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Author Topic:   Peltier Electric Coolers
jimh posted 07-08-2010 12:01 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
I am interested in hearing any first-hand reports of use of a Peltier electric cooler in a marine application. These are coolers which have an electronic heat pump that works on the Peltier principle. If you pass a current through the Peltier device in one direction, the device generates cooling; reverse the current flow direction and the device generates heat. In a small boat where there is some excess electrical current capacity available from the outboard motor, the cooler could run anytime the motor is running. The typical current draw is about 5-amperes at 12-volts.

Here is an example:

Has anyone an experience with these devices to share?

AZdave posted 07-08-2010 02:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for AZdave  Send Email to AZdave     
I have used this type of cooler, with a Coleman brand name, for several years. It seems to be a natural fit for long road trips. The car's electrical system has no problem supplying power to the cooler, and you can use an adapter to plug it in overnight in your motel room. This view seems to be supported by the inventory in truck stops. They stock these coolers in several shapes and capacities.

The coolers work by transporting heat energy across a solid state device into a heat sink which may be fan cooled. That seems to be a big heat entry point when the cooler is shut down. If the boat is being used for a day trip that is not a problem, but on a boat camping trip with the motor idle much of the day, I think this type of cooling would not be a success. It also seems to be limited to a temperature gradient of 40 degrees F. In Arizona that's not enough in the summer.

I have used a Dometic absorption cooler on extended camping trips to Lake Powell. It can run on 12V DC, 120V AC, or bottled propane. It actually works the best on propane. It will stay cold enough for safe food (and beer) storage at temperatures up to the 100 degree range, and it will not run down a battery to do so. I find that a disposable 14 oz bottle of propane will last three days, and adapters are available to allow the use of refillable tanks. Yes, it arouses cooler envy in my camping friends. The down side is capacity and initial cost.

Any of these coolers beats a standard ice cooler because it is relatively dry. If you break an egg, or the hamburger meat slides to the bottom, you do not have the problem of decontaminating all the food in the cooler.

knothead posted 07-08-2010 02:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for knothead  Send Email to knothead     
I had a "Koolatron" cooler which is similar to what you are describing back in the early 1980's. I was very disapointed in the performance. It failed to keep food sufficently cold on car camping trips, in fact it was almost impossible to cool food down if the food was at room temperature. As for beer, forget about it.

I ended up selling the thing at a yard sale for $10.00, including the AC/DC converter. In my mind it's a no go unless the performance has improved considerably.


jollyrog305 posted 07-08-2010 06:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for jollyrog305    
We have a Kooltron cooler and use it almost every weekend. To date, I am pleased with the coolers performance. We use it mostly in the car on trips that last between 2 to 4 hours. I have found it to keep cold/cool items cool and hot/warm items warm. I can’t remember an instance when a frozen item that we were transporting ever (noticeably) thawed either. I must say however that the cooler is never in direct sunlight and seems to work best when not packed full of food.
Nauti Tauk posted 07-08-2010 07:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for Nauti Tauk  Send Email to Nauti Tauk     
We have the Coleman version of the 12volt cooler and it has performed fine for us. We use it to transport food fron Florida to Georgia two or threee times a year. My suggestion is to pre cool the empty unit the night before by using the 110v adapter to bring everything down to temperature. Next morning you should be good to go. It's not a full fledged refrigerator by any means but for what it is it's not bad. I haven't used it in the marine environment but if not in direct sun I should think it'd work okay. The three way unit,110v/12v/gas, mentioned above is really really nice but a bit to pricey for me.
David Pendleton posted 07-08-2010 07:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
I'd like to know more about this Dometic unit that will run on propane. The Dometic web site doesn't list any portable absorption units and you can't search by power source. All their portable units are 12V/24V/yada-yada but no propane.

Model numbers, links or more information would be nice.


AZdave posted 07-08-2010 08:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for AZdave  Send Email to AZdave     
You should be able to find retail sources for Dometic absorption coolers by searching " Dometic RC4000" and "Dometic absorption". Many of their other models do have small compressors, and can't run on propane.
David Pendleton posted 07-08-2010 09:13 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
The RC4000 was all I could find, but NOT on the Dometic site. I suspect it has been discontinued.

In any case, what pictures I could find of this model depicted it as pretty small. I'm not sure what the target market for this unit was, but it wouldn't surprise me that it has been discontinued.

