Cooler modification test

Discussion in 'General Bushcraft Discussion' started by perrymk, Aug 11, 2019.

  1. perrymk

    perrymk Supporter Supporter

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    Apparently I have way too much time and money (not really). I wanted to know which cooler hacks I was finding online were worthwhile. Not just anecdotal evidence (it seems to be better...) but get measured results. This IS NOT a comparison of different brands of coolers. This IS NOT a guide to keeping ice longer.

    The purpose of this experiment is to compare the effect of a modification to a cooler. Only one modifiction was made per cooler. One cooler was original and not modified. The Grizzly was added just because I had it.


    Here are the coolers:

    Cooler I: Igloo Profile 16 Quart Cooler

    Cooler II: Same as Cooler I (same color, etc.) but with Insulation added to the lid.
    (LocTite Tite Foam Multi-purpose expanding foam used for insulating the lid.)

    Cooler IRO: Same as Cooler I but with Reflectix covering the Outside of the cooler.

    Cooler IRI: Same as Cooler I but with Reflectix covering the Inside of the cooler.

    Cooler G: Grizzly 15 cooler.

    All coolers kept in indoors for more than 24 hours at a temperature of approximately 76-77 degrees Fahrenheit. All water bottles refrigerated. All ice from the same ice maker in the same freezer. 4 pounds of ice was selected because I had 5 coolers to test and only had room for 20 pounds of ice in my freezer. I had to gather ice for several days from my ice maker to get 20 pounds. I bought a bunch of ice trays so if I try further experiments I can load them up the night before and have ice by morning (I hope).


    First experiment
    I placed 6 water bottles and 4 pounds (64 oz) of ice in each cooler. I then put them in the metal shed in my backyard for 24 hours. Temperatures ranged from 72F to 90F.

    I removed what ice remained and weighed it.

    Cooler I: 3 oz
    Cooler II: 9 oz
    Cooler IRO: 16 oz
    Cooler IRI: 26 oz
    Cooler G: 16 oz


    Second experiment
    I placed 6 water bottles and 4 pounds (64 oz) of ice in each cooler. I then put them in the front yard in full sun for 4 hours. I moved them a couple of times to keep them in full sun as shade was moving their way. Temperatures ranged from 75F to 88F in the shade. I did not measure the temperature in full sun.

    Cooler I: 30 oz
    Cooler II: 37 oz
    Cooler IRO: 37 oz
    Cooler IRI: 39 oz
    Cooler G: 36 oz


    Adding insulation improves performance, no big surprise there. I really expected the IRO to out perform IRI, but I was surprised. Reflectix is a radiant heat barrier so I anticipated having it on the outside of the cooler would reflect the radiant heat before it got to the insulation. Apparently that's not how it works. If someone reading this has physics knowledge better than mine perhaps you can explain it to me. I was dissappointed in the Grizzly as I really thought it would significantly out perform the Igloos. It's still a fine cooler and has the advantage of being a bear resistant canister (not that I need this feature) and should be fairly water tight if it tips over, but it's ice retention was not really shining when compared to a modestly modified cheap Igloo. The Igloos run about $20 each, the mods may be another $20, but the Grizzly is around $130.

    So now I know. I'll be testing resuseable ice packs next.
    cooler line up.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019
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  2. blind & lost

    blind & lost LB#42 Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    From looking at the last picture, the IRI had only Reflectix only on the inside lid, correct? Very interesting, thanks for for efforts!
     
  3. Forestree

    Forestree Treeforest Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    Interesting, thanks for posting this. I made some reflectx covers for coolers in the past for longer trips in the summer and they made a difference, but I never would of thought that it’d be better on the inside
     
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  4. perrymk

    perrymk Supporter Supporter

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    The IRI has Reflectix covering the complete inside. Lid, sides, bottom.

    The IRO was completely wrapped in Reflectix. Top, sides, bottom.
     
  5. NevadaBlue

    NevadaBlue —- Roughian #7 -— --- Graybeard -— Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

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    Thanks for this! I guessed correctly that the IRI would perform best. Good to know that an ordinary Igloo can outperform an expensive cooler by using a few cents worth of insulation. I’m gonna make a liner for one of my coolers. :)

    In fairness to the Grizzly, it does appear to be quite a bit larger than the others.
     
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  6. blind & lost

    blind & lost LB#42 Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    I see it now that I expanded your picture, thanks again, food for thought, we need all the cooler help we can get here in Florida!
     
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  7. perrymk

    perrymk Supporter Supporter

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    The interior of the Grizzly is about 1 quart larger than the Igloos, so not really much difference. 16 quart Igloos versus 15 quart Grizzly. The Grizzly is thicker so is larger, that is, takes up more room on the outside.
     
