The Best 05 Thermoelectric Coolers For You

Thermoelectric Coolers

Thermoelectric Coolers

We came to the conclusion that Thermoelectric coolers are not actually very excellent at keeping things cold after four weeks of evaluating five popular types in the summer heat. Check out our assessment of the top ice-based coolers if you need to keep food at a safe temperature for several days. These coolers work much better than inefficient thermoelectric ones. However, in a dismal range of thermoelectric coolers, the 29-quart Koolatron – P27 Voyager is the best option if you merely need to keep drinks or your lunch a little bit cooler while you’re driving.

Thermoelectric Coolers

Compare the best electric coolers

Thermoelectric Coolers
CoolerPriceSize (quarts)Power Draw (amps)Heat Mode?Thermostat?
1. Koolatron – P27 Voyager$$294.5YesNo
2. Wagan – EL6244$$464YesNo
3. Dometic – TC35-DC-A$$$$353.8YesYes
4. Koolatron – P95$$454.5YesNo
5. Igloo – Iceless 28 Quart$284.7NoNo

Smaller pick: Koolatron – P27 Voyager

Thermoelectric Coolers

From a little six-pack chiller to a 45-quart party cooler, Koolatron manufactures electric coolers in a variety of sizes. In our testing, this cooler maintained its coolest temperatures on hot days, although it would still permit the contents to reach a temperature of about 50 degrees on a hot day.

Top Pick: Koolatron – P27

Although Koolatron produces several various coolers, this particular model balances price and size well. Among all the coolers we examined, the cooling performance was also the best. Although it is more practical, it is still not as cold as ice.

Best Thermoelectric Coolers

There are a few crucial techniques you must employ if you really wish to preserve food in this cooler below 40 degrees.

  • When your automobile is parked in the sun, don’t leave the empty cooler there; instead, take it with you so that it can start out at room temperature rather than being scalding hot.
  • To help you reduce heat on a warm day, use frozen water bottles and gel packs whenever you can. It is true that this is really an improved ice chest rather than a cooler that is genuinely iceless, but it will still keep your food safe. However, avoid dumping ice inside or getting this cooler wet.
  • Make sure the cooler has enough space inside for air to circulate and evenly chill everything. It will also be helpful to arrange the objects according to how sensitive they are to temperature changes, but keep an eye out for items placed close to the chiller fan freezing.
Best Thermoeletric Cooler

The 18-quart Koolatron P-20 is a great option if you only need to take a lunch and a beverage every day. This larger cube-shaped cooler is more useful if you have the space. This cooler is decent, but it’s hardly a model of quality assurance.

Key Takeways:

  • The Koolatron – P27 outperforms the other versions we examined in terms of size and performance.
  • Even when plugged in, the Koolatron cannot withstand a heat wave of 100 degrees, despite cooling more effectively than the other devices we tested.
  • The door of this cubic cooler can open from the top or from the side.
  • This is great for bringing drinks and snacks on a little picnic.

Full-size pick: Wagan – EL6244

Best Thermoelectric Coolers

The Wagan – EL6244 is built with the features and aesthetics necessary to maximize thermoelectric technology. Additionally, you receive a set of wheels and an extendable handle, and the lid opens in two portions. The carrying capacity of a 45-quart cooler is sufficient for two complete 24-pack flats of beverage cans.

Cool on Wheels: Wagan – EL6244

Wagan hasn’t skimped on features despite aiming for a lower price range. This cooler, which we examined, has one of the finest designs thanks to its wheels, divider shelves, and drain. However, cooling performance was rather mediocre.

Best Thermoelectric Cooler

The thermoelectric parts of this cooler can only maintain the contents at 54 degrees on a 100 degree day. Pack the most perishable items carefully next to a frozen water bottle or ice pack if you wish to bring this with food to a party.

Best Thermoelectric Cooler

The Wagan cooler has a pop-open lid door and integrated storage for the power wire. If you let this cooler roll around in the back of a truck, the lid might even break. Despite being larger, the Wagan often costs $15 less than the Koolatron.

Key takeaways:

  • A larger, better-equipped 45-quart cooler is the Wagan – EL6244.
  • Wagan’s reduced pricing reflects its lower-than-average performance; cooling is average.
  • When you find the ideal picnic location, wheels will make it easier to move the food and drinks around.
  • Internal dividers are excellent for separating your food and beverages.

The other finalists we tested

Dometic – TC35-DC-A

Best Thermoelectric Coolers

A cooler from Dometic with further functionality is the TC35-DC-A. The thermostat, which enables you to regulate the interior temperature, is the important feature to pay attention to. The TC35 is not as impressive as the full-power portable freezers Dometic offers.

Best Thermoelectric Coolers

When in cooling mode, there are seven steps between freezing and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. More than the controls, the outside temperature determines whether this cooler can reach any temperature below 50 degrees.

Extra Controls: Dometic – TC35-DC-A

The cooler will attempt to maintain a constant temperature thanks to thermostatic controls on this model, the only one we tested. It kept things cold somewhat well, but not well enough to make the cost worthwhile.

Best Thermoelectric Coolers

The Dometic cooler’s lid seals tightly, which is excellent for the effectiveness of the insulation. Because of how firm the spring clasp is, our tester unintentionally left the lid cracked open. If a thermostat is not required to prevent your cooler from freezing, the Wagan cooler is just as pleasant to use.

