Last updated: August 11, 2021

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A cool box is just the thing for excursions. Electric coolers keep your drinks etc. cold without interruption. They can be used flexibly thanks to the various connections. Whether in the car, at home or on the road. There is a suitable model for every occasion.

Solar-powered coolers are independent of electricity and can be used anywhere. Electric coolers are available in different functionalities. In the following article, we would like to introduce you to the different models and make your purchase decision easier.




The Best Electric Cooler: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying an electric cooler

What is an electric cooler?

An electric cooler is, so to speak, a portable, small refrigerator. In summer, coolers are very popular because they keep cold drinks and food cool. They are also used for camping and in cars or trucks as car and truck coolers.

Electric coolers can keep up well with a refrigerator in terms of performance. Even at very high outside temperatures, the contents of the box remain cold.

Kühlbox elektrisch-1

Depending on the model, an electric cooler can be used in a variety of ways. With a 12-volt connection, you can also use your cooler in the car.
(Image source: unsplash.com / Sandrene Zhang)

What alternatives are there?

There are 2 alternatives to the electric cooler:

  • Cooler bag/cooler backpack
  • Mini fridge

Cooler bags or backpacks cool with electricity or with cooling elements. They are lighter and easier to handle than coolers. Since you don't need electricity to use them, they are good for trips.

Mini fridges cool very well. Although they come in different sizes, they weigh quite a bit and are therefore not suitable for transport. They are also more expensive than electric coolers.

The following table illustrates the alternatives with their advantages and disadvantages:

Type Advantages and disadvantages
Cooler bags/backpacks Advantages: easy to transport, no power supply required

Disadvantages: Cooling capacity not as good as electric coolers

Mini fridge Advantage: very good cooling capacity

Disadvantages: more expensive than electric coolers, difficult to transport

How much does an electric cooler cost?

The cheapest electric coolers are Peltier coolers. They are available for as little as 15 euros. Absorber coolers are available from 160 euros.

The price range for electric coolers is very wide. The price depends on the cooling system and the size of the cooler.

Compressor coolers are the most expensive. The largest models here cost 2600 euros. Hybrid coolers, which consist of 2 cooling systems, cost at least 200 euros.

Type price range
Absorber cooler 160 - 300 euros
Peltier cooler 15 - 700 euros
Compressor cooler 200 - 2600 euros
Hybrid cooler 200 - 1000 euros

How much electricity does an electric cooler consume?

How much electricity an electric cooler consumes depends first of all on the insulation. If the insulation is poor, the box will consume a lot of electricity. The weather also plays a role. The hotter it is outside, the more electricity the cooler needs to keep food and drinks cold. You should also look at the energy class when buying.

The gas consumption of an absorption cooler is given in grams per hour. These boxes consume approx. 10 - 25 grams per hour.

Other electric coolers consume between 32 and 52 watts. Larger coolers also consume more electricity than smaller ones.

Decision: What types of electric coolers are there and which one is right for you?

Electric coolers come in 4 different types:

  • Absorber cooler
  • Peltier cooler
  • Compressor cooler
  • Hybrid cooler

Since the types differ mainly in price but also in functionality, we would like to make your search for an electric cooler easier in the following section:

What distinguishes an absorption cooler and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Absorber coolers can be operated with electricity, but also independently of electricity with gas. This is done using gas bottles or gas cartridges. The absorber cooler contains an absorption refrigerating machine consisting of an expulsion unit, condenser, absorber and evaporator.

Ammonia is used as refrigerant, water as solvent. These are heated by electricity/gas in the expulsion unit. The ammonia liquefies and evaporates in the evaporator. This makes the interior of the cooler cold. Ammonia and water are combined again in the absorber and the process starts all over again.

Absorber coolers are usually large coolers that can hold a large amount of food. When they run on gas, they are silent. They also rarely need repairs because there are no components like compressors.

However, these boxes only cool up to about 30 °C outside temperature. At higher temperatures, the cooling capacity is lower. Absorber coolers consume more energy than other coolers. They should also not be dropped, as these boxes do not withstand drop damage very well.

Advantages
  • Large capacity
  • noiseless in gas operation
  • very rarely need repairs
Disadvantages
  • lower cooling capacity at high outside temperatures
  • higher energy consumption than other coolers

What are the characteristics of a Peltier cooler and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Peltier coolers contain a Peltier element. This is usually built into the lid and generates a temperature difference when electricity is supplied. When you plug in your cooler, the current flows through the Peltier element. The inside of the element gradually cools the box. The outside conducts the heat to the outside.

This element can also be easily reversed. This means that food can be kept warm in this box for a long time. Peltier boxes are lighter than other coolers and hardly ever need repairs. They are robust and can withstand falls well.

The cooling capacity depends on the outside temperature. The Peltier cooler will only cool below 20 °C. In addition, the power consumption is high and the ventilation is noisy.

Advantages
  • Peltier effect can also keep food warm
  • lighter than other coolers
  • repairs very rarely necessary
  • robust
  • inexpensive
Disadvantages
  • Cooling capacity almost impossible at high outside temperatures
  • high power consumption
  • ventilation is loud

What are the characteristics of a compressor cooler and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

A compressor cooler requires a 230-volt socket and is therefore not intended for vehicles or camping.

