Boat and Yacht Electrical Systems

Small vessel or large, the requirements of refrigeration, water and power are the same. The larger boat has more overflow or entertainment potential, but the smaller boat is the more significant challenge to get it right.

Every vessel and situation has objectives and requirements which drive the equipment outcome in various ways. The electrical system basics are divided into categories depending on the type of vessel. For example a power sedan or catamaran can have a much greater roof area for solar panels compared to a monohull sailing vessel which will have to rely more on an engine alternator for energy generation. An outboard powered vessel will need to rely on other power generation sources as the low power output of an outboard alternator might not be enough.

Refrigeration is a basic necessity on a boat to sustain a supply of food for extended periods of time. Unlike RV's and caravans, gas powered refrigeration is not an option. Energy efficient systems require less power generation and energy storage to start with. Given that refrigeration is the highest consumer of energy on a typical vessel it's reasonable to do it right from the start.

Along with a good supply of food, water is essential for drink, bathing and washing. Larger water tanks can extend the time away from port but depending on the vessel the tank size or weight is limiting. A desalination system can allow time in remote areas indefinitely provided the type of system is matched to the available energy.

For nearly 20 years Outback Marine have been leading the field in the development of practical systems that are reliable and easy to operate. The following documents are recommended reading for anyone contemplating a new build or substantial refit.

Essential Downloads

  • Electrical System Design  explores methods of power generation, distribution and energy storage for liveaboard cruising boats. Discover a design approach that properly defines the required system.
  • Lithium Battery Systems  (including AGM batteries) highlights the need for a systems approach that includes power distribution, management and control as part of the battery installation.
  • Marine Refrigeration  is a discussion covering the design and implementation of battery based refrigeration systems that operate independently of an engine or generator set.

Living aboard can have all the comforts of home or just the essentials supporting extended times away.

  • Electrical systems that minimise engine run time
  • Solar and Alternator charging


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