Koolatron – P95

Best Thermoelectric Coolers

A larger 45-quart version of our 29-quart top pick, the Koolatron – P95. Food and beverages are kept arranged in layers or sections on its two-position shelf. The other substantial coolers fared better than the P95, which had poor cooling performance.

Igloo

Best Thermoelectric Coolers

On a cloudy summer day, a 28 Quart cooler was able to cool our test lunch to the lowest temperature. On the 97-degree day that followed, the Igloo didn’t dip below 64 degrees. The next day, even after the frost had completely melted, it lacked the insulation to maintain its cold.

How we selected products to test

The Dometic – TC35-DC-A is well-known among fans of RVs and vans. This model is offered by other companies besides Dometic. To compare the impact of cooler capacity on cooling performance, we purchased two smaller coolers with high review counts.

What is an electric cooler?

Best Thermoelectric Coolers

Instead of absorbing heat, an electric cooler uses a thermoelectric “Peltier” device to transfer heat out of the cooler. Most of these coolers will become heaters if the polarity of the power wire is reversed. An electric cooler could benefit from adding sealed gel ice packs to help it absorb more heat.

Limitations of electric coolers

The amount of heat that can be moved by a device depends on its size and the amount of current being applied. There are restrictions: The majority of thermoelectric devices can only raise or lower the temperature by 30 or 40 degrees Fahrenheit on one side. Larger and more sophisticated heat-dissipation systems would be necessary for better performance.

Power draw of electric coolers

Best Thermoelectric Coolers

The coolers we tested are only intended to use 5 amps from a 12-volt source of power. That is low enough that a brief stop won’t drain your battery. On the same battery that starts your car, you never want to get that low.

You can get away with greater use on a special deep-cycle battery, but most people don’t have one in their car. These coolers are primarily intended for use when you are driving or when you have access to a 120-volt AC outlet for active cooling. (Most electric coolers don’t come with the extra adapter needed for 120-volt operation.)

Best Overall: Koolatron – P27 Voyager

If you’re looking for ice-cold temps, electric coolers are let down, but the Koolatron is at least the coldest of the bunch we tested. On a hot day, this model will work well for you if you don’t mind seeing 48 degrees instead of 39.

Best Thermoelectric Coolers

Pros and cons of electric coolers

Pros

  • In order to keep lunch and drinks cool (or hot) while you’re driving, electric coolers don’t require manufacturing or purchasing ice.
  • If there is no ice, your lunch won’t get wet.
  • The cost of thermoelectric coolers is significantly lower than that of compressor-type refrigerators.
  • Since these coolers have fewer moving components than refrigerators, they ought to be more dependable—or at the very least, simpler to fix.

Cons

  • On a hot day, an electric cooler won’t keep raw meat chilled enough to prevent spoilage.
  • A excellent ice chest is easier to clean than other types.
  • When parked, a thermoelectric cooler actually uses up your battery faster than a 12-volt compact fridge because it must run continuously.

Ice chests vs. electric coolers

Manufacturers rated the cooler performance for the sizes that we tested at 40 degrees lower than the outside temperature, but that makes a lot of assumptions.

if you need to store food (or anything else) below 40 degrees, you’d be better off using ice. Perishables are shielded from heat for two to three days when enclosed in ice. Even melted ice will often keep food at a safe temperature for an additional day or two if it is in a watertight container.

An electric cooler will assist you if you merely need to keep beverages cold or if you’re transporting items like medication that are safe up to room temperature without the need for frequent replenishment that ice requires.

If you have access to a freezer, adding frozen gel packs can help level the playing field between electric and conventional coolers.

Electric coolers vs refrigerators

The ability to keep your food cold even in sweltering weather is the main benefit that a 12-volt refrigerator like this 50-watt unit from Dometic has over a thermoelectric cooler.

In a coiled metal tube, a coolant (like R-22, the modern substitute for Freon gas), which is used in refrigerators, transforms from a liquid to a gas. That method effectively removes all the heat from your refrigerator. As the process keeps repeating endlessly, a compressor can turn that gas back into liquid for another trip through the coil, which can move an incredible amount of heat.

However, because of the numerous moving parts, a 12-volt refrigerator is more expensive than a thermoelectric cooler even on a scorching hot day.

Thermoelectric coolers may keep your lunch and drinks cold while you’re driving with the AC on, but they require a continual power source. It is evident from reading user reviews on the practical application of 12-volt refrigerators and freezers that the more expensive systems are better at maintaining cold temperatures, but they still require additional battery power to be useful.

Important features to consider

The majority of coolers have a roughly box-like shape, however some can tuck down between the front bucket seats. Depending on the design, coolers may open vertically, like an ice chest, or sideways, like a refrigerator. Better cooling is associated with more power, even if models currently on the market only vary by around 20%.

How we tested

Best Thermoeletric Coolers

Each cooler contained a water bottle, a pack of hot dogs, and two yogurt cups. For this test, coolers were powered by household electricity. The temperatures were similar to those in the rear of a car or truck, and the coolers did not work as well as we had planned. The thermoelectric devices simply couldn’t get around the coolers’ high starting temperature. If you’re staying in a hotel room overnight or have electrical hookups, a 120-volt adapter would be helpful. These coolers didn’t seem like they would work well in the blazing sun.

The bottom line

The best performer is the Koolatron – P27 Voyager. The 29-quart model we tested remained the coldest throughout. Its size is suitable for picnic-sized meals. Wagan – EL6244, a 46-quart container with wheels, divisions, and a drain feature