Living on a small no-gas motor lake, there are essentially three options for powering our small pontoon- wind, electric (battery) trolling motor, or good ol’ human power.
While this is not a sail boat, the first option is out, and unlike our kayaks, the third option is out, we are essentially left with the second option- battery power.
For the first couple years, to keep our battery charged, we either lugged a battery charger down to the pontoon, stretching out extension cables and watching for rain, or we dragged the battery back and forth to the barn, where the AGM deep cycle battery was changed out of the elements.
I knew there had to be a better way!
That better way came in the form of a small solar panel with a simple charge controller.
At the time, i discovered a great deal on a NewPowa 20w panel with 12v charge controller, including a cable w/ battery clamps on one end for about $85.
At first, I set the panel on the floor and angled it up to the sun. Once I knew it was going to work as expected, I mounted a couple of thin aluminum L brackets (bent into a “U” with some stainless nuts and bolts, to the back, so I could slide it on and off of the pontoons railing.
This proved to work wonderfully! Not only was the panel up and out of the way, it could be moved to various locations, within the length of the cable.
In addition to the Solar panel setup, I also keep a small Minnkota digital battery meter inside the battery box. This allows me to get a digital reading of the panel’s output and the charge state of the battery. This has proven very handy on those long days of trolling (while fishing), and when I’ve used the motor for several days back-to-back and there has been limited sunshine to recharge the battery.
One of the worst things you can do for a battery, deep cycle, AGM, or otherwise, is run it down to dead.
Since we bought out solar kit, NewPowa has increased the panel in the kit to 30w, and they have lowered the price! As of Sept 2016, when I’m writing this, you can get the 30w panel, a PWM 10a 12v smart charging controller regulator (which won’t overcharge your battery), and the cable for only $79! You can read more about the kit HERE.
The parts used for our setup include-
Aluminum Brackets (x2)
Stainless nuts and bolts (x4)
Weatherproof battery box
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