In smaller vehicles like teardrops or camper trailers, many people boondock. This means unplugging from everything and going off-the-grid. You know that once you park your rig for the night, you’re not going to have electricity.
This is okay for a single night, maybe two at most. What if you’re planning a longer camping excursion in your teardrop? You want to get some source of power to your vehicle, but you have no idea how that even works. Can you use a generator? Solar panels? Maybe shore power?
In this article, I am going to tell you exactly how to power a teardrop trailer. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll only have to boondock if you want to.
Teardrop Trailer Batteries
What Size Are the Batteries?
First, let’s begin by discussing the batteries in your teardrop trailer. Like in any RV or trailer, your teardrop has batteries that allow you to turn on the lights, do stovetop cooking, use your microwave, watch TV, and charge your phone.
Unlike RV and trailer batteries, those for teardrops are often quite small. They’re akin to the batteries you’d find in your car. In fact, some teardrop trailer owners do use car batteries to power their vehicle and it works out just fine.
Others use marine batteries. Yes, the same batteries you’d find on a boat. This may be the better application for your teardrop. That’s because marine batteries, which are like a house or cranking battery, will provide continuous energy. They certainly have enough juice to turn an engine on, and they can be used for many other purposes as well.
Car batteries are better for helping you turn over your teardrop trailer engine so you can get on the road. After they serve that purpose, they get their juice back via a charging system, but they don’t do much else. If you’ve ever heard a car battery referred to as an engine start or cranking battery, this would be why.
Both marine and car batteries have internal electrolytes, which are a water and sulfuric acid solution that covers the battery’s internal components. There are also plates that store energy within the battery, and these are typically thicker in marine batteries. That’s part of how they provide energy to your vehicle long-term.
What Is Their Capacity?
If we’re talking about car batteries for your teardrop trailer, then the battery capacity is just okay. Considering that most teardrops use car batteries, you have to expect that you’ll have a decent battery capacity at best.
What does this mean for you, the trailer owner? You’re going to have to be picky about which appliances and items you use in your vehicle and when. I wouldn’t recommend running the fridge, lights, a stereo, and an air conditioner all at the same time. This will overload the humble car battery.
The only time you can draw more juice is when you’re on shore power. I’ll explain this more later.
If you don’t have shore power, you can always use a generator. With one of those, you should be free to use certain items without killing your battery in a few hours. These items are:
- Most hot water systems, although you’ll want to limit the length of those showers
- USB outlets throughout your trailer as well as most 12-volt outlets
- A stereo or TV, but the TV should be hard-wired so it won’t use up as much power
- Water pumps for a continuous water supply
- Most lights, as LEDs don’t take up nearly as much energy to run as you would have imagined
- Your ceiling fan, as this is again an item that doesn’t use up too much power
Where Are They Located?
The location of the batteries in your teardrop trailer will vary. Going purely by where they’re located in RVs, you can check your engine compartment, exterior compartments, entryway steps if these are retractable, or your interior floor compartment.
If you’ve looked and looked but you can’t find your trailer batteries, we recommend checking your owner’s manual. You can also reach out to your manufacturer for more information.
Getting Electricity to Your Teardrop Trailer
What Is Shore Power?
Let’s go back and discuss shore power now. Sometimes referred to as a shore supply, shore power is an alternate source of electricity. This power source is often 120 volts and requires a 12-volt system connection. If you stay at a campground or state/national park and they have shore power, this is electricity that you can connect to your teardrop. You then get power without having to use your own battery.
Shore power can be a godsend, but in a crowded campground, everyone there only gets so much juice. That means you can’t run several devices and appliances at the same time. However, since your battery doesn’t have the greatest capacity, you’re probably already used to that anyway, right?
You don’t typically have to worry about overloading your trailer’s electrical system with shore power. As mentioned, there should be strict usage requirements that keep that from happening. If anything, the issue you might run into is not getting enough power. The good thing about owning a teardrop trailer compared to an RV though is you don’t need nearly as much power as a hulking vehicle would. That means even small power supplies should be okay for you.
What’s the Difference Between DC and AC Power?
Next, I thought I will discuss DC and AC power, as you might use both as a teardrop trailer owner. DC stands for direct current power. This power source is often seen in cars. With a DC power system, you get the juice you need from your batteries. In most cases, your radio, TV, fans, water pumps, and all vehicle lights will run on DC power as well.
Then there’s AC or alternating current power. You will typically only have access to this if you connect your trailer to an external source of AC power.
With RVs, you can use both DC and AC power systems, even running them at once. AC power, which may be shore power, can provide a charge to the vehicle’s batteries when connected to an RV. This is true even though they’re running on DC power.
How does this happen? Through a device known as a converter. Converters take AC power and make it DC power. What if you need the opposite? An inverter can get you AC power from DC power sources.
Your teardrop trailer may have a similar setup to the above. Sometimes you need to buy converters and inverters separately, but this depends.
How Do You Address Blown Fuses?
The fuse box is another part of your trailer you need to get acquainted with. This box is like a safeguard for your expensive electrical system. It’s designed to prevent power surges and overdrawing on power. Both could be quite detrimental to your teardrop.
It can be easier than you think to use up too much power at once. If you run many devices and appliances at the same time, this is one way to do it. Sometimes even two bigger appliances, like your teardrop air conditioner and refrigerator both running in tandem is enough to cause a blown fuse.
