The Best Thermoelectric Cooler – What Iceless Cooler is the Best Buy?
Updated by Brandon F. on June 16, 2019
Here at TheCoolerZone, we deal almost exclusively in “traditional” coolers. When we say “traditional”, we are referring to coolers that require ice or ice packs in order to properly function. However, there is another large category of coolers that we rarely discuss on this site: thermoelectric coolers or simply “electric coolers”.
Thermoelectric coolers are coolers that don’t utilize ice to keep their items cold. Instead, they are plugged into a power source and are kept cold thanks to the Peltier Effect (more on that below).
So what are the best thermoelectric coolers? If you are just after our top choices, check out the table below. If you want to get more detailed information on each of our thermoelectric cooler choices and catch up on thermoelectric cooler information in general, hop on below!
|Brand||Max Temperature||Min Temperature||Size Range (approx. quarts)||Cost ($/Quart) on Amazon||Our Full Review|
|Koolatron||135F||40F below ambient||7.5 to 52||$$$||Link|
|Igloo||N/A||38F below ambient||26 to 40||$$||Link|
|Coleman||40F above ambient||40F below ambient||40||$||Link|
|Rockpals||140F||45F below ambient||30||$$$$||Link|
|Della||no rating||no rating||40||$||Link|
|Wagan Tech||140F||35F||6 to 46||$$||Link|
|Cooluli||120F||30F||4 to 26||$$$||Link|
|Black & Decker||120F||40F below ambient||9||$$||Link|
What is a Thermoelectric Cooler and How Do They Work?
Thermoelectric coolers work in a way that is quite different than your typical coolers. Rather than harnessing the heat capacity of ice or ice packs, electric coolers take advantage of the Peltier Effect.
The Peltier Effect creates a temperature difference from one area to another by transferring heat between two separate electric junctions. By applying a voltage across the joined conductors, an electrical current is created. This current flows through the junctions of the conductors and this allows heat to be removed from one and deposited on another.
In simple terms, one side of the cooler gets hotter while the other gets colder. And obviously, your cool items hang out on the cool side! And some thermoelectric coolers are also designed to heat items but taking advantage of the hot side.
Electric coolers have some unique benefits over traditional cooling such as not having chlorofluorocarbons, more accurate temperature regulation, typically require less power, and can be designed in much smaller shapes. This makes them perfect for RVs, camping trips, or any other scenario where you don’t have a lot of space and limited power.
Thermoelectric Cooler Brands
As you might expect, there are plenty of brands in the thermoelectric cooler game. Some of them are brands you have likely recognized that make traditional coolers and others might be names you haven’t heard of. Below we go over the major brands.
Koolatron Thermoelectric Coolers
Koolatron is one of the most established names in the electric cooler game. While they do offer some traditional coolers, where they really shine is in their powered products. They offer a huge range of electric coolers to choose from, starting from their D25 Soft Bag Cooler and Travel Tote up to their much larger and more robust Koolatron P85 Krusader. They even have some wheeled options in their W65 and W75 Kool Wheeler Coolers that are essentially wheeled versions of their popular P65 and P75 series.
Most of their sizes have a rated temperature capability of 40 degrees below ambient temperature. In other words, if it is 60 degrees outside, they can cool things down to around 20 degrees internal. With a simple flip of the power cord, these units turn into warmers.
Typically, you can expect maximum temperatures of 135 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes these products great for road trips. It is important to remember, however, that there is no thermostat on these and you simply plug them in and they run.
Our favorite products by them are the P75, P20, and P27. If we had to pick one we would have to go with the P75 as it is a nice compromise between size, performance, and still being relatively easy to transport. Asking prices are also quite reasonable for what you are getting.
Igloo Thermoelectric Coolers
Igloo Coolers are probably a brand that most people recognize. However, a lot of people are surprised when they come to find out that Igloo also offers up some well-received iceless coolers to go along with their traditional coolers. While they have had several model changes and facelifts, their top two thermoelectric coolers (as far as we are concerned) are the Breeze 28 and the Powerchill 40.
As the names suggest, the Breeze 28 has 28 quarts of storage and the Powerchill 40 comes with 40 quarts. These are good, portable sizes that can handle a decent amount of items (particularly when you remember that you don’t have to share the storage volume with ice!)
