5 Best Thermoelectric Coolers Reviewed & Tested [Buying Guide]

5 Best Thermoelectric Coolers Reviewed & Tested [Buying Guide]
thermoelectric cooler
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If you’re looking for the best bang-for-your-buck off-grid refrigeration option, it’s hard to beat thermoelectric coolers.

They’re both inexpensive to buy and a real bargain to operate over time. 

And while they don’t offer quite the same performance as other off-grid refrigerator options,  they’re a great solution for tiny house enthusiasts and off-grid dwellers looking to live minimally and save money, and I can’t recommend them enough. 

In this article, I review what I believe are the top 5 thermoelectric coolers on the market today, so you can feel confident you are getting the right thermoelectric cooler for your needs. 

5 Best Thermoelectric Coolers
Dometic TC35 Thermoelectric Cooler
Igloo Iceless Thermoelectric 40 Quart Cooler
Coleman 40-Quart Powerchill Iceless Cooler
Igloo Thermoelectric 26 Quart Cooler
Knox Electric Cooler and Warmer
Dometic TC35-DC-A 12V Tropicool Tc35 Thermoelectric Cooler/Warmer
Igloo Iceless 40 Qt Thermoelectric Cooler, Grey, Model Number: 00040374
Coleman 40-Quart PowerChill Thermoelectric Cooler with Power Cord, Black/Silver
Igloo Iceless Thermoelectric Cooler
Knox Electric Cooler and Warmer for Car and Home with Automatic Locking Handle - 27 Quart (25 Liter) – Holds 30 Cans - Dual 110V AC House and 12V DC Vehicle Plugs
Our Ranking
Best Overall Value
2 Best Overall Option
Best Compact Option
Best Super-Compact Option
Best energy efficient option
Power Draw
45 W per hour
55 W per hour
60 W per hour
48 W per hour
48 W per hour
Storage Capacity
33L
38L
38L
24L
25L
Temperature Drop
Lowers temp by 32 °F
Lowers temp by 38 °F
Lowers temp by 40 °F
Lowers temp by 36 °F
Lowers temp by 40 °F
Why We Love This One
Fantastic durability & dependability
Best value option
Offers upright mode (to fit in tiny spaces)
It’s lightweight and small size
Offers good value for the price
Prime Status
Price
Price not available
$210.99
$117.04
Price not available
$58.99
5 Best Thermoelectric Coolers
Dometic TC35 Thermoelectric Cooler
Dometic TC35-DC-A 12V Tropicool Tc35 Thermoelectric Cooler/Warmer
Our Ranking
Best Overall Value
Power Draw
45 W per hour
Storage Capacity
33L
Temperature Drop
Lowers temp by 32 °F
Why We Love This One
Fantastic durability & dependability
Prime Status
Price
Price not available
More Information
5 Best Thermoelectric Coolers
Igloo Iceless Thermoelectric 40 Quart Cooler
Igloo Iceless 40 Qt Thermoelectric Cooler, Grey, Model Number: 00040374
Our Ranking
2 Best Overall Option
Power Draw
55 W per hour
Storage Capacity
38L
Temperature Drop
Lowers temp by 38 °F
Why We Love This One
Best value option
Prime Status
Price
$210.99
More Information
5 Best Thermoelectric Coolers
Coleman 40-Quart Powerchill Iceless Cooler
Coleman 40-Quart PowerChill Thermoelectric Cooler with Power Cord, Black/Silver
Our Ranking
Best Compact Option
Power Draw
60 W per hour
Storage Capacity
38L
Temperature Drop
Lowers temp by 40 °F
Why We Love This One
Offers upright mode (to fit in tiny spaces)
Prime Status
Price
$117.04
More Information
5 Best Thermoelectric Coolers
Igloo Thermoelectric 26 Quart Cooler
Igloo Iceless Thermoelectric Cooler
Our Ranking
Best Super-Compact Option
Power Draw
48 W per hour
Storage Capacity
24L
Temperature Drop
Lowers temp by 36 °F
Why We Love This One
It’s lightweight and small size
Prime Status
Price
Price not available
More Information
5 Best Thermoelectric Coolers
Knox Electric Cooler and Warmer
Knox Electric Cooler and Warmer for Car and Home with Automatic Locking Handle - 27 Quart (25 Liter) – Holds 30 Cans - Dual 110V AC House and 12V DC Vehicle Plugs
Our Ranking
Best energy efficient option
Power Draw
48 W per hour
Storage Capacity
25L
Temperature Drop
Lowers temp by 40 °F
Why We Love This One
Offers good value for the price
Prime Status
Price
$58.99
More Information