It works like a refrigerator, using a compression refrigeration machine. The refrigerant is heated by the compressor. The condenser then liquefies the refrigerant. This goes into the evaporator, which cools the interior.

Compressor coolers have the best cooling capacity.

A compressor cooler saves energy because it has a temperature regulator. It also cools very well regardless of the outside temperature. You can even freeze food in this box.

Compressor coolers are, however, heavier than other coolers and more susceptible to impact. They are also louder than other models because of the compressor.

Advantages
  • energy-efficient
  • best cooling performance compared to other coolers
  • freezing possible
Disadvantages
  • heavier than other coolers
  • sensitive to shocks
  • compressor is loud

What are the characteristics of a hybrid cooler and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

A hybrid cooler works with 2 cooling systems: a thermoelectric cooler and a compressor. They can be used via the car battery and also at home via the power socket and can therefore be used in many areas.

Hybrid coolers have a smaller capacity due to the compressor. They are sensitive to shocks and noisy because the compressor or fan is working.

Advantages
  • versatile
  • good cooling performance with power operation
Disadvantages
  • smaller capacity
  • shock-sensitive
  • loud

The following video shows you the different cooling technologies:

Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate electric coolers

Performance/power consumption

An electric cooler often has 2 connections. A 12-volt connection for PWKs and a 230-volt connection for the mains socket. When buying, it is important to compare the power consumption of the individual coolers. The differences here are very great.

Many coolers are powered by gas or solar energy. These models naturally consume much less electricity.

You should also use your electric cooler efficiently, i.e. don't leave it plugged into the car battery for hours, otherwise the car might not start.

Cooling capacity

The cooling capacity of many coolers depends on the outside temperature. With Peltier and absorber coolers, the outside temperature is decisive for the cooling capacity. These coolers work well at an outside temperature between 20 and 30 °C.

So you should first ask yourself what you need the cooler for. Do you only want to take it to the park or to Mallorca for a holiday? In the latter case, we recommend a compressor cooler or a hybrid cooler, as these models cool regardless of the outside temperature.

Kühlbox elektrisch-2

A compressor cooler has the best cooling capacity because it cools regardless of the ambient temperature.
(Image source: 123rf.com / bbtreesubmission)

Size

Which cooler size is right for you depends on the area of use. Mobile coolers should have a smaller capacity so that they are easier to transport. They also do not take up too much space in the boot. A size with a capacity of less than 20 litres is ideal.

Large coolers are more difficult to transport.

If you want to store drinks etc. for several people, a capacity of at least 50 litres is recommended. These models take up more space but you can also store more in them.

Area of use

Depending on where you want to use your cooler, it is advisable to buy a cooler with a 12-volt connection. If you only want to use your cooler at home, you don't need this connection.

Absorber, Peltier and compressor coolers are suitable for different applications.

A compressor cooler is recommended for very high outdoor temperatures. Absorber coolers can also be operated with gas. They can therefore be used independently of electricity and are well suited for excursions.

Material

Most coolers are made of plastic. Plastic is easy to clean and impact-resistant.

There are also models where the outside is made of aluminium. These coolers are very robust, but susceptible to fingerprints.

Inexpensive models are usually not double-walled, unlike expensive models. This additional outer layer insulates the food better and thus keeps it cooler than models with only one outer layer.

Facts worth knowing about electric coolers

Can I use an electric cooler for medicines?

The most important thing when storing medicines is to maintain a constant temperature. Basically, you can store your medicines in your electric cooler.

However, you should keep an eye on the temperature and adjust it if necessary. The most important thing here is that the temperature does not drop too much, because if it falls below a certain level, the medicines become ineffective and therefore unusable.

However, this also applies if the outside temperature is too high. Therefore, you should always refrigerate your medicines. There are also special cooling bags/boxes for medicines. This allows you to better control the temperature.

Kühlbox elektrisch-3

To prevent your medicines from losing their effect due to heat, you can cool them in an electric cooler.
(Image source: unsplash.com / Volodymyr Hryshchenko)

What is a solar-powered cooler?

A solar-powered cooler works independently of the electricity grid. This box is therefore well suited for excursions. The solar module stores enough solar energy to ensure constant cooling.

Solar-powered coolers are very energy-efficient. Nevertheless, they can also be operated using electricity. This makes these coolers very flexible in use.

How do I clean an electric cooler?

To kill and prevent bacteria and mould, you should clean your cooler regularly.

  1. Remove and rinse all parts of the cooler that are not permanently installed.
  2. Cleaning the fan on compressor coolers
  3. Wipe out the cooler with a cloth and mild detergent
  4. wipe down with vinegar to prevent mould
  5. Allow the cooler to dry

What do I do if the cooler does not cool properly?

For a cooler to always work, it must be placed straight on the ground. If you put the cooler at a slight angle, it can no longer cool properly.

If you have just plugged in your cooler, then you have to wait, because the cooler needs time to cool down the interior. This is especially true when using the cooler for the first time.

If the box still does not cool properly, a rusted pipe may be the reason. The pipe is located behind the heat sink and can be removed and cleaned. If this does not change anything, it often helps to turn the cooler upside down for a day.

Picture source: Tuntisavee/ 123rf.com

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