Solar technology is improving every day. Manufacturers are developing small, effective, low-wattage, portable rigid/semi-rigid chargers for recreational users. We took a look at three of them to see what makes sense, and here are our thoughts.
ITC Solar Duravolt DV8-Marine
The Positive: This is a lightweight, 8.3-watt solar panel including a 10-foot fused power cable with a factory-installed SAE quick-connect output plug. It’s packed with three options for connecting: ring terminals, alligator clips or a cigarette-lighter plug — all with SAE termination.
The Negative: Alligator clips are subject to rusting, especially in saltwater conditions. Caution should be taken with SAE connectors. They should be taped with electrical tape to prevent separation or shorting in extremely wet conditions.
Price: $116; duravolt.net
Deltran 10-Watt Tender Battery Charger
The Positive: This is a 10-watt solar panel with a built-in three-step automatic microprocessor charge controller with LED indicator lights. It comes with a five-year warranty. At 10-watt output, this panel is good for minimal charging as well as being a reliable trickle charger.
The Negative: It’s heavy, weighing in at a hefty 5.5 pounds. Optional connecting methods (ring terminals, auxiliary plug) are available for an extra cost. Connecting cables should be longer.
Price: $115; batterytender.com
The Positive: This solar model is well-designed, has a sturdy 6-watt panel, and comes with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty. It’s weatherproof with an unbreakable protective plastic film coating that’s good for rugged boat duty. It also has a 10-foot fused power cable and a large stress-release fitting at the panel.
The Negative: The battery-connecting ring terminals appear to be a little light. Alternate connector options must be purchased separately.
Price: $120; cbcamerica.com/ecoenergy