You’ll typically know this has happened because your trailer will no longer have any power. According to Little Guy Trailers, with their teardrops, you should be able to tell relatively easily when a fuse blows. An LED light will glow red next to the fuse that’s causing problems. This only applies if you’re running your batteries.
What’s the Difference Between 12-Volt Power and Plug-in Power?
Finally, let’s wrap up this section by differentiating between plug-in power and 12-volt power. Plug-ins are known as household plugs. These require a power source that’s at least 110 volts. Otherwise, you can use your generator, which I’ll get to later in this guide.
If you want to run your hair dryer, microwave, or even your air conditioner, then you’d need a household plug. This can go into a power cord that’s at least 30 amps, at least for most teardrop setups (Little Guy Trailers included).
Then there’s 12-volt power plug. This looks like the cigarette lighter plug you’d see in old cars. If you have any items that run on 12 volts, you’d need to plug them in here. These are typically smaller items, like smartphone chargers.
It’s possible to suck up battery power with both 12-volt and plug-in power connections. You’ll have to carefully monitor the battery levels to prevent quick draining.
How Do Solar Panels Work in a Teardrop Trailer?
The most common reason to install solar panels is to provide a charge to your teardrop batteries. In some instances, you can even get electricity to your vehicle with these panels, but this is typically used as backup power only. While solar panels are more popular, some teardrop trailer owners opt to use wind power as well.
How do solar panels work? They’re installed on the roof of your teardrop trailer (or somewhere close). As the sun provides solar irradiance to the solar panels, the panels generate electric current. This can go to a charge controller, which then passes the power to the batteries so they can recharge. In other instances, the power can continue to your inverter, providing AC power. Remember that battery power is DC power, so it is possible to get both.
According to a 2017 article in Treehugger, teardrop manufacturer Vistabule began rolling out its own solar panels around that time. These flexible panels from Sunflare promise great electric capabilities. For instance, you could rig up a small fridge, charge your smartphone, and run some lights just from the solar power alone.
The article mentions how you could also use the Sunflare solar panels to get three and a half hours of warmth from a heater. Your fridge battery should last almost three days. You could even get some electric charge to a laptop. This is all from a completely natural and free power source, the sun.
How Does a Generator Work in a Teardrop Trailer?
Your last means of getting power to your teardrop trailer is to use a generator. For your trailer, you can get away with a portable generator. These are smaller units that are perfect for your tiny vehicle.
A generator will hook up to the teardrop trailer’s AC system. From there, they give you the AC power needed to run your vehicle.
When it comes to choosing which generator is best for you, there are several considerations to make. The first is how many devices and appliances you use (or want to use) on a regular basis. Then, you need to figure out how much power these items would require when combined. Calculate your power deficit and you can gauge how much juice you’d need from your generator.
If you don’t have to use your air conditioner, then a generator that runs on 1,000 watts is sufficient. In some instances, you might need a generator with more wattage, like 3,500 watts. Anything bigger than that is excessive for a teardrop trailer.
Keep in mind that you can overdraw on the power supply for your generator. This is more likely to cause issues with your items and appliances rather than the generator itself. That’s not to say generators aren’t impervious, because they can be wrecked by power mismanagement.
Most portable generators will have an engine that runs on gas. You must have a consistent fuel supply to keep your generator continuously chugging along. Most of these units will run out of gas in about two hours. Failing to refill can break the generator.
My 3 Favorite Generators for Teardrop Trailers
If you’re looking to buy a generator for your teardrop trailer, any of these options are a great choice. They’re all available on Amazon.
Top Best Recommendation:
My top recommended pick is the Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer. This generator is small, weighing less than four pounds. It measures 7.4 x 4.5 x 6.7 inches. It includes an inverter that can run on 150 watts at its peak. You also get a 12-volt DC port.
If you want to charge cameras, laptops, video game consoles, smartphones, and everything in between, this is the generator for you. With its lithium battery pack, it doesn’t need gas or fuel. That means you don’t have to go out every hour or two and refill it. All you need is a wall socket for recharging, and that takes five hours at most.
Another generator you might consider is the Westinghouse iGen2200. This one is renowned for its near-silent operation. A bit heavier at 46 pounds, the iGen2200 can produce up to 2,200 watts at peak power (hence the name).
It’s reliable enough for backup power. You can even use it as a standard source of power for a few hours. The gas tank has a capacity of 1.2 gallons, so expect semi-frequent refills unless you’re using Efficiency Mode. Westinghouse promises a runtime of 12 hours. The iGen2200 has a noise output of 52 decibels.
My third pick is the highly-rated SUAOKI Portable Power Station. This generator has USB, DC, and AC outputs. It can achieve up to 150 watts at peak power, so it’s not as powerful as the Westinghouse generator. Still, weighing about three pounds and measuring 7.3 x 4.3 x 4.7 inches, this is a perfect pick for teardrop trailers.
The SUAOKI Portable Power Station can even hook up to solar power if you have it. To recharge the generator, connect it to your closest wall outlet and let it sit for eight hours. Otherwise, a 12-volt car socket is just as good.
While you love roughing it as a teardrop trailer owner, you have to admit, having power to your rig is nice, too. As you now know, there are plenty of ways to power a teardrop trailer. You can rely on your battery, use shore power, try wind or solar panel, or even run a generator. You might even combine several power sources. Just make sure you don’t overload your trailer!