Thermoelectric Cooler

Features

  • Runs on either 110 V AC or 12 V DC for considerable flexibility
  • Capable of chilling food down 32 °F
  • Just the right size for essential groceries for one to two people
  • Extremely durable and built to last for years
  • Operates in near silence, perfect for a small space like a tiny house or off-grid cabin

OUR RATING



Our #1 Rated (For Best Overall Pick)

5/5

5 out of 5

Dometic is one of the most well-known names in the RV and off-grid electronics world. They make a range of DC powered refrigerators, including the TC35 thermoelectric cooler. It’s a 33L chest style thermoelectric cooler capable of chilling your food down by 32 °F. That’s enough space to store the essentials for one to two people for several days. It can keep food at a safe storage temperature in climates as hot as 72 °F.  Dometic TC35 That’s slightly less cooling capability than some other coolers on my list, but I think the Dometic makes up for it in other ways. To start with, it’s practically indestructible. The TC35 is made from a highly durable composite and offers some of the thickest insulation available. This helps reduce overall power draw to save you money and keep your food at the proper temperatures. It can run on either 110 V AC or 12 V DC depending on your needs.
I love how easy it is to set up and operate. It has an intuitive seven-stage digital temperature control on the front that lets you switch between warming or cooling mode and set the temperature you desire. It’s a bit more expensive than many other thermoelectric coolers, but you get a lot of quality and performance for your money. All in all, the Dometic TC35 is a well designed and feature-packed thermoelectric cooler. It doesn’t have room for more than the essentials, but its combination of durability, energy efficiency, and flexibility make it a real winner in my book. Dometic TC35 Review

Specifications:

    • Power Draw: 45 W per hour
    • Storage Capacity: 33L
    • Dimensions: 21.65″ x 18.11″ x 14.8″
    • Temperature Drop/Rise: Lower temperature by 32 °F drop or raise temperature by 65 °F

Pros 

  • Runs on either 110 V AC or 12 V DC for considerable flexibility
  • Capable of chilling food down 32 °F
  • Just the right size for essential groceries for one to two people
  • Extremely durable and built to last for years
  • Operates in near silence, perfect for a small space like a tiny house or off-grid cabin

Cons

  • Too small for most families or a week’s groceries for two
  • Won’t work in areas with a temperature higher than 72 °F

Our #2 Rated Off Grid Thermelectric Cooler: Igloo Iceless 40 Quart Cooler (Largest Storage Capacity)

