The 10 Best Electric Coolers
10. Coleman PowerChill
9. Engel Marine
8. Igloo Iceless 40-Quart
7. Knox Portable
6. Cooluli Mini-Fridge
5. Alpicool C20
4. Norcold NRF30
3. Koolatron Voyager
2. Wagan Fridge/Warmer
1. Dometic Dual Zone
Keeping Your Cool!
So you're getting ready for that family camping trip or exciting tailgating party, but you really don't want to worry about stopping at gas stations to pick up bags of quickly-melting ice just to keep your food and drinks cold along the way.
You want convenience, not to be stuck drinking warm soda or eating a soggy turkey sandwich in the middle of nowhere if you don't have to. After all, why should you or your family have to sacrifice the quality of a refreshment just because you happen to be traveling? The truth is, you don't have to.
The portable electric cooler solves many basic travel problems when it comes to eating, drinking, or entertaining on the go. This is accomplished through the thermoelectric cooling principle.
Thermoelectric cooling technology is the driving force behind the operational convenience of your portable electric mini-fridge. Thermoelectric coolers use what's known as the Peltier effect, which describes the process of an electrical current being applied across a junction between two dissimilar metals. With this effect, heat from one side of the device is transferred to the other. The hot side of the device is also attached to a heat sink, which keeps it at ambient temperature. This allows the cold side to drop below room temperature.
You might be thinking that the concept of a portable fridge is pretty simple and limited to a small consumer niche, but the fact is that in addition to keeping that turkey sandwich cold and crisp, thermoelectricity is also a simple and reliable source for power generation in other applications, including space and interplanetary travel.
The innovation of Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTG), for example, has been used by NASA for a variety of missions, including Apollo, Pioneer, and Voyager among others. Such technology provides simplicity without the need for reliance on solar energy. This allows the power source to run for years because there are very few moving parts to be concerned with. The same can be said for your electric cooler. Few moving parts means minimal energy output and less of a drain on your car's power source.
It's What Your Cooler Can Do For You
Electric coolers offer a degree of versatility not found with conventional refrigerators. Aside from the obvious fact that they're portable, these coolers are small and compact, making them terrific solutions for long road trips. They're easy to open/close and many offer thick insulation to maintain a constant temperature. Many available cooler models can be used both upright or as a storage chest and deliver multiple shelving options.
Additionally, the electric cooler doesn't require the use of ice to keep things cold. Somehow, the idea of your food or drink sitting in a pool of melting ice doesn't give you a lot of confidence that it's being kept in the freshest of environments. An iceless cooler, by contrast, keeps things fresh for extended periods of time.
Finally, imagine that you're hosting a tailgating party and want to give your guests ice-cold beers. Your guests might not appreciate reaching into a chest full of water to fish for their beverage. Removing ice from the picture makes your life easier in that regard, since your guests' hands stay dry. You also don't have to worry about finding a place to drain all that excess water. Using thermoelectric cooling technology eliminates the need for wasting those resources, while remaining friendly to the environment so that you can actually enjoy that party without any guilt.
The Evolving Cooling Effect
Early studies of thermoelectricity began before the world wars in western Europe by academic scientists centered in Berlin. In 1821, Thomas Johann Seebeck discovered that an electric circuit made from two dissimilar metals, and with junctions at different temperatures, would deflect a compass magnet. Seebeck thought that this action was due to the magnetism induced by the temperature difference itself and that it may have had something to do with Earth's magnetic field.
He later determined that it was a thermoelectric force that accounted for the electrical current and that it was the catalyst for the compass deflection. This temperature difference produces an electric potential that drives an electric current within a closed circuit. It is this process that came to be known as the Seebeck effect.
In 1834, French watchmaker (and part-time physicist) Jean Charles Athanase Peltier discovered that an electrical current would produce either a heating or cooling effect at the junction of two dissimilar metals, depending on the direction that the current was flowing. Peltier learned that heat could be removed from a junction in order to freeze water into ice, and that the current's direction could be reversed to generate heat to melt the ice instead. This directional dependence of an electrical current is known as the Peltier effect.
Twenty years later, William Thomson (later known as Lord Kelvin) offered a comprehensive explanation for both the Seebeck and Peltier effects, leading to a third discovery that heat is either absorbed or produced when an electrical current flows in a material with a temperature gradient. This effect is known as the Thomson effect.
The period between 1920 and 1970 was marked by a series of ups and downs for thermoelectric studies. However since 2000, the growing need for alternative energy sources has sparked new interest in the field, as well as renewed interest in using the technology to develop inexpensive and environmentally-friendly applications.