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  8. A Seedy Lot

    A Seedy Lot Supporter Supporter

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    I have heard of people making a chest cozy for coolers out of the rectangle cheapy Coleman sleeping bags with great success in results.
     
  9. Jakuka

    Jakuka Scout

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    Seeing your IRI vs IRO results reminded me of my own similar experience when using a mylar blanket as a component of my insulation when hammock camping. I noticed I felt significantly warmer when the mylar was one of the inner layers as opposed to one of the outer layers of insulation. I don't know the physics behind it but that seems to fall in line with your findings. Great post and thanks for sharing!
     
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  10. 66drifter

    66drifter Guide

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    ¿ 4# or 48oz ?

    i guess as long as it was the same for each it doesn't matter ±

    tests like this are fun
     
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  11. perrymk

    perrymk Supporter Supporter

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    Math fixed. Thanks!
     
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  12. perrymk

    perrymk Supporter Supporter

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    That I get. The radiant barrier is on the side of the heat source. In your hammock, I believe you are the heat source. For the cooler test, the heat source was outside, yet the inner radiant barrier performed better. Still a quandary for me.
     
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  13. JohnP

    JohnP Only the rocks live forever. Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Man, I love a good experiment. Thanks for sharing this. The results were interesting.

    JohnP
     
  14. CowboyJesus

    CowboyJesus Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    very nice and scientific results!

    is there going to beta testing? you know, do combos to compare, like Reflectix inside + a) foam in lid b) Reflectix outside to see if there are more gains to be made? simply the scientist in me wanting to go to the next steps!
     
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  15. gohammergo

    gohammergo I like sharp things.... Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    What I see from the pictures is that the one with the reflectix inside it is creating more of a sealed chamber. That will keep the cold sealed in and the heat sealed out.

    The one with the reflectix on the exterior is not completely covered and sealed with it. I think doing it that way might actually concentrate the radiant heat from the sun right to the area where the lid meets the container and make it worse.

    The worst thing for heat transfer in such a situation is air movement. Most coolers of common variety don't seal very well. You just close the lid and it stays mostly closed by friction. The high dollar coolers latch tight.

    The "Delta-T" factor is the difference in temperature between the inside temp and the outside temp. The temps want to mingle and equalize. The insulation wants to stop this mingling. The air flow wants to facilitate it. If you stop the airflow, you substantially reduce the mingling. ;)

    I don't really get into coolers too much, but I think if s person wanted to have a real "super cooler" you could make one pretty easy. A box made of 2" blue foam, sealed tight and wrapped completely in reflectix to reflect the sun. Oh yeah! I have a couple of those cheap Coleman coolers around. I should cut one up and see how they are made.
     
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  16. perrymk

    perrymk Supporter Supporter

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    There are lots more experiments that can be done. Combinations, etc. Or just repeating to verify results. Or like peer reviewed work, publishing so others can repeat and verify results, which i sort of what I've done here (cleverly thrusting the need to repeat on others). I was thinking of getting styrofoam coolers and doubling them up. The make one with reflectix on the inside, one with reflectix on the outside, and one with reflectix in the middle between the two coolers. Or just covering a portion with reflectix and see if it's good enough. Maybe Reflectix on the lid is all one needs?
    I don't have any immediate plans though.


    They all close about the same. I thought about a gasket or something to better seal the cooler but that required another cooler and more ice. Then there's using a gasket with a bungee to hold it tightly closed. Things get out of hand quickly.

    It is covered as much as is practical so as not to affect normal cooler usage. That is, one can still readily open and close the cooler. Making a complete, sealed cover for the cooler is another idea to test and see if there is any improvement. This would only be practical for coolers that are not in use, perhaps while one is away for a while.

    This is true.

    I actually thought about getting thermocouples and wiring them to a PC to track heat transfer. But I don't have THAT much extra cash lying around.
     
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  17. Blackhawk45hunter

    Blackhawk45hunter Pronounced sim-bee-duh Bushclass II

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    Did you prechill the interior of the grizzly? The strength and Achilles heel of roto cooler is their significant mass. If ice is added to one at room temp, they melt a lot of ice cooling down. If you prechill, they hold ice for a very long time.
     
  18. perrymk

    perrymk Supporter Supporter

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    This test was not about maximizing ice retention, but rather comparing the effects of different modifications. With this in mind, all coolers were stored at 76-77F for at least 24 hours prior to the test. This assured all coolers were at the same starting temperature.
     
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  19. Blackhawk45hunter

    Blackhawk45hunter Pronounced sim-bee-duh Bushclass II

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    I understand, but I don’t think it’s a fair comparison if the cooler wasn’t prechilled. It’s like comparing gas mileage of a truck and a car but the car has windows down and the AC blasting while the truck is cruising with no ac and the window up.
     
