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How Do the Best Coolers Work & Why Do They Stay Ice Cold?

Coolers might not be the most sophisticated invention the world has seen. Nonetheless, there is something amazing about how they work. So long a cooler is not bad, it is impossible to fill it with food and ice only to notice it is not chilly after a while.

Portable coolers can always be trusted to keep your food and drinks fresh for long periods. While this is great, how do coolers work and how are they able to stay cold?

The Workings of Coolers

Coolers simply work by combining ice and insulation. In addition to the outer case of a cooler that everyone can see, coolers have insulations that are made