How Kool is the Koolatron?

It’s been several months since I purchased the Koolatron so I wanted to give an update about how it’s working…  As a thermoelectric unit, it works a lot differently and cools less precisely than a conventional fridge.  This was almost enough to make me not buy it at first but I’ve been pleased with the results.   Here are some key points I wanted to pass along to prospective buyers…

  • The Koolatron cools to about 35-40 degrees below room temperature.  Be aware that if it’s cold in your van, you will freeze your contents.  So far under normal conditions, the temperature stays between 30 and 35 at all times.  There’s nothing like a cold beverage!

  • I have now run it for a few weeks continuously.  Power consumption is considerable – about 4 amps per hour.  It doesn’t cycle off and on, either.   You’ll want solar, shore power, or a generator to keep the house batteries up.  You can turn it off periodically to save juice.  When driving to the campground and running errands, etc., I just run the cooler from the van’s alternator/battery, then switch it back to the house batteries when parked.  Soon I’m adding solar which will help maintain the batteries and keep up with the drain.

  • I urge you to keep a sensor from an outdoor thermometer in the Koolatron.  That way a person can remotely monitor how well the machine is performing.  I feel so strongly about it that I would not use a thermoelectric cooler without a means for watching how it is doing.  It would be nice if a thermometer was built in!

  • The cooler is likely to perform less well during very hot weather.  If it gets up into the 90s or worse, your cooler might not be able to lower the temperature enough to safely store food.  Do you live in the hot desert?  You might want to consider refrigeration with freon instead.  But if you can run air in your van or RV, you should be able to use the cooler with no problems.

  • Try not to put hot items into the cooler – they can boost the temperature for quite some time.  If water, pop, food, etc. is at room temperature or below, it seems to work best.

  • A couple of well sealed freezer packs work wonders in helping the Koolatron lower the temperature.  Some folks also use ice double bagged in freezer bags.  Beware though – liquids can burn up the fan and then the unit will cease to work.
  • If still debating about getting a thermoelectric cooler, consider how much money you are spending for ice.  It just occurred to me that I haven’t purchased a bag for a very long time!  This device is literally paying for itself.

If necessary, I would purchase a Koolatron again, perhaps even a larger one.  I’m satisfied that it does what it claims to do.  It has made camping delightful by helping store foods for making enjoyable meals, thus adding a feeling of “home”.  It is so nice not to have to buy a bag of ice for every trip!

Currently, the cooler is packed with goodies chilled to 34 degrees.  The next couple of days will be spent somewhere camping and relaxing in the warm spring sun.  Life is good!   

Thanks for visiting and have fun.

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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

5 Responses to How Kool is the Koolatron?

  1. We have a 40-quart powered cooler that we got for nothing. We found it on the ground next to our dumpster in Mesa because it had quit working for someone, but was like brand new. All the cords and parts were with it. All that was wrong was a broken wire in the 12-volt plug! We discovered around that same time that our refrigerator had quit in the park model, so while we waited on repairs we decided to try out the powered cooler. We ran it on 120-volt in room temps of about 76, and it cooled down to mid-thirties according the the freezer thermometer we tested it with. It got us through that jam, but we haven’t had occasion to use it since! We were going to use it for our minivan project, but have decided to go with the little Magic Chef mini-fridge that only draws about 1.25 amps on 120-volt (150 watts), so we can run it easily from a small inverter while we’re on the road or have shore power available. And since it makes ice, we can freeze a couple of plastic quart size bottles to supplement it over night (without power), or we can also use one of the bottles for our console cooler like yours to make it run more efficiently. Having the ability to make ice is a good thing!

  2. Brad says:

    Ice would be a plus! I like the sound of the Magic Chef mini fridge. If I was doing extended boondocking or a long trip (snow birding), I think it would be better to have a real fridge.

    That was a neat find! Isn’t it something how people will discard something that just needs someone smart enough to fix it? A 40 quart is a great size, too!

  3. Pleinguy says:

    Thanks for the update on the Koolatron for your vittles. Glad to hear it is working out for you. Looks like a good option for someone who does a lot of camping. Oh, and congratulations on working off the pounds. Hope that makes you healthier and to feel better too.

  4. Anonymous says:

    At 4A you could get a dorm fridge which would use less power (~70-90A per day depnding on ambient temps) and cool much more effictively while also having a small freezer. If you’re low on sunlight you can always turn the thermostat down too.

    • Brad says:

      Thanks for the comment. The Koolatron works pretty well most of the time but in the summer it struggles – I have had to supplement it with dry ice.

      I’m thinking about getting a small compressor type fridge after the first of the year. They sell some ultra efficient ones that only use about 30 AH a day. They cost about $550 or so… It’s in the budget for next year for sure….