In terms of performance, the Igloo Breeze 28 is capable of dropping the internal temperature by 36 degrees while the larger and more powerful Powerchill 40 bumps this number up to 38. There is no heating feature here and we do wish the lids were a bit more robust, but they come in at a very attractive asking price and are quite reliable despite these small flaws. Both units can be plugged into any standard 12V outlet or, with the inclusion of a 110V adapter, can be plugged into most power sources on a car or RV.
If we had to choose one, we would go with the Powerchill 40. The increased storage volume and a slight bump in performance are very welcome and make this a great buy.
Coleman Thermoelectric Coolers
Coleman is another brand that is very recognizable by most cooler enthusiasts. They have a small selection of thermoelectric coolers (2 of them actually!), and both models are based on a similar 40-quart structure. The Coleman Powerchill comes in both a cooling version as well as a cooling/heating version for a slight upcharge.
With the Coleman Powerchill Thermoelectric cooler, you can take advantage of a 40 degrees drop in internal temperature. Similarly, if you buy the version that can also heat up, you will see around a 40 degrees potential increase in internal temperature as well. This 80-degree overall range is quite impressive and among the higher ranges we have seen.
We also like the styling of the Coleman Powerchill series. The external color and aesthetics are quite nice and will blend in nicely with most vehicle settings. This may not be a big issue for those using it for a temporary solution but for others who want to make it a permanent fixture in their car or RV, having something that looks nice might come more into consideration.
For the nice operation range, rather large storage size, and good looks, the asking price is very competitive and a bargain in our book.
Rockpals Thermoelectric Coolers
Rockpals is one of the lesser-known cooler brands we have come across. In fact, they sell a lot of things outside of coolers. However, despite their lack of experience and product selection, they do offer up one of the most popular and best-selling thermoelectric coolers around. Their 30 Quart wheeled cooler has been a popular item for quite some time now and for good reason.
Coming in at 30 quarts, it hits that happy medium between having ample storage volume while still being portable. The fact that it also comes with tires and an extending carrying handle make it much more mobile than most of the other electric coolers on the market.
For performance, Rockpals states that you can expect temperature drops of up to 45 degrees Fahrenheit which is extremely high and among the best ratings we have come across. With a simple flip of the cord, you can convert his cooler into a heater with a maximum internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It is powered by the same 12V plugin that we are used to seeing but there are apparently some conversion kits out there to allow it to be plugged into other power sources.
Asking prices are a bit higher for this compared to some of the other products we have discussed but the superior performance and added mobility more than justify the slight upcharge.
Della Thermoelectric Coolers
Della has a lot of experience selling various appliances and home goods. In regards to their electric coolers, they have one relatively popular product in their 40 Quart 12V Cooler/Warmer.
This cooler has everything we like to see in an electric cooler: plenty of storage space, added mobility through wheels, and both cooling and heating settings. The heating and cooling elements are powered by 40 Watts on the hot side and 48 Watts on the cold side. This combines for good cooling performance whether you are trying to keep something cooler or keep it warm.
The biggest selling point of this product for us (outside of having many of the features we look for) is the very competitive asking price. For the size, it is among the most affordable electric coolers out there. However, there are some minor quality issues that you might run into which is the price you pay for such an affordable cooler. Still, for those on a tight budget, it is worth considering.
Wagan Tech Thermoelectric Coolers
Wagan brings to the table a selection of very different electric coolers. They offer a quite large 46 quart all the way down to a much more portable 6 liter via their Wagan 2260 series. In between this are multiple other options including a 7 liter, 10.5 liter, 14 liter, and a 24 liter. All of these coolers hit totally different target audiences but are worth mentioning in this review.
The largest size, the 46 Quart, is rather mobile despite its lofty dimensions thanks to wheels and a center carrying handle. The smaller 226 series up to 6224 series are really designed to hold a few cans up to 27 cans and are shaped perfectly to be nestled up in between the seats in your car.
We were actually quite surprised in just how well the smaller units performed. They can get as cold as 35 degrees Fahrenheit and as hot as 140 degrees Fahrenheit. However, a lot of this range will depend on the ambient temperature you are working with.
Power output fluctuates but is between 40 Watts and 55 Watts. This is about average.
The major issue we have with this brand is in the quality. There have been several complaints about units breaking prematurely. So despite the competitive asking price, you may find yourself having to buy a new model much sooner than you would have hoped.
Cooluli Thermoelectric Coolers
Cooluli has a very clever name so this brand instantly caught our attention. They have four different models that they sell online: Their 4 Liter, 10 Liter, 15 Liter, and 26 Liter. While all of these hover on the small to medium side, there is enough of a size range to meet most people’s needs (since you don’t have to fill these with ice it opens up a lot more space when compared to traditional coolers).
