how does an electric cool box work

If you’re searching for a camping fridge, you might want to consider a cool box. There are several options to choose from. But no matter your requirements, they keep the air in the interior cool to ensure that your drink and snacks stay refreshingly cold.

If you’re wondering how an electric cool box works, then learning about the technology behind them may make your decision easier. We have created this handy guide to answer some of your queries.

What Is the Purpose of an Electric Coolbox?

There are several reasons to purchase coolboxes, such as providing additional space for campers to store food on travels. But the main objective is to keep food and drink cold while not stored in a fridge. Even without the need for ice, these electrical coolboxes will keep your food cold for the entire getaway. Whether you’re a first-time camper or want these products as a second fridge at home, a coolbox is a handy gadget to own.

taking out beer bottles from a cooler

How Do These Things Work?

So, how does an electric cool box work? Electric coolboxes use a Peltier effect as a cooling method. It is placed on the coolbox’s lid so that it’s out of the way of food and drink. Along with a fan system, it transfers heat from the inside of the box to the outside to keep beverages cooler for longer.

In addition, coolboxes get their power from a 12V port in your car or mains at home or a campsite. If you leave the battery on in your car without starting the engine, this power could drain your vehicle’s battery. However, it’s a great option for keeping food and drink cool while travelling.

What Are the Different Types of Cooling Technologies?

Not all portable fridges offer the same experience because they use different technologies. A thermoelectric cool box is lightweight, uses 12/24V for power, maintains an ambient temperature, and utilises a cooling power that prevents mould build-up.

Alternatively, the technology used in compressor fridges is powerful and can even keep snacks frozen. Plus, it operates at low power and performs well in various environments. Many cool boxes using this technology are also suitable for solar operation and feature integrated battery protection.

Finally, gas-powered cooling technology allows you to keep snacks cool while you’re travelling off the grid. They boast a silent operation, making them one of the best products for quieter areas or where people are sleeping. They’re also available in a 3-way power option – 12V and 230V, and a gas operation.

How Long Do Electric Coolboxes Remain Cool?

Coolboxes typically remain cool for up to two days, with the largest models remaining cooler for longer. However, electric coolboxes can stay cool for as long as they are plugged in. If you are not going to have access to a power source on your trip, you may need to consider different options.

In planning your camping trip, you should also consider the time of year you will be travelling in and not only how long you’ll be on the road. For example, if you’ll be on a camping site for several days in the summer, a compressor cooler can freeze snacks if you need it to. However, it will require more energy to power.

But for a week’s trip, an absorption cooler might be a more energy-efficient option. It might not be the most powerful type of coolbox, but you can store ice packs into the fridge’s component to keep contents cool.

Finally, a thermoelectric fridge requires your snacks to be cool before you set off on your camping holiday. If you need to power it using your car, any of these models will drain the battery. Therefore, be sure to look for something that will last longer if this isn’t an option.

What Temperature Does a Coolbox Operate At?

The Peltier plate inside of a thermoelectric cooler can reach four degrees Celsius lower than the ambient temperature. Compared to home and camping fridges, coolboxes are capable of differential cooling, which means that the hotter it is on the outside, the cooler it’ll remain on the inside. This makes the appliance ideal for keeping snacks and drink cool in summer.

Can You Refrigerate and Freeze at the Same Time?

Fortunately, many products feature a freezing and fridge mode and two independent temperature zones. This means that you can keep several items at their ideal temperatures in the same box.

As a result, you don’t have to hook up two different boxes and can keep your ice cream and bacon in the same cool box.

Important Factors to Consider When Buying a Cool Box

Cool boxes may be the perfect addition to camping or in scenarios where you don’t have access to fridges. But before you purchase a cool box, there are several important considerations.

Portability and Capacity

First, what size model are you looking for? If portability is the most important factor for you, check if the cool box has wheels or ergonomic handles. These features allow you to take it with you from one destination to another, ideal for campers looking to travel around a little more.

More importantly, bear in mind the size you’re looking for based on the amount of drink and snacks you’ll be transporting. If you want to use the cool box as an additional fridge in your home, consider a 50-litre model. This capacity will hold around 80 cans. But bigger isn’t always better. To keep the cool box at its optimum temperature and improve its power consumption and energy, ensure that it’s full. Otherwise, it might not maintain a low temperature.

Design and Shape

electric cool box with drinks

The cool box’s shape is essential for organisation and fitting in everything you need for vacations. If you want to bring wine with you, consider coolboxes with a designated section for bottles. Or you can look for ones with dividers to help separate snacks from other stuff.

Furthermore, if you want to store large water bottles on top, you’ll need a tall coolbox to accommodate these. Also, you want to ensure that ample cool air can circulate in between the snacks and drinks – even when the lid is closed.

Also, you might want the power cable’s length to be sufficient enough so you can charge the camping fridge while driving – without having to position it too close to you.


Finally, look for options with ample insulation that is lightweight and energy-efficient. One of the best materials is polyurethane foam.

Most importantly, read other customers reviews to see their experience with each coolbox, to find which can keep your snacks cooler for longer.

Is an Electric Coolbox Better Than a Non-Electric?

Electric coolers act like mini-fridges and can keep anything cool for a prolonged time. With a 12V consumption, they provide incredible performance that’s ideal for road getaways as long as you have the means to power it. However, if you add ice blocks to the coolbox, it can continue to insulate anything inside without power consumption.

On the other hand, electric coolers can sometimes make your food too cold. You can’t alter the temperature of each item inside, too, by placing some snacks on top to make them cooler than those below. Because of the powerful performance, these compressor coolboxes can be heavy, making them difficult to transport.

Are Cool Boxes More Effective Than Cool Bags?

When considering cool boxes, you might have also thought of using ice packs to keep beverages at the optimum temperature. But which are more effective? Generally speaking, cool boxes are the best options for keeping snacks cool, thanks to their greater insulation.

Although cool bags don’t offer the same cooling performance, they don’t require mains power or charging to function. Due to their design, cool bags are also much lighter than coolboxes. Also, you can fold up the item when it’s empty, making it ideal for limited storage space.

Which Models Are Your Favourite?

We hope you enjoyed this guide for discovering exactly how does an electric cool box work. Using either the car or mains power to function, these boxes can keep your snacks cool for as long as you need. Whether you’re camping, on the road, or having a caravan holiday, an electric cooler is a great option for all your needs.

Let us know your experience with different models in the comments.

Additional Resources


  1. Hi! I bought a 12v cooler box for a road trip I had planned over 2 days. The adverts and claims for the cooling were what sold it , and the reviews. I have to say disappointed was not even close to what I felt. It didnt cool my drinks at all. I could have left my drinks in a non cooler bag and had the same effect. It seems ok at keeping the temp constant, but not cooling in my opinion. I will be buying a 3 way cooler box (one that has refrigerant) as I know they work, although they are much more expensive.

  2. There’s a lot of marketing around the thermoelectric cool boxes. To me they only serve one purpose – keeping items like drinks up to 18 degrees cooler than the ambient outside temperature while on a day trip. They have a lot less insulation than a passive cool box so will soon heat up when disconnected, they also unable to keep items like milk at fridge temperature unlike a passive coolbox or compressor driven one.

    Unlike what the above article states the thermoelectric cool boxes are also the lease energy efficient. In fact they’re really in efficient drawing up to 5Amps (50w). A compressor is a lot more efficient turning on/off as needed to maintain a set temperature.

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