How to Choose Power Options for Your Teardrop Trailer

By Jen HudakOctober 08, 2020

Okay, we’ll cut to the chase here, electrical systems in teardrop trailers can be confusing… at least if you’re me (Jen) and not my husband, Escapod founder, Chris.

We get a myriad of questions from customers when they’re trying to decide on electrical options for their Escapod. So, we figured it would be helpful to give a comprehensive overview of the variables.

Read on to learn how to choose power options for your teardrop trailer.

Electrical System Options:

To start, the standard electrical system in either TOPO Series teardrop trailer is a 12-Volt system, which differs from your house power, which is 110V. These systems differ in the type of current that runs through them - 12V has direct current (DC) and 110V has alternating current (AC) - but not the amount of power they provide. Here’s a quick explanation from Mr. Electric:

"Your home receives electricity in the form of wave-like AC current, which is capable of changing direction and voltage from higher to lower current with the aid of transformers. In your home, it is eaten by corded appliances small and large, from your HVAC to your TV and dishwasher. The consistent and constant voltage of DC power supplies electronics that use a battery, such as your smartphone. The smooth, steady electrical current of DC power always flows in the same direction, between positive and negative terminals." - Mr. Electric

The 12V system in our base model TOPO Series runs power to the LED cabin light, porch lights, and galley light, a 4-speed MaxxAir exhaust fan, 4 USB chargers, and a 12V cigarette outlet style plug. You can plug in your cell phone, GoPro, and other small electronics into these ports to charge. All of our add-ons can run off this 12V system.

You can upgrade the electrical system in an Escapod to accommodate standard house power. The Xantrex 1000W inverter 50 Amp charger converts 12V power from the onboard power supply into 110 house power GFCI outlets (3-prong). This allows you to use a blender, charge a laptop, or cook dinner with your sous vide!

The inverter also comes with a shore power plug. Shore power is a great way to take advantage of an endless power supply by simply plugging your trailer into an extension cord (this, of course, requires access to power from your house or a campsite).

So, now that you understand the difference between the two systems, what are the implications?

Power Supply Options:

Our standard system provides 88 amp-hours or power from a 12V deep-cycle battery. A deep cycle battery is a lead battery designed to provide sustained power over a long period of time. They are intended to be discharged (used) and recharged repeatedly. You can use about 80% of a deep cycle battery’s capacity before it needs to be recharged.

There are many factors at play when trying to determine how long this battery will last (usage, external temperature, add-on combinations, etc.) but we aim to get you a solid 3-5 days on a single charge with our standard system. Keep in mind, that the more accessories you add to your build, the more power supply you’ll need.

Accessory Add-Ons Using the Onboard Power Supply:

Escapod offers 6 add-ons that are reliant on power from our onboard power supply: the fridge/freezer, heater, air cooling unit, water pump, inverter, and air compressor. (The water heater has its own internal power supply.)

Many customers opt for the Dometic fridge/freezer upgrade either in replacement of or in addition to the YETI. It’s a great add-on for many reasons, but by far has the biggest power draw. We'll cover how to combat this down below.

For those living in 4-season climates, the option to add heating and cooling to your unit is ideal. For heating, we offer a forced-air propane heater from Propex. The HS2000 model comes fully set up with an in-cabin thermostat, and blows in clean, hot air at the foot of the bed. It uses power from the battery to run the thermostat and blow in the hot air, but the heat itself is generated from the propane tank.

As for cooling, we offer the Fresair air cooling unit which has a much lower battery draw compared to a standard air conditioner. The 12V system powers an internal fan that blows air through a saturated integrated mesh and uses evaporative cooling to drop the temp in your trailer up to 30 degrees.

The water pump is a requirement of the water system, so if you add the water tank it comes with a pump. It only uses power when you are actively pumping water out of the system.

The inverter also uses power from the onboard system in the process of inverting the 12V power to 110V power.

The final add-on that is reliant on the 12V battery system is the air compressor. This only uses battery power while it’s in use.

Add-ons to Increase Power or Charge the Battery:

The only way to “increase” the power supply on an Original TOPO is to upgrade to our double-battery bank. This option replaces the 12V battery with two 6V batteries to increase the amp-hours of your system from 88 to 225.

As for charging, there are a few different options. You can simply get a standard 12V battery charger with alligator clips similar to what you’d use on your car battery. This requires that you uncover the battery and/or remove the battery to bring it inside where you can charge it. (We do not sell this option).

A few steps up from there is our onboard battery charger with a shore power port. This is a low-maintenance method to charge your battery by just plugging your pod into an extension cord when you get home. It’s a smart charger that will automatically switch to a trickle charge so as to not over-charge (yes, that’s a thing) your battery. You don’t have to fuss with the batteries at all and we encourage all of our customers to get this add-on. If you already have the inverter, this add-on is redundant.

Third, you can add the solar panel. Our 100W Solar Panel from Lightleaf Solar is highly efficient and fully integrated into the hatch so it charges while you drive. It’s also removable and has a 12’ extension cord so you can follow the sun all day at basecamp. While it varies greatly from location to location it’s possible that the solar panel can produce enough power to run the standard system indefinitely. The panel can keep up with the drain from the fridge/freezer for about 2-3 days, after that, you will need to plug in. With the double-battery bank and solar panel, you can extend that to 6-8 days.

In summary, the primary reason to add the inverter is if you plan to bring your laptop, blender, or other 110V household appliance with you to use on the road. If you’re going for maximum off-grid ability, you’ll definitely want to add the 100W solar panel and a double-battery bank. For absolute ease of use, add the NOCO onboard battery charger.

We’ve done our best to cover the vast majority of customers’ needs with these options. If you’re still confused or have more questions, send a message to our team. We’d love to hear from you!

If you’re ready for your adventure to begin, you can build your own TOPO Series Escapod and see full details and pricing here!

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