Starlink on a Sailboat: Power Consumption and Efficiency

Our first Starlink dish in 2022.
Our first Starlink dish was the round dish, which we set on the foredeck of our boat.

Dreaming of working at a secluded bay surrounded by crystal blue water?

You can imagine how excited we were with the arrival of Starlink Internet service on our sailboat. However, like all good things, this cutting-edge service comes with its own set of challenges, primarily concerning energy consumption and costs. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into Starlink power consumption and efficiency aboard SV Flying Free, our Amel Super Maramu.

starlink dish
Our Starlink dish replaced the wind generator

A Cruisers' Guide to Internet Connectivity

Starlink consumes energy, and it requires a monthly subscription, access fees, and initial equipment costs. 

As you may already know, Elon Musk’s Starlink internet service runs on either AC or DC power. The cluster of low earth orbit Starlink satellites create an Internet system designed to be used in remote areas and  provide global coverage.

Starlink consists of an antenna, router, cable, and dish. The Starlink kit comes with the Starlink router, Starlink cables, AC power cord and Antenna. The router supplied does not have ethernet ports. However, it can be swapped out with an ethernet enabled router. The cabling has proprietary connectors but otherwise is a standard CAT 5e cable.

How We Power Starlink on Our Boat

On our sailboat, SV Flying Free, we currently have the version two Starlink satellite dish. There are obviously other Starlink systems available depending on your intended in-motion use, including the new maritime version or plan, which I discuss in “Working Remotely from a Sailboat Using Starlink.”

We power our standard Starlink dish through the power inverter which inverts our 24-volt batteries and steps it up to a clean sine power of 220 volts, which runs throughout our boat’s AC system.

Then, we plug Starlink into our boat’s AC power system. Starlink will work with between 48 and 220 volts. It is capable of making video calls, phone calls, text messaging, downloading or streaming videos, pretty much anything your home internet can do and sometimes even faster with download speeds of up to 200 mbp. 

Energy Consumption: the Real Deal

New lithium batteries
We moved our new lithium batteries into the lazarette in our cockpit.

How much energy does it take to make this happen on our sailboat, SV Flying Free?

The answer to this question is, it depends! 

When using Starlink on SV Flying Free, we have found it to consume on average around 50 watts of power. Flying Free has a 600AH, LiFePo4 battery bank @ 24 volts. If you do the math, Starlink consumes roughly 2 (two) amps of power at 24 volts.

If you have a 12-volt battery power system, you can count on around 4 amps of draw while using Starlink. There is an option to power the Starlink with a power over ethernet (POE) injector for around $100.  We found that based on our research, the power savings was not sufficient to consider this process.

Recharging our Batteries: Multiple Methods

Depending on what type of vessel you are using, there are several ways to regenerate the power supply. On Flying Free, we use four different systems to charge our lithium batteries, which are as follows (in order of preference):

1) First and most common is the use of our 1500 watts of solar panels, which charge our batteries using Victron MPPT controllers.

In fact, we have three separate solar arrays totaling 1500 watts, all with their own dedicated Victron charge controllers.

Why do we have three different arrays? Redundancy is the main reason, and location is the other. When I mention location, I’m referring to where the panels are mounted in relation to the batteries and where the panels are mounted in relation to objects that shadow or shade the panels.

solar panels on the solar arch
The solar panels on the arch provide 700 watts of power.

2) The second way is through a propeller-driven alternator which works well while we are under sail and have good boat speed. 

3) The third way we charge our batteries is through the engine-driven alternator which provides power only while we are running our diesel auxiliary engine, typically when we are underway without wind. 

4) Lastly, when we are either plugged into shore power or running our generator, we have a Victron Multiplus 3000 watt inverter/charger that will charge the batteries.

Other Options for Recharging Batteries to Power Starlink


There are obviously other ways to charge batteries, such as wind generators. We elect not to use this method as it is loud and inefficient. However, wind generators have come a long way since they were first mounted on sailboats. And the whisper-quiet blades now available may be worth the effort (if you want to learn more about wind generators, check out the lifeofsailing article about them). 

We might be kicking ourselves as we plan to sail to French Polynesia from Mexico next Spring. Many of the sailboats we follow who are already in the South Pacific have discussed poor weather (cloud cover and heavy rain), which interfere with solar panel performance.

Balancing Power Needs & Efficiency

When we need the Internet, we have Starlink turned on and connected. The Starlink power consumption is approximately 50 watts per hour. If we leave Starlink on day and night, we will use between 1200 to 1400 watts of power during a 24-hour period.

To put that in perspective, this would be the same energy as using a 1200 watt hair dryer for an hour; or making 65 gallons of fresh water using our desalination water maker. 

If your nomadic lifestyle requires use of the Starlink system for your internet connection for a constant 8 hours a day, you can count on using approximately 500 watts of power. This power consumption may require the reduction of other systems on your boat.  For instance, we shut down our radar, autopilot, and water maker if power consumption becomes too great.  

Modify Power Consumption

There are many power-hungry systems that can be shut down or modified to use less power.  One system we have swapped out is our water maker.  Our old water maker used approximately 1000 watts to make 10 gallons of water. The old water maker was a brute force system that was power hungry.  

We have switched to an energy recovery pump system that makes 13.2 gallons per hour @240 watts. To put it in comparison, running Starlink for 24 hours equates to the same energy required to make  50 gallons of water.

speed test results from the Starlink app
Speed test results from the Starlink app help us regulate power consumption

The Verdict: Is Starlink Worth It?

Needless to say, Starlink is not necessarily energy efficient. The only way we can limit the power consumption of our Starlink is to turn it off when not in use.  

And a huge perk of Starlink is that service can be turned on and off. This means when you’re away from the boat for an extended period of time, you don’t have to pay for the service.

When we are on the boat, depending on what other electrical demands we have, we sometimes elect to leave it on 24/7 and still find that our batteries are charged back to 100% by mid-day; therefore, power consumption is not a concern. If we are using too much power, we routinely turn the Starlink off at night and turn it back on only as needed. 

It turns out that our friends in the South Pacific, who also use Starlink, toggle the type of Starlink service they need based on the type of Starlink internet connectivity they need. None of the cruisers we know use the Starlink maritime plan, which requires the maritime dish; this dish consumes about 150% more power than the standard roaming dish.

 The Starlink website and Facebook groups, including the Starlink for Sailboats Facebook group offer timely and comprehensive information about which time of high-performance dish a cruiser ought to invest in. 

The bottom line is even with the consistently changing satellite internet service, especially related to Starlink dishes and services, working digital nomads like me can continue to explore proper power requirements necessary to stay on the move.

Walking the beach
After work, taking a break on the beach.

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