Thermoelectric cooler?
May 14, 2007 3:22 PM   Subscribe

Is there any reason that a portable electric cooler can't be used as a permanent refrigeration unit?

When I moved into my apartment, there was a regular sized refrigerator, which I replaced with a smaller unit, basically one and a half shelves with a drawer. For almost a year this has worked fine, sometimes the squeeze is a bit tight, but no biggie. For the summer, however, I'm feeling like I want to go on a salad kick (complete with homemade vinaigrettes), which would necessitate a bit more space. Since I definitely don't want a larger fridge, I've been considering getting a portable thermoelectric cooler, like this one. Is there any reason why something like this can't be plugged in pretty nonstop (I've already factored in having to get an adapter to turn the 12V power into something that I can plug into a regular electric socket). Any other ideas on more refrigeration if this won't work? Thanks!
posted by eunoia to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Why not a cooler that's actually made for regular home use? It would probably be more energy efficient than something that requires a transformer.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:54 PM on May 14, 2007

Even without the transformer, thermoelectric coolers are far less efficient than a standard fridge.

Most theroelectric coolers only keep things about 40 F cooler than the ambient temperature (YMMV). This might not be cold enough for some things, but if you are just keeping salad stuff in there it could be an advantage. Tomatoes, in particular, don't like to be too cold.
posted by yohko at 3:58 PM on May 14, 2007

Per cooled mass per unit temperature drop maintained by a refrigeration unit, units which use that effect consume far more power than more traditional refrigeration units based on evaporation of a refrigerant.

What that means is that the proposed thermoelectric cooler will use much more electricity and release much more heat into your apartment than a real refrigerator would. It would be like having a stove-top burner running all the time. You really want that in the summer?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:09 PM on May 14, 2007

I had a wine cooler that was powered by a thermoelectric cooling system. I got rid of it because it was loud (think electronic whine instead of a soothing compressor hum). The loudness was an unexpected side effect that drove me batty.
posted by donguanella at 6:05 PM on May 14, 2007

I use an Igloo electric cooler in my classroom. It is very quite. I have been running it for about 5 years now. Sometimes I take it home for the summer and use it for sodas. I usually unplug it for thanksgiving/winterbreak. (3 weeks).
It is supposed to use the same electricity as a 60 watt lightbulb.
posted by nimsey lou at 6:34 PM on May 14, 2007

Those plugin coolers use a peltier chip...2 disparate metals w/ a current applied and air moved across. Switch the polarity and it's a heater.

I've never seen one last a summer, much less 5 years, so you must be doing something right.

In other news, some car manufacturers are installing peltier blocks (multiple chips) for A/C systems, as it cools w/o additional drag on the motor. read: better mpg

If I were you I'd look at local outlet places for a minifridge, something actually INSULATED and designed to be run 24/7. You should be able to pick up one used for $15-60.
posted by TomMelee at 7:18 PM on May 14, 2007 it cools w/o additional drag on the motor.

Um, no. It means there's no compressor being driven directly by the engine, but the Peltier blocks draw current from the electrical system, which means that the alternator resists rotation much more strongly.

From their point of view the advantage of the Peltier-Seebeck effect is that it's much simpler and much cheaper. But there's no particular reason to believe it results in better mileage.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:05 PM on May 14, 2007

I have something similar to one of those personal coolers featured in the right hand column of your link. I had it my office running constantly for about two years, then it just stopped working. My dad replaced a 25ยข fuse and it's working again.
posted by clh at 11:06 PM on May 14, 2007

We have an espresso machine at work that has a little peltier cooler next to it to keep milk fresh. It has worked for at least 4 years non-stop. I have never noticed any noise.
Your plan sounds OK to me, with the caveat that it isn't as cold as a real compressor based fridge.
posted by bystander at 4:33 AM on May 15, 2007

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