Long story short: Continuously draining a cooler constantly introduces ambient temperature air and may shorten ice cube life.
The ice cooler in the van has been a learning experience. I thought that draining the water out of the cooler on a continuous basis would lead to fewer ice fill-ups. Not so… I was having to add at least 5 gallons of ice twice a day to try and keep up. The ice was disappearing incredibly fast. Granted, the cooler was nice and “dry” inside and there were no sloshing sounds, but the amount of ice used was staggering. The level would drop too low for the amount of soda and water I was trying to cool.
I did some reading on the internet and discovered that the consensus of opinion is that you should not drain an ice cooler until all the ice is melted if you wish to use it for an extended period of time unless concerned with keeping the contents from becoming waterlogged. (i.e. packages of food that might not be perfectly sealed). Also, transporting fish is better accomplished on ice. (although the only fish in my beverage cooler is going to be already cooked)
Here is the solution chosen. There is still a drain hose connected to drain the water out but I also kept the plug which can be inserted from the inside of the cooler. That way the cooler can be drained at will depending on the nature of the trip, cargo (fish?), etc.
The plan tonight is to fully load the 5 day cooler with pop, water, ice, and a few “airline bottles” of Tequila Rose and plug the hole. As soon as everything melts and loses its cold in a few days, I can drain the water out. The water could be captured and reused for hygiene purposes if needed. The cooler can then be plugged up and refilled with ice and the process repeated.
If in a campground or motel where ice is plentiful and free, one can splurge and pull out the drain plug and let the water drain every day, all at once. Make sure and pack it full of ice again ASAP to help displace the air that would have displaced the water.
I have another plan, too. Since there are tons of plastic bottles piled up where I live, I am going to try partially filling them and freezing them for extended life – they should melt slower.
This week the weather is a nasty 95 degrees with high humidity. It’s a perfect chance to try this approach and share the results…