Electronics

Solar Cooler keeps drinks cold using the sun instead of ice

The Solar Cooler from Solar Cool Technologies at CES 2014
The Solar Cooler from Solar Cool Technologies at CES 2014
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The Solar Cooler, as its name implies, is a portable container for food and drinks that keeps its contents cold using a compact refrigeration system connected to solar panels
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The Solar Cooler, as its name implies, is a portable container for food and drinks that keeps its contents cold using a compact refrigeration system connected to solar panels
The model we saw at CES also sported an optional pair of beach wheels that can traverse sandy terrain during a trip to the ocean
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The model we saw at CES also sported an optional pair of beach wheels that can traverse sandy terrain during a trip to the ocean
According to the designers, the cooler can hold a steady 42° F (5.5° C) for over 24 hours, depending on how often the lid is opened
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According to the designers, the cooler can hold a steady 42° F (5.5° C) for over 24 hours, depending on how often the lid is opened
As an added bonus, both a USB and 12V outlet are located on the side, which can be used to charge a mobile phone or plug in a blender
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As an added bonus, both a USB and 12V outlet are located on the side, which can be used to charge a mobile phone or plug in a blender
The cooler comes with handles so it's easier to carry, and the whole case features a rugged design so it can survive numerous trips and parties unscathed
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The cooler comes with handles so it's easier to carry, and the whole case features a rugged design so it can survive numerous trips and parties unscathed
The temperature is set precisely using a digital display on the side
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The temperature is set precisely using a digital display on the side
If the current recreational version is successful enough, the company plans to manufacture a similar cooler specifically for vaccines called the Hêlios
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If the current recreational version is successful enough, the company plans to manufacture a similar cooler specifically for vaccines called the Hêlios
If the current recreational version is successful enough, the company plans to manufacture a similar cooler specifically for vaccines called the Hêlios
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If the current recreational version is successful enough, the company plans to manufacture a similar cooler specifically for vaccines called the Hêlios
The Solar Cooler from Solar Cool Technologies at CES 2014
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The Solar Cooler from Solar Cool Technologies at CES 2014

In the past, we've seen solar ovens that can whip up a hot meal using only the sun's rays, but Solar Cool Technologies has a new product that harvests that same energy to accomplish just the opposite. We quite literally crossed paths with the Solar Cooler and its designers at a Las Vegas casino during CES where they were showing off the new Solar Cooler. The Solar Cooler, as its name implies, is a portable container for food and drinks that keeps its contents cold using a compact refrigeration system connected to solar panels.

If you've ever loaded a cooler full of ice and food to take to the beach, only to find it all a soggy mess once you've arrived, then you can probably understand the appeal of what is essentially a portable refrigerator. According to the designers, the Solar Cooler can hold a steady 42° F (5.5° C) for over 24 hours, depending on how often the lid is opened, but can also go as low as 14° F (-10° C) if needed. The temperature is set precisely using a digital display on the side. Users can also get more power by attaching additional solar panels or pre-charging the batteries through an electrical outlet before going out.

The cooler itself measures 16 x 14 x 17 in (41 x 36 x 43 cm) and weighs 55 lb (25 kg). Even with the refrigeration system, this still leaves an interior volume of 40 L (10.5 gal), or enough for 60 12 oz (355 ml) soda cans. And naturally, since it doesn't require ice or cooling packs, that entire space can be completely filled with cold food and drinks.

The cooler comes with handles so it's easier to carry, and the whole case features a rugged design so it can survive numerous trips and parties unscathed. The model we saw at CES also sported an optional pair of beach wheels that can traverse sandy terrain during a trip to the ocean. As an added bonus, both USB and 12 V outlets are located on the side, which can be used to charge a mobile phone or plug in a blender. The inside lid even contains a small light, so you can find what you need in the dark.

The Solar Cooler, as its name implies, is a portable container for food and drinks that keeps its contents cold using a compact refrigeration system connected to solar panels
The Solar Cooler, as its name implies, is a portable container for food and drinks that keeps its contents cold using a compact refrigeration system connected to solar panels

It may look like a simple concept, but getting the right balance of size and power management required some thorough research and testing. The Solar Cooler incorporates some advanced circuitry to collect solar energy from the photovoltaic cells on the lid, store it in the internal batteries, and then distribute it to the refrigeration system, all while taking up a relatively small amount of space.

Keeping food and drinks chilled with solar power is handy enough on its own, but the developers have bigger plans for the Solar Cooler's technology. If the current recreational version is successful enough, the company plans to manufacture a similar cooler specifically for vaccines called the Hêlios. Naturally, a rugged, solar-powered cooler would help preserve any medicine traveling to remote areas of the world just as well as it could preserve a case of beer on its way to a party.

Unfortunately, all that advanced technology may come with quite a hefty price tag. Right now, as part of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to begin manufacturing, the developers have pitched the device at US$950. That figure is discounted from the retail price of $1,200 and will include the beach wheel kit (which is $150 by itself).

Even with the added convenience and eco-friendliness though, many people may balk at paying over ten times as much as a similar-sized cooler filled with ice. If all goes as planned however, the first batch of Solar Coolers are expected to ship in June of this year.

Sources: Solar Cool Technologies, Indiegogo

6 comments
VirtualGathis
I'm sure this is a useful gadget, but when solar ovens and solar coolers are put in the same article I expect something like the use of absorption chillers to convert the solar thermal directly into chilling. So I was disaapointed to find out it uses solar panels and batteries...
Dennis Roberts
Their website says "solar-assisted" so I'm guessing that it's just a Waeco/Coolmatic type of cooler with a 12 volt Danfoss compressor. They've added a battery and a solar panel that can't keep up with the amount of energy it takes to stay cool. You have to pre cool the things you put in it and pre charge the battery to get a few hours of cooling. Buyer beware.
The Skud
This is clever - But like all solar-powered devices, battery assist for the cooling cannot last very long, on the 2nd day of cloud on holiday you are back to nil, then what? I think I will keep using my super-insulated cooler box that is advertised to keep ice for a fair bit longer than that. You can buy an amazing amount of ice over a couple of years for that cost.
Miguel Ángel Urrutia
Please, do pitch it to sailboat manufacturers.
HenryB
Sadly nothing indicates how the solar energy is used to refrigerate the box. Is it a compressor? Is it a Stirling Oscillating Cooler (like the discontinued Coleman product)? This very essential information isn't found in the article or on the manufacturers website!
warren52nz
Maybe it uses a Peltier Effect device. Put a voltage across the plate and one side gets hot while the other gets cold. Face the hot side outwards and the cold side inwards and presto. I agree, they should have said how it works.