SJUAE posted 07-08-2010 10:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE  Send Email to SJUAE     

I look at these types of coolers every time I go to ace hardware here in UAE. they mainly sell the waeco range which starts from the low end thermoelectric cool boxes that are really only good for picnics in moderate climates as the only cool "up to" 20c below ambient. The slightly more expensive 12/24v and gas powered ones will do up to 30c below ambient

Generally these units are fine if you fill them with already chilled drinks etc and hook them up on a run in your car/boat for later use.  If you intend to replenish with non cooled stock then expect to wait hours to get anything chilled. I have the wine store version in my office that I stock up with coke daily and that takes at least 5 hours to chill 12 cans of coke from 21 to 9C and that's running on mains adapter in a AC office.

If you want to do any serious chilling in the summer months then the ones with compressors are really the only choice, but these are often twice the cost and a lot heavier.

If I was going to buy one for my boat with they view of using it for an overnight camp then the 
Waeco CoolFreeze CF 32UP Rechargeable Fridge or Freezer would be my choice as it has it's own battery

Capacity 31 litres
12 / 24 volt DC
Built in rechargeable battery
Battery lasts up to 18 hours @ 5°C
Auto voltage recognition
Accurate digital temperature setting
Digital temperature display
Temperature range -18°C to +10°C
Minimal energy consumption
Low voltage battery protection
Uses latest compressor technology
Extremely quiet operation
Use as portable freezer or fridge
Accommodates standing 2L bottles
Weight 24kg approx
Size h/w/d cm 44.5 x 58 x 36
Mains power supply optional extra

Average power consumption:   45 watts (cooling only)
    72 watts (cooling and charging)
Battery Operation:   Up to 18 hours when fully charged at 5°C
    interior with +32 outside temperature
Average running time at 5°C:   18% at 20°C ambient temperature
    22% at 32°C ambient temperature
Scope of delivery:   AC & DC cable, detachable carry handles,
    detachable wire basket


AZdave posted 07-09-2010 12:43 AM ET (US)     Profile for AZdave  Send Email to AZdave     
This is from the Dometic International site. This page has a link in Tool Box to find dealers. Mine has the same basic form as the green one at the bottom. I would add that the cooler is heavy even when empty, and slow initial cooling is definitely a fact. Portable-refrigeration/Portables
Moe posted 07-09-2010 11:33 AM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
Someone gave me one of these. It could draw a charged 100 AH deep cycle dead in well less than a day. I trashed it. You can get a small Engel cooler with Danfoss compressor that will average less than 0.7 AH cycling on and off.
David Pendleton posted 07-09-2010 02:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
I found the WAECO CoolFreeze CF-32UP online, but it's more than $1500.00!

For that kind of money, I can have cold food delivered to me.


Whaler_bob posted 07-09-2010 03:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for Whaler_bob    
Back in the mid to late 90's I tried a Igloo brand 18qt Peltier electric cooler for one summer season.
I wasn't impressed with the results, we even kept it behind the console and with a white towel over it to block it from direct sunlight while out on the boat (19' center console). It just didn't seem to keep the food and drinks anywhere near as cold as ice or cooler packs did. We did pre-chill all the drinks and fruit first- but still they never really stayed cold.
In the end- it seemed like the cooler mechanism took up more room than ice or freezer packs and didn't work nearly as well and you had to be careful not to expose it to salt water and sand. We took it on a few road trips that summer too and were equally disappointed with the (lack of) cooling provided while in the car.
We never tried the heating application.
SJUAE posted 07-09-2010 05:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE  Send Email to SJUAE     

Exactly why I only look, although I think you can get them for nearer 1000, but still a serious investment.

I think you are better off with 2 boxes 1 full of ice you just use to keep topping up the other.

I guess Jim was looking for something to use for his 3-5 day trips a USD300 cooler is not worth the effort.

It seems Dometic and Waeco are the same company now


jimh posted 07-09-2010 09:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
So far the first-hand reports of the Peltier device electrical coolers are not very positive. I am not inclined to buy one.

The price of the propane gas powered coolers is too high for the utility they would provide me.

It looks like old-fashioned ice is the answer for my needs.

hauptjm posted 07-12-2010 10:20 AM ET (US)     Profile for hauptjm    
For extended trips, always consider dry ice. For longer passage sailing races, we would always section our food and beverage into dry ice boxes. As it was going to be used, we would transfer to the "ice chest" that contained block ice.

Remember, with ice you several options: dry ice will outlast block ice, block will always oulast cube, which will always outlast crushed.

hauptjm posted 07-12-2010 10:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for hauptjm    
Caution: don't handle dry ice with bare hands and keep your head out of the box, breathing carbon dioxide can be harmful to your consciousness.
Sarge posted 07-13-2010 12:34 AM ET (US)     Profile for Sarge  Send Email to Sarge     
While not helpful to the 'electric cooler' discussion, I'd also throw out Yeti Coolers for people looking to keep things cold for longer durations than the average cooler.

I've bought a number of them, and they keep ice frozen up to a week (in summer, 70's-80's F). They're also 'bear proof' which is nice if you live in bear country.