Features

    • Large capacity for a thermoelectric cooler

    • Great energy efficiency

    • Available in both 110 AC and 12 V DC

    • Capable of cooling down 38 °F from room temperature

OUR RATING



Our #2 Rated

4.7/5

4.7 out of 5

Igloo is a name anyone who’s ever been boating or camping will recognize. What you may not have known is that they’ve now entered the thermoelectric cooler market. The Igloo Iceless 40 quart (38L) thermoelectric cooler is a spacious offering with both good and bad features. To start with, it ties for the largest cooler on the list, just edging out the top-ranked Dometic TC35. It gives you a little bit more room for groceries, but doesn’t offer quite the same performance.  Igloo Iceless 40 I’ll start with the things I like about this Igloo. It’s capable of lowering internal temps by 38 °F from room temperature. That means you can keep your food at a safe temperature as long as your home’s temperature doesn’t rise above about 78 °F. It can be powered via 110 V AC or 12 V DC and has a small fan to help speed up temperature drop internally. You can use it either upright like a mini-fridge or as a traditional cooler/chest fridge. Here’s where things start to change. On paper, it’s able to lower temperatures more than the Dometic, but in practice, it’s noticeably less insulation puts it more at the mercy of outside temps. The Igloo’s internal temperature begins rising faster than the Dometic TC35’s when outside temps go up.  It’s also a lot less durable. It’s basically a standard Igloo cooler with a thermoelectric cooling apparatus built-in. The lid doesn’t lock with the same satisfying strength to it and the body itself just feels flimsier. Overall though, I still like the Igloo Iceless Cooler, especially if you plan to put it in one part of your home and leave it there. It’s priced significantly lower than the Dometic TC35, and for that low price point, it’s the best thermoelectric cooler you will find.  Igloo Iceless 40 Review

Specifications:

  • Power Draw: 55 W per hour
  • Storage Capacity: 38L
  • Dimensions:
  • Temperature Drop: Lower temp by 38 °F

Pros 

  • Fairly large capacity for a thermoelectric cooler
  • Energy efficient
  • Available in both 110 AC and 12 V DC
  • Capable of cooling down 38 °F from room temperature

Cons

  • Doesn’t offer warming function
  • Less insulation than I’d like to see, causing temperatures to fluctuate faster if ambient temperatures rise
  • Less durable than some other thermoelectric coolers on this list

Our #3 Rated Off Grid Thermoelectric Cooler: Coleman 40-Quart Powerchill Iceless Cooler (Most Versatile)

Features

  • Runs on either 110 V AC or 12 V DC

  • Door can open either to the left or right in upright mode

  • Fits just enough food for one or a couple

  • Offers 40 °F of cooling capacity

  •  

OUR RATING



Our #3 Rated

4.6/5

4.6 out of 5

The Coleman Powerchill Iceless Cooler is a large and versatile thermoelectric cooler from one of the most well-known outdoor brands in the world. It offers 40 quart (38L) capacity and is a great option for those living off-grid in very compact spaces. It provides just enough space for 3-5 days worth of groceries for 2-3 days for a couple. It’s capable of lowering the internal temperature by 40 °F, allowing it to keep your food at a safe temperature in rooms with an ambient temp around 80 °F. It can be used either upright or as a traditional chest cooler. Coleman 40-Quart Review Some of the features I really liked about the Powerchill were its fairly rugged construction and patented door opening design. You can open up this cooler from the right or the left when in upright mode. If you’ve got a very compact space, like in a tiny house, this offers a lot of flexibility in where you put it. The biggest downsides to the Powerchill were its relatively loud circulating fan and lower efficiency. The fan was just about the loudest of any thermoelectric coolers on this list. It wasn’t super noticeable most of the time, but became a lot more so during a quiet night, especially in a small space like an off-grid tiny home. In balance, the Coleman Powerchill offers a good value for your money, with decent performance and relatively large capacity. The only real things to worry about are its higher power draw and louder fan.

Specifications:

  • Power Draw: 60 W per hour
  • Storage Capacity: 38L
  • Dimensions: 21.75″L x 15″W x 17.125″H
  • Temperature Drop: Lowers temp by 40 °F

Pros 

  • Runs on either 110 V AC or 12 V DC
  • Door can open either to the left or right in upright mode
  • Fits just enough food for one or a couple
  • Offers 40 °F of cooling capacity

Cons

  • Circulating fan is noticeably louder than other thermoelectric coolers
  • Draws more power for the same capacity than some other coolers