Our favorite aspect of Cooluli Thermoelectric Coolers is in their styling. They have a very retro look to them and definitely stand out from most of the competition. They are one of the few coolers we have reviewed that you may actually look forward to showing off thanks to their looks!
Another huge benefit of these is in their user-friendliness. Some of their models come with digital LED displays and have a simple push button for switching between hot and cold instead of being required to physically swap out a cord.
That being said, performance isn’t quite as good as some of the other models we have looked at. While things can get pretty chilly with a maximum cold of around 30 degrees, Cooluli states that the maximum heat is capped at around 120F. This is still viable but by no means leads the pack.
If we had to pick one model to go with, we would recommend the small 10 liter. We absolutely love its styling and convenience.
Black & Decker Thermoelectric Coolers
We had to mention the Black & Decker Thermoelectric Cooler because of the name alone. Just about everybody has heard of Black & Decker but few people knew that they actually made a thermoelectric cooler as well!
That being said, we aren’t super impressed with this model. The TCs04B is quite small, only being able to carry around 8 cans. Also, the performance is somewhat lacking. The 12-volt power supply just doesn’t seem to put out the impressive cooling and heating numbers that other models have achieved. Also, there are some quality issues with the unit going out much sooner than you would have hoped.
The major selling points are the great mobility and price. You can stick this cooler just about anywhere and it is very affordable.
DS18 Thermoelectric Coolers
This brand appears to be quite new to the thermoelectric cooler game. However, after research and testing, we have determined that the performance just isn’t there and is powered by the 12V source we are used to seeing. The single model available comes in at 26L. While this is quite large, you may struggle to keep your items properly chilled or warm. There are also some notable quality control issues that can result in the product breaking shortly after purchase.
Things to Consider When Shopping for a New Thermoelectric Cooler
As you have seen from our lineup of reviews on various thermoelectric coolers, there are quite a few variables at play. Beyond this, there are notable differences that make thermoelectric coolers stand out from conventional coolers and even normal refrigerators and freezers. Below are some key considerations you need to make while shopping.
How much storage space do you need?
While there are a nice variety of sizes to choose from, typically electric coolers will cap out at a lower size than some traditional coolers. If you have browsed TheCoolerZone.com for very long, you have likely seen that coolers can go up to sizes that are several hundred quarts! This is enough room to pack food and drinks for a small army. You will likely not see any iceless coolers that are this big so if you need require that much storage space you may want to stick to a conventional cooler or refrigerator. That being said since you don’t need to include ice inside these you do get a nice boost of usable storage space.
Do you have a power source?
This one is kind of a no-brainer but still worth mentioning. Do you know what a thermoelectric cooler is without power? Nothing more than a box! These coolers are not designed to operate unless plugged in. In addition, most are designed to plug into a 12V power supply. So if you are going to be somewhere that doesn’t have a power source or that has a power source that isn’t 12V you are either going to need to think of another option or purchase a power converter.
What sort of storage temperature are you after?
Electric coolers are governed by the ambient air around them. When you plug in a typical freezer or fill a typical cooler with ice, you can expect a pretty consistent internal temperature. That isn’t the case for thermoelectric coolers. Many are rated to +/- a certain range compared to the outside air. So if it is extremely hot outside (100F) and your electric cooler has a minimum temperature range of -40F ambient, then you will only experience a storage temperature of 60F! We have seen countless times where people purchased a thermoelectric cooler to store frozen good only to realize that everything has melted after a short period of time. The same can be said on the upper end in regards to keeping items hot or warm.
How mobile are you going to be?
This one sort of goes in hand with requiring a power source. If you plan on hiking, kayaking, biking, or any other activity that involves moving around a lot then an iceless cooler probably isn’t for you. That fact it requires being plugged in means that you will have to make sure that your power source follows you along wherever you go.
If you know wherever you are going will have a limited supply of ice then a thermo cooler might be a wise investment. It takes the headache of chasing down and replacing ice out of the equation.
Thermoelectric coolers are a nice addition to one’s cooler lineup. They have a very specific purpose and only work in certain settings but when these requirements are met, you get to enjoy a product that really does things that normal coolers (and even normal refrigerators and freezers) are unable to do.
After tons of research and testing, we have given you our top choices for electric coolers. We hope that this helps you make the best decision for you and your needs.