They make them in fiberglass and poly - they're definitely up to Boston Whaler standards (far better than the OE Igloos). Just FYI.

Kencvit posted 07-13-2010 01:48 AM ET (US)     Profile for Kencvit  Send Email to Kencvit     
I have 2 of the Koolatron split lid models ( I bought one and won one in a raffle) . Both are 8 to 10 years old and still work fine. Both are used most weekends in the summer to make the 3 hr drive to the lake or on trips.
While you can`t expect to to put a 12 pack of warm beer in one to get cold in an hour....they will maintain anything cold I put in and frozen items do well too.
So long as the items you put inside are cold you don`t have to run it before hand.
Its nice to have for perishable groceries on hot days.
I don`t have to look for/buy ice and I don`t have to worry about items swimming around in the bottom of a cooler with melted water.
In my truck I will often let the cooler run for an hour or more with the engine off and have had no problems with it draining the battery. I do leave a window cracked open on hot days as it generates heat.
On the boat I`ll use one when I`m making the 40km return trip from the house to Kenora for groceries( Safeway, partially on the waterfront has their own docks) or to the Farmers Market at the Harbourfront .I was at the market last Wednesday and filled the cooler with Ham Garlic Kolbasa,Apple and Onion breakfast sausages and a pecan pie...A prized cargo for a noble vessel ;-)

jimh posted 07-13-2010 07:54 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Can you use ice or dry ice with a Peltier cooler to augment its cooling capacity?
Kencvit posted 07-13-2010 10:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for Kencvit  Send Email to Kencvit     
I sometimes use frozen water bottles....which I drink when thawed. My coolers don`t have drain plugs.

One other thing, I don`t think these coolers should be exposed to rain. The motor/blower grill on mine are in the lid

andygere posted 07-13-2010 11:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
I think a better investment would be a high quality ice chest such as a Yeti and an an ice management strategy for longer trips. Using large blocks of ice (typically frozen in 1 gallon milk jugs) I've managed to keep food and beverages very cold for several days in hot weather. I augment my ice chest with a layer of closed cell foam (an old ensolite sleeping pad) set on top of the food at the top of the cooler, since the lids of typical coolers are not well insulated. In a pinch, a thick layer of newspaper or cardboard works pretty well. Also, minimize entry into the cooler to a few times per day, and tape the opening between the chest and the lid with wide painter's tape (it works!). Keeping drinks in a separate cooler allows you to open the food cooler just a few times per day. Ice for the beverage cooler can be restocked from the main cooler at the same time. Keep the coolers in the shade, and use things like wet towels on top to keep the temps down if shade is not available. The key to this strategy is to use oversize coolers that can carry a lot of ice relative to the amount of food and drink. This takes up space, but allows for longer trips without reprovisioning. We use a 128 qt. for the food and block ice, and a 72qt. as the day cooler. If you move your lunch to the day cooler when you pull breakfast from the big cooler, you can limit open/close events to 2 per day. This makes a huge difference. By pre-packing meal ingredients into individual zip lock bags, it's easy to pluck them out with a minimum of fuss. For longer trips, we've also carried some smaller coolers just packed with ice, and kept them sealed until we needed the ice. This worked OK but not great, most likely due to the lower insulation value of the small coolers.

I've seen several Revenge models that use large coolers as the base for stern seats, with a padded cushion on top and a backrest fixed to the boat. The cushion on top would add some additional insulation value. JimP has a pretty slick cruising setup for his using a similar system.

SJUAE posted 07-13-2010 09:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE  Send Email to SJUAE     

I think adding ice or dry ice to the cooler will just stop the unit turning on until it reaches the preset limits of the thermostat otherwise it would heat the ice if it's cooler than the capability of the Peltier system

jimp posted 07-14-2010 12:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimp  Send Email to jimp     
Andy's "cooler management" is a big step - minimize the opening. Similar to telling the kids to "stop opening the refrigerator door" during the summer.

But, compared to you guys, I have it easy in Alaska. My ice lasts a bit longer. In fact, we use block ice whenever possible - but not store bought ice. Mendenhall Glacier is 2 miles from the house and if we need a real dense, solid, block of ice we go down to the lake in front of the glacier and pull out the size we need, then chip it to fit.

The propane coolers look interesting. Can they run on propane only or do they need 12-volts to keep them running? I don't like the idea of runing my battery down if I stay in one spot for a day or two.


SJUAE posted 07-14-2010 09:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE  Send Email to SJUAE     

They do not require 12v when on gas

Remember you need a gas bottle, ventilation and this is an open source of ignition (ie a flame)

It was 125f here yesterday so chilling down to 75f is not worth squat


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