Our #4 Rated Off Grid Propane Refrigerator: Igloo Thermoelectric 26 Quart Cooler

Thermoelectric Cooler

Features

    • Compact and easy to move around

    • Good for people who need a small amount of refrigerator space

    • Runs on both 110 V AC or 12 V DC

    • Capable of lowering temps by 36 °F

OUR RATING



Our #4 Rated

4.4/5

4.4 out of 5

The Igloo 26 Quart (24L) thermoelectric cooler is a smaller and more portable version of their 40-quart cooler. It’s made from the same polycarbonate cooler body with a thermoelectric cooling apparatus attached. It’s capable of lowering internal temperatures by as much as 36 °F. This allows you to use it safely in temps as high as 76 °F.  Let’s get the elephant out of the room right awaythis is a very small cooler. 24L isn’t big enough to hold more than a day or two’s worth of food for one to two people.  It certainly won’t hold drinks, food, and other essentials together.  What I do like about it is how portable and storable it is.  You can put this little cooler just about anywhere, whether it be a tiny home, off grid cabin, or RV/Van. This makes it a viable option for folks who travel regularly in their home. It’s capable of operating on both 110 V AC or 12 V DC, though it only comes with a DC cigarette style plug. You have to pick up the AC adapter separately. If you’re okay with making more frequent grocery runs or if you only need a restricted refrigerated space, this can be a good option. It’s lightweight, easy to use, and really affordable.

Specifications:

  • Power Draw: 48 W per hour
  • Storage Capacity: 24L
  • Dimensions: 18.19″ L x 13.13″ W x 15.5″ D
  • Temperature Drop: Lowers temp by 36 °F

Pros 

  • Compact and easy to move around
  • Good for people who need a very small amount of refrigerator space
  • Runs on both 110 V AC or 12 V DC
  • Capable of lowering temps by 36 °F

Cons

  • Doesn’t include AC adaptor
  • Too small for more than a day or two’s worth of groceries
  • Lid doesn’t lock closed

Our #5 Rated Off Grid Thermoelectric Cooler: Knox Electric Cooler and Warmer (Best Budget Option)

Features

  • Relatively energy efficient

  • Runs on both 110 V AC or 12 V DC

  • Capable of lowering temps by a full 40 °F

  • Lightweight and easy to fit just about anywhere

OUR RATING



Our #5 Rated

4.3/5

4.3 out of 5

The Knox Electric Thermoelectric Cooler and warmer is another small capacity cooler option; it gives you 27 quarts (25L) of storage space  That’s just enough space for 2-3 days worth of food for one person or 1-2 days for two people. It can lower temperatures down by 40 °F, allowing for safe food storage in rooms as warm as 80 °F.  It runs off both 110 V AC or 12 V DC and comes with plugs/adaptors for both options. This lets you hook it up to your solar system in several different ways.  As a small-capacity cooler, it won’t be breaking any records for insulation or storage space. It’s got slightly thinner walls than most other coolers on my list but still does a good job getting the temp down to an acceptable level. Knox Electric Thermoelectric Cooler While I wouldn’t recommend this as my first choice, the Knox Electric Cooler and Warmer gets the job done. It’s the most affordable coolers on this list and is exceptional value for those looking for enough cooler space for 2-3 days at a great price. Knox Electric Cooler Review

Specifications:

  • Power Draw: 48 W per hour
  • Storage Capacity: 25L
  • Dimensions: 13” x 17.2” x 18.4”
  • Temperature Drop/Raise: Lowers or raises temperature by 40 °F from room temperature

Pros 

  • Relatively energy efficient
  • Runs on both 110 V AC or 12 V DC
  • Capable of lowering temps by a full 40 °F
  • Lightweight and easy to fit just about anywhere

Cons

  • Lack of insulation makes it more affected by outside temperature changes
  • Non Locking lid
  • Definitely too small for more than one to two people

How Thermoelectric Coolers Work 

Thermoelectric coolers rely on a chemical process known as the Peltier Effect. Simply put, when an electrical current is passed through two different conductor materials, there’s a transfer of temperature.

