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Appliances,Food,Heat and Cooling

Part 3 – Solar Panel and a Modded Electric Cooler

23 Jul , 2015   Video

DIY solar panel

Frankenstein DIY 60 watt solar panel


Inside fan turned “Off”

Ran some tests on the modified 12 volt Coleman Cooler in the first weekend of July.
It just happened to be one of the hottest weekends in our area. Afternoon day temps hovered around 28*C or 81*F and it was a dry heat. Living on the West Coast, I’m just not use to that type of heat. I’m so glad the lake is nearby and I can go for a swim to cool the core off.

To power the fans and the cooling Peltier module, I pulled out the old 60 Watt Frankenstein solar panel I made a few years ago. It was easy to set up, but it may not produce another amperage for the Peltier module. But this was for testing only. Hooked it up with some basic alligator clamps and switched on the power.
For testing the temperature inside the cooler, I used the refrigerator/Freeze thermometer from the Frost King Ice Box.

Starting temperature was at 80° F

At 12:17 (high sun) Checked the cooler. It read to 70°F. Not really impressive.  So I repositioned the solar panel to get maximum sun.

3:30 pm – The thermometer read 80*F. What, back to the starting point? Could it be the lower solar output. The fans were turning, but not enough juice for the Peltier module.

Inside fan turned "On"

Inside fan turned “On”

5:00 pm- No change, 80°F. Almost no sun in my location (It was hiding behind the trees)

What I did next, was hook the modded Coleman Cooler right up to four, 6-volt deep cycle batteries. The batteries would produce the amperage required for the Peltier.

7:00 pm- Slightly cooler by 2 degrees, but that could be due to the ambient temperature.

The end result: Not a total fail. Some upgrades will be necessary to get it running properly. I would conclude the bottleneck is the size of the wire/fuse on the power plug. The wire and fuse set up was taken from a DC power vacuum for a car. Judging by the size of the motor, it only needs an amp or two to make it run. A YouTube reader suggested a power cord from a heated seat mat or DC heater fan. They are rated at 8 amps, which will provide the necessary amount of power to run the Peltier cooling module. I’ll keep my eyes open for one at my local recycle center and then make another video.


Starting temperature

3:30pm temperature

3:30pm temperature

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Appliances,Food,Heat and Cooling

Removing the Cooler Gizmo from an Electric Coleman Cooler

2 Jun , 2015   Video

This video starts with another treasure found at the local recycling center. In Canada, residents can take bottles, cans, plastic and cardboard into a township recycle center. It’s a volunteer program and unsupervised. It’s a real plus for homeowners who miss the weekly pickup by the city.

On the flip side, many residents use the unsupervised recycle centre to dump off garbage. I can think of a few reasons why, but one of them is the cost to dispose of garbage. In the spring, I took in an old door, melamine shelving, and other stuff. The total weight was 88 lbs and it cost $15.00. What a rip-off, last year it was only $6.00. So, many people don’t want to pay and drop it off. The sad part, the landfill also has a section for free drop off of electronics, batteries, paint cans and more. It’s too bad that people are not aware that their stuff and be properly disposed of at no cost.

To view of cooler

A little dirty, but still might have some life left in it!

So, when I arrived with my bag cans and parked my car, there was a plenty of microwaves, big TV’s, plant baskets, and junk spread around the dumpsters. I spied a dirty cooler at the back of a pile and thought about Solar Burrito’s portable stereo in a cooler hack… hmm. I turn it over and notice it’s in good condition and has a motorized fan to keep the contents cool. I brought it home and looked up the model number on the internet for specs. Found out it was a PowerChill 40 Quart Thermoelectric Coleman Cooler and retails for $149.00 (Canadian funds). It also includes a device called a Peltier module. With the aid of a fan, a large aluminum heatsink, and a Peltier module, it can cool the inside temperature to 4°C or 40°F. The cooler was designed to be connected to vehicle 12 volt DC power plug. As you drive, to your off-grid property, it keeps food/beverages cool while in transport. It’s a clever invention for long distance driving.

Side view of cooling unit

The opening is where the power cord and fuse should be.

Unfortunately for me, a scraper, had cut the 8-foot long cord for the copper strand cord. I went online for a replacement cord and found a PDF manual claiming the PowerChill cooler unit requires 12 volts DC at 8 amps. That is a fairly large draw of power to run 24 hours a day. (It works out to 2,300 watts!) No low setting, the fans are running full blast all the time. When not hooked up to a running car, it would drain a standard battery quickly. I can back up that claim with an experience. When we first purchased the cabin, it didn’t have a refrigerator. We couldn’t afford a propane fridge and lived out of coolers for a year. Eventually, we picked up a Mobi-Cooler on sale from Canadian Tire. The plan was to load it up with food at home, drive the 4 hours to the cabin and then attach it to (2) 12 volt, 70 amp hour deep cycle batteries. It didn’t work. We were lucky to get 12 hours out of the batteries before they were completely drained (and eventually killed the batteries). Those were the learning days.

