system even if solar output is insufficient.

The system needs a solar installation of at least 1000w and 48v battery capacity of 2400w. We know what works with what, and, more importantly, what doesn’t. We can help you make the right purchase decisions for your precise circumstances. To help us best help you, complete the Project Appraisal Form and we will gladly advise you.

In winter, we do not expect that the solar array on a narrowboat will be sufficient to cover all on-board needs. The shortfall must come from mains power, the engine alternator or a small generator. If irritating the neighbours is not an issue, then the engine alternator provides power for the batteries and heats your water. It uses more fuel than a generator, but with “red” diesel the difference will not be great.

Generator fuel can be diesel for larger models, petrol, or LPG with some being dual fuel petrol or LPG. Depending on your batteries and your power consumption, you will need at least a 2Kw. We particularly like the 3Kw dual fuel option. Most boaters have LPG for cooking.

These are the simplest systems to install. The basic kit has a solar panel, an MPPT solar controller, the thru-deck plugs, and the connecting cables.

Basic Kit

  • 1 x Trina 400w rigid solar panel
  • 1 x Epever 60A MPPT controller
  • 2x Thru-deck watertight fittings
  • 10m connecting cables


  • Additional Trina 400w solar panels
  • EcoWorthy LifePo4 12v batteries
  • 3S solar water heating system
  • Generator

The cost of a hybrid inverter is less that that of an inverter and a separate MPPT solar controller and offers a higher degree of system information and control. The basic kit has a solar panel, an EASun hybrid solar controller/inverter, the thru-deck plugs, and the connecting cables.

Basic Kit

  • 1 x Trina 400w rigid solar panel
  • 1 x EASun 1500w hybrid inverter for 12v batteries
  • 2x Thru-deck watertight fittings
  • 10m connecting cables


  • Additional Trina 400w solar panels
  • EcoWorthy LifePo4 12v batteries
  • Battery connector cables
  • 3S solar water heating system
  • Generator
Although still uncommon on narrowboats, this is our preferred solution based around the Bluetti AC200Max. These all-in-one products have
  • an MPPT controller
  • a 2Kw LifePo4 battery (extra battery optional)
  • 40A 12vDC out
  • 4 x 230vAC out
  • Numerous USB plugs for charging telephones and tablets

They can be charged from:

  • Solar
  • Engine Alternator
  • Mains
  • Another Battery

The DC can be connected to your existing 12v fuse panel, and one of the 4 AC outlets to your AC circuit if you have one.

Don’t Hesitate to Contact Us!


Our friendly team of narrowboat solar specialists is always happy to answer any questions you may have. Whether you’re navigating the world of solar technology for the first time or are a seasoned boater looking to upgrade your existing system, we’re here to guide you towards the perfect solar panels for narrowboats.

Products for Narrowboats

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Our Selection for Narrowboats

Products from our range that are ideal for a comfortable liveaboard life on the cut.

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