Modern thermoelectric coolers have many of these connectors that attach two different plates. One plate is located on the inside of the cooler while another acts as a heat sink on the outside.

When a current is passed through the numerous connections it allows heat to be directly transferred from one plate to the other. Some thermoelectric coolers also have a fan that helps cool off the exterior heat sink.

Benefits of a Thermoelectric Cooler

Affordable

Other than just buying a regular plastic cooler and filling it with ice it’s hard to beat the low price of most thermoelectric coolers. They’re a fraction of the cost of most propane or solar refrigerators of the same size. 

There are some exceptions to this of course, but on the whole thermoelectric coolers will be cheaper.

Durable 

Thermoelectric coolers have very few moving parts. Some models have a fan that moves air across the outside plate surface but otherwise relies entirely on solid-state mechanics.

This makes them highly durable and gives you a long, expected working life. Given their very affordable prices and good efficiency at smaller scales, a thermoelectric cooler can be one of the best value for your money refrigeration methods.

Great Temperature Control Within Their Range 

One of the coolest features of thermoelectric coolers is how precise they can be. Depending on the model we’re talking about you can set your cooler’s temp down to a single degree and reliably keep it there.

This is great if you want to keep your food quite cold but don’t want to worry about accidentally freezing it.

Some thermoelectric coolers have both heating and cooling capabilities. This isn’t always the most useful feature for off-grid life but if you have something you want to keep hot while driving it can be nice.

Highly Efficient at Small Sizes

When you’re talking about off-grid refrigeration energy efficiency becomes paramount. If you just need a refrigerator large enough to hold a few days worth of food a thermoelectric is about the most efficient option.

Keep in mind though that thermoelectric refrigerators rapidly become less efficient as they grow larger. A full-size solar refrigerator is a lot more efficient than a similarly sized thermoelectric model.

No Refrigerants Required

Thermoelectric coolers are the only powered off-grid fridge option that requires no refrigerants. They rely entirely on the Peltier effect to transfer heat. This means there’s no chance for refrigerants to leak out and potentially damage the environment.

Off-Grid Thermoelectric Cooler Buying Guide

Choosing the Right Size Thermoelectric Cooler 

As I mentioned above, you shouldn’t expect a full-size refrigerator when looking at thermoelectric coolers. They can’t compare to the efficiency of propane or solar refrigerators in larger sizes.

For smaller uses, such as a single individual or couple, they work just fine. The ceiling for most useful thermoelectric coolers is about 40l or 1.5 cubic feet. That’s enough space for several days groceries or medication that requires refrigeration.

Power Consumption 

Thermoelectric coolers draw power constantly while maintaining temperature. Because of this, you need an equally constant source of power. This can be either AC or DC power depending on the model cooler you choose.

If you already have a solar power system installed you need to find out how much power you can spare for a fridge. Most reasonably sized thermoelectric coolers will draw between 50 and 150 W per hour.

Check Your Climate

One of the fundamental weaknesses of thermoelectric coolers is their inability to adjust temperatures more than about 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit from the ambient temperature.

If your home is 78°F you’ll be able to chill most thermoelectric coolers down to about 38-40°F. If you live in an especially hot climate and your home’s temperature fluctuates frequently this may not be enough cooling effect.

5 Best Thermoelectric Coolers
Dometic TC35 Thermoelectric Cooler
Igloo Iceless Thermoelectric 40 Quart Cooler
Coleman 40-Quart Powerchill Iceless Cooler
Igloo Thermoelectric 26 Quart Cooler
Knox Electric Cooler and Warmer
Dometic TC35-DC-A 12V Tropicool Tc35 Thermoelectric Cooler/Warmer
Igloo Iceless 40 Qt Thermoelectric Cooler, Grey, Model Number: 00040374
Coleman 40-Quart PowerChill Thermoelectric Cooler with Power Cord, Black/Silver
Igloo Iceless Thermoelectric Cooler
Knox Electric Cooler and Warmer for Car and Home with Automatic Locking Handle - 27 Quart (25 Liter) – Holds 30 Cans - Dual 110V AC House and 12V DC Vehicle Plugs
Our Ranking
Best Overall Value
2 Best Overall Option
Best Compact Option
Best Super-Compact Option
Best energy efficient option
Power Draw
45 W per hour
55 W per hour
60 W per hour
48 W per hour
48 W per hour
Storage Capacity
33L
38L
38L
24L
25L
Temperature Drop
Lowers temp by 32 °F
Lowers temp by 38 °F
Lowers temp by 40 °F
Lowers temp by 36 °F
Lowers temp by 40 °F
Why We Love This One
Fantastic durability & dependability
Best value option
Offers upright mode (to fit in tiny spaces)
It’s lightweight and small size
Offers good value for the price
Prime Status
Price
Price not available
$210.99
$117.04
Price not available
$58.99
5 Best Thermoelectric Coolers
Dometic TC35 Thermoelectric Cooler
Dometic TC35-DC-A 12V Tropicool Tc35 Thermoelectric Cooler/Warmer
Our Ranking
Best Overall Value
Power Draw
45 W per hour
Storage Capacity
33L
Temperature Drop
Lowers temp by 32 °F
Why We Love This One
Fantastic durability & dependability
Prime Status
Price
Price not available
More Information
5 Best Thermoelectric Coolers
Igloo Iceless Thermoelectric 40 Quart Cooler
Igloo Iceless 40 Qt Thermoelectric Cooler, Grey, Model Number: 00040374
Our Ranking
2 Best Overall Option
Power Draw
55 W per hour
Storage Capacity
38L
Temperature Drop
Lowers temp by 38 °F
Why We Love This One
Best value option
Prime Status
Price
$210.99
More Information
5 Best Thermoelectric Coolers
Coleman 40-Quart Powerchill Iceless Cooler
Coleman 40-Quart PowerChill Thermoelectric Cooler with Power Cord, Black/Silver
Our Ranking
Best Compact Option
Power Draw
60 W per hour
Storage Capacity
38L
Temperature Drop
Lowers temp by 40 °F
Why We Love This One
Offers upright mode (to fit in tiny spaces)
Prime Status
Price
$117.04
More Information
5 Best Thermoelectric Coolers
Igloo Thermoelectric 26 Quart Cooler
Igloo Iceless Thermoelectric Cooler
Our Ranking
Best Super-Compact Option
Power Draw
48 W per hour
Storage Capacity
24L
Temperature Drop
Lowers temp by 36 °F
Why We Love This One
It’s lightweight and small size
Prime Status
Price
Price not available
More Information
5 Best Thermoelectric Coolers
Knox Electric Cooler and Warmer
Knox Electric Cooler and Warmer for Car and Home with Automatic Locking Handle - 27 Quart (25 Liter) – Holds 30 Cans - Dual 110V AC House and 12V DC Vehicle Plugs
Our Ranking
Best energy efficient option
Power Draw
48 W per hour
Storage Capacity
25L
Temperature Drop
Lowers temp by 40 °F
Why We Love This One
Offers good value for the price
Prime Status
Price
$58.99
More Information

Key Takeaway

If you need a family sized refrigerator for a hot climate thermoelectric coolers aren’t for you. If you’re looking for an affordable off grid refrigeration option and are willing to compromise on a few points though they can provide real value.

The Dometic TC35 is my first overall choice. It offers the best combination of features, efficiency, durability, and overall build quality. It’s not quite the largest available, but it’s a great product from a respected manufacturer.

If you’re looking for a true bargain, the Knox Electric Cooler and Warmer is the one for you. Although small, it offers workable efficiency and quality for an affordable price.

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