A repair could be done to the cooler. I have plenty of wire in my stash of electrical parts. I could rig up a DC cord power cord, reseal the cooling unit and flog the cooler on Craigslist for $60.00. The extra money would be appreciated for household bills, but where the fun it that! Why not take it carefully apart and see if it can be used in another location. If it doesn’t work out, I’m back to plan A.

Overhead view of fan

Top view of stock fan and cooling unit

I really wanted to check out how the unit actually works and use in the 1920’s Frost King Ice Box refrigerator. (We currently use the icebox to store beverages and vegetables.) With the fan/module/fan rig on the back, running via two 60 watt solar panel, it should bring the temps down a bit. I think it would be a fun project.

#coolerproject, #colemancooler, #powerchill

Close up of heatsink

Corner view of the stock fan, wires and aluminun heatsink

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Appliances,Food,Heat and Cooling

A Few Tips on How to Use Spray Paint

30 May , 2014  

Tips-on-how-to-spray-paint2 This video will show step-by-step how to prep the surface painting and a few tips for a professional finish. For this project, materials required were two aerosol cans of Rust-Oleum Appliance Enamel, a Rust-Oleum Spray Grip, paint suit and mask. It only took a few days, but, the finish was worth it.

The project was to repaint an 1930s Frost King Ice Box. It was going to be used up at our cabin. Since the cabin is located off-the-grid and power is provided by a few solar energy, an appliance that doesn’t need energy to run it great.

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Appliances,Other,Power Tools

Trading the Trusty Table Saw for a 1930’s Frost King Ice Box

18 Apr , 2014  

Took one for the team, and traded my trusty table saw for an 1930’s Frost King Ice Box. For the last year, we’ve been searching for one of these old school refrigerators. How they work is quite basic, a large chunk of ice would be put in the top and the cool air would filter down. The melted ice water would travel by gravity down a tube to a basin underneath. Since it doesn’t consume any electricity or propane gas, it would be ideal for an off grid situation.
Now, what I have to do now, is cut some large chunks of ice from the lake and store them in saw dust under the cabin.

Music credit: Get Back, by Silent Partner, YouTube Audio Library

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Appliances,Buildings and Renovations,Food,Heat and Cooling

Make a Propane Refrigerator Run Cooler in the Summer

8 Jul , 2013  

The RV style of propane refrigerator (Dometic-3 way) was not getting cold on the inside. Turned up the thermostat from setting 2 to 4 make it colder, but there was no effect. It was a major concern, since there was a heat wave coming and the frozen vegetables, beverages and steaks would go bad. Also, it was not an option to drive for a 2 hours to get blocks of ice.


Step one- Slide propane fridge into a box

The propane refrigerator was an older model, but was working fine months earlier. So, went over a mental checklist; read manual, check regulator on propane hose, check thermostat, check for cobwebs around cooling fins and check exhaust ports. During the last check on the exhaust port, I noticed the wood siding was really warm to the touch. Thought that was odd, since the manual states the refrigerator must be encased in a metal box, with no combustible materials nearby. The heat must be intense for it to travel through the metal and then to the outside siding.

So, ended up cutting a larger exhaust hole for the heat to escape. Didn’t have much room or a handy saw, so, I had to sketch out a line and use a drill. Drilled holes every 1/8″ with a 1/4″ bit. It took forever, but, didn’t have to worry about striking the cooling fins or pipes on the back of the propane refrigerator. Since it was almost 3 times larger hole, I decided to add a metal heat deflector and a computer fan to help redirect the heat out the hole. Always keep a bunch of computer fans around, they come in handy and work straight off batteries or a solar panel. Fashioned some mounts out of some metal strips and put it just under the refrigerator cooling fins. Wired the computer fan to a simple light switch and 7 amphour AGM battery. The fan could be switched on really hot days and helped the refrigerator cool much quicker.

Soon, I’ll make another video with a few more improvements

Thanks for watching!







Step Two- Slide box, with propane fridge, into IKEA cabinet.

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Appliances,Buildings and Renovations,Plumbing,Woodworking

4 Day Mini Laundry, Washer and Dryer Project

19 Jun , 2013  

IMG_4730 This project takes place on the home front. Had to work through the weekend and get the space ready for the new stacking washer and dryer unit.

Since the 10 year Kenmore washer packed it in and we live 90 percent on the second floor of our home, we decided to move the laundry units upstairs. After good reviews by Consumer Reports, we went with a Samsung Washer and Dryer. They were to arrive on the Wednesday, so it left me 4 days to get the mini laundry room finished.

Earlier in the month, the bathtub, old drywall, subfloor and rotten 2″ x 4″ were removed and the framing was completed by myself. Decided to contract out the plumbing and wire to a professional. I don’t have the time or the skills and I have a few good friends in assorted trades and it was time to call in some favours. So, after the electrical and plumbing contractor left, I had exactly 4 days to get the room ready. The “to do” list was: finish framing new walls, plumb washer (contractor), wire for dryer/washer (contractor), install dryer vent through ceiling and side of house, mount drywall, tape and mud seams, sand, a coat of primer, paint (if time), washer pan and install vinyl plank flooring.

It was not a fun project, but, not all projects are.


IMG_4712 IMG_4710 IMG_4708 DSC01750 DSC01747 IMG_4701

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