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  20. dirt7

    dirt7 Guide

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    Another variable to consider is the color of the lid, it looks like the coolers on the right have black lids? Darker colors are going to absorb more light, causing the surface of the cooler to become warmer than the lighter colored coolers.
     
  21. hlydon

    hlydon Guide

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    I was contemplating a similar test, but instead of Reflectix, I was going to use a hot/cold reflective bag.
     
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  22. dirt7

    dirt7 Guide

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    Most reflective insulations work by limiting thermal transfer of heat across spaces, so when you used the mylar blanket on the outer most layer your body heat had to travel through those layers of insulation which are already designed to limit heat transfer. When used next to the source of either hot/cold you will have much better results than putting it on the "outside" of the heat/cold source. Since they have a very low R value, they work a lot better as a sandwich between dead air, or another insulating material.
     
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  23. perrymk

    perrymk Supporter Supporter

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    Color is another variable. My objective was to have only one variable per cooler so only that particular variable would be tested. Thus all coolers to which modifications (variables) were made were identical.


    I also considered using aluminum foil and reflective paint. Determining which is the best radiant heat barrier could the the topic of another test. I chose reflectix because I had reflectix on hand and from my online searches it's a popular cooler hack.
     
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  24. Jakuka

    Jakuka Scout

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    Very true. But....I was thinking that the ice lost cooling down the inner layers of IRO would have happened at a faster rate than IRI, thus more energy was lost initially, at least until the layers started to equalize a bit. And if true...would pre-chilling would negate this? Or could pre-chilling even allow IRO to outperform IRI? I really have no idea. Might be worth trying though as there would be little to no cost involved. :)

    I'd guess that G and IRO would significantly benefit from pre-chilling....maybe more so than the others? I do know a lot of the high end coolers don't separate themselves as quite as much performance wise from regular coolers without that additional step. With that extra step is when their ice retention times really start to shine. Could be considered a pro or con for either type depending on how it's used and in regards to the convenience factor. Also, I can't help but wonder where or not G would benefit from the same performance increase by having reflectix added or if it would have diminishing returns from already being a little more insulated to start with.
     
  25. perrymk

    perrymk Supporter Supporter

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    I agree pre-chilling is a good way to make ice last longer but that would be another variable or perhaps the topic of another test. All coolers were started at the same temperature so that only one variable was tested. In this case G was added mainly because I had it, but also to offer some perspective. I expect G would benefit more from pre-chilling because it has more mass.
     
  26. gohammergo

    gohammergo I like sharp things.... Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    It's a lot of fun to do stuff like this. :) I wouldn't spend too much time and energy on it, unless it's a real interest for you. We all like info on this but don't let us push you into too much time and such on this. :)

    I have often thought about making my own cooler for the truck. Some kind of wood shell. Foam liner. Hinged top with a good latch and air seal. Maybe wrap the exterior with aluminum sheeting to reflect sun. If I wasn't so far behind on all of my other projects I would be tempted to do something like that. :)
     
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  27. NoBrakesRacing

    NoBrakesRacing Scout

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    I normally use one of those hot/cold reflectix bags inside of my cooler, folded down to remove as much air as possible.
    Food that I want the coldest go in the bag, together with frozen water bottles. Fruit on top of the bag bit still in the cooler to keep gnats out of it.
    Works well enough for a couple days.
     
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  28. gohammergo

    gohammergo I like sharp things.... Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Those bags really work great. My wife bought one to keep in her truck in case we decided to stop at the store when we were out cruising around. We have used it a lot, and it's always worked super good.
     
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  29. basher1981

    basher1981 Adventure is out there!!! Supporter

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  30. perrymk

    perrymk Supporter Supporter

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  31. hlydon

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  32. basher1981

    basher1981 Adventure is out there!!! Supporter

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    Right you said the lid. This is for the walls as well
     
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  33. gohammergo

    gohammergo I like sharp things.... Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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  34. perrymk

    perrymk Supporter Supporter

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    I haven't seen a cooler with the walls uninsulated. Perhaps others have. There are some YouTube videos of coolers being cut in half and the only uninsulated parts are the lids of less expensive coolers. However the quality of the insulation of less expensive coolers did not appear as good as expensive coolers.

    The Igloo coolers I tested have insulated walls but no insulation in the lids.
     
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  35. PMSteve

    PMSteve Old Timey Outdoorsman Supporter

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    Cheap ice chests from Target, K-Mart and Walmart generally have zero insulation other than a dead-air space. These cost less than $20 in most cases. These are the ones that I used to add the expanding foam insulation to. By the time I was done, they had turned into great coolers that would keep ice solid for around 5 days. Plenty long enough for a weekend car camping trip. I usually had less than $30-$35 total invested, including the ice chest itself.

    Steve
     
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