Sunday, August 1, 2010


For a few years, I had a pretty good system going: I'd buy 5lb block ice at a few places near where I was often located anyway, round the square edges off by smacking it with a hammer, then stuff it into a very cool stainless steel ice bucket I bought at Smart & Final for like $20. The block ice would last 5-7 days on average (unlike 2-3 days for ice cubes or 1 day for crushed ice). When the ice melted, I'd dump the water into my 1 gallon cleaning water container, which had a hose and a spraybottle nozzle, and that would be my cleaning water. Efficient and easy!

But I was getting really frustrated with dealing with ice though. It was getting expensive: $3.50 a block. Block ice is only available in a few places, and I wa finding myself in those areas less and less. With biodiesel up to $4/gal now, driving from where I was, just to get ice, was an extra $5 cost or more! And some of the places started to run out of it more frequently.

So I trolled Craigslist and found an Evercool electric TEC cooler for $75, and bought it. It's interesting.

It is a TEC, so it cools only to 20 degrees below ambient. So, in 60-degree fog near the Pacific Ocean, it'll refrigerate food to 40 degrees. But anywhere else, it's just a cooler, and the food will spoil. I suppose I should keep my ice bucket around for dealing with hot weather.

Also, it's noisy. The fan is on ALL the time, it has no thermostat. The fan is about the same loudness as my netbook, but I don't try to sleep with my netbook on. And, it uses 4A at 12v. That's twice what a TruckFridge uses, but a TruckFridge is like $600, and this was $75.

So I first of all built a cabinet for the cooler, and insulated it to keep the noise down. I've got ducts to its intake and exhaust, and will run them outdoors for better cooling and also for noise reduction. I'm building a little microcontroller thermostat for the cooler, to run it on a sparse schedule on cloudy days to allow my batteries to charge, and on an even sparser schedule at night to avoid draining the batteries too much in the first place.

I enjoy not having to scramble around getting ice anymore though, at least in cool weather.

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