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Energy CostsIN CHARLOTTEMay 19, 2022by AndrewHow Do Boats Have Electricity?

How Boats Have Electric Power

To start with, to have electrical energy on your watercraft, you will require a battery or a battery bank to keep any kind of electrical power produced by an initial power source. Similar to a vehicle, a boat has an engine. You need power simply to start the electric motor. Power for navigating, refrigeration, lights, or various other electrical products requires a source of power.

There are three primary resources of power on a watercraft:

1. Power on Shore – This method is electrical power directly to your watercraft by means of a durable cord which you plug into an outlet from your boat to a connection on the coast or dock.

2. Engine-Generated Power – Electrical power to your boat by running your engine with an alternator, or if you have actually one installed, by running a generator.

3. Renewable Source – This can be in the form of solar power, wind power or water power.

However your watercraft produces electrical power, your watercraft’s batteries are the main point of a dependable electric system. Powerboats used as for a great weekend trip or for short fishing trips might need one battery, although two are much better from a safety perspective. Vessels going offshore (such as sailing luxury yachts) or perhaps spending a weekend in a remote bay will require a committed engine starting battery as well as at least one other ‘home’ battery, if not more.

What Happens if a Boat Runs Out of Power?

The primary issue you will have if your boat runs out of power is your engine will not start. In addition, if your boat runs out of power, nothing electrical will function. This includes safety devices like navigating lights, interior lighting, and digital navigating aids.

How Do Boats Have Electricity?
In addition, if your boat runs out of power, nothing electrical will function. This includes safety devices like navigating lights

This is why, it is important from a security point of view to plot your path on a paper graph with a battery-powered (or portable) tool to utilize as a back-up.

What Sort of Electric Instruments Can Be on Boats?

Usually, boats operate on a 12-volt or DC system. Compare this to your home, which depending on where you are around the world, is either a 110 or 220-volt AC system. Simply put, you can’t run your typical home electrical appliances on your watercraft unless you are plugged into shore power, or you have installed an inverter.

If you have a marine-approved inverter, your 12-volt system can be used to produce AC power. This means you can use your regular house devices. Nonetheless, using regular household appliances will raise your energy usage. You will have to charge batteries more often.

Nowadays, there are many home appliances and electric instruments made to work with a 12-volt system. Aside from particular boating electronics, these home appliances can include 12v fridges, radios, lights, and electrical toilets.

LED lights use much less energy than incandescent light bulbs. And, in a marine environment, LED lights to stand up to vibrations far better than other lights. They stay cool, last longer, and are much less susceptible to water damage.

How Can You Charge Batteries on the Water?

There are a number of ways to keep your batteries charged while you are out on the water. Each of them has advantages and disadvantages.

  • Engine

Your boat’s engine creates electricity when used with an alternator. The alternator transforms mechanical energy into electric power and is a vital component for maintaining your batteries.

– Pros: When you are running your engine, your batteries will charge immediately.

– Cons: Running your engine when not needed uses gas and makes a lot of noise. Furthermore, running your engine at reduced revolutions might create damage to your engine.

  • Generator

A generator can be portable and used as need to charge batteries.

– Pros: A generator can be utilized at any time.

– Cons: Generators can be loud and they use fossil fuel, either diesel or gas, which can end up being expensive.

  • Solar Panels

Electrical energy is transformed from solar power, which goes through panels. This is done via solar batteries, which are connected to the panels themselves. Because panels are becoming smaller and easier to use, solar power may be a good option for marine uses.

– Pros: When mounted, they give free power to keep your batteries charged.

– Cons: They require the sunlight to create power, so they are not a reliable source of power all the time if used without a backup option.

  • Wind

Wind generators make use of the wind to produce reusable power when used with a generator.

– Pros: If there is a strong wind, or you are underway, they can create more power than solar panels.

– Cons: If there is no wind, there is no electrical power. On top of that, some models are loud, they require routine maintenance, as well as the blades can be a hazard on a watercraft.

  • Hydro Generators

Water-powered generators or hydro generators produce power by turning water flow right into electrical energy through an alternator.

– Pros: They generate free electrical power while on the move.

– Cons: They do not create power when at anchor and might create ‘drag’ so the craft moves slower.

Final Thoughts

Along with keeping your batteries charged, there are other steps you can keep in mind to keep your electric power safe and dependable on a boat.

  • If you are using multiple batteries, do not mix battery types or mix old and new batteries.
  • Keep batteries clean and dry.
  • If you are wintering your boat, make sure you separate batteries and store them in a climate controlled, dry place through the offseason.
  • Look for deterioration. It can be cleaned with a brush and a combo of baking soda and water.


When is it a Good Time to Call an Electrician? Your best bet? Hire an expert to do the job. South End Electric has the background and understanding to ensure a safe and smooth installation. We can provide everything you need when thinking about a whole home generator for your home and family. Our professionals provide whole-house generator sales and installation to meet your needs. See everything South End Electric can do for you. Call us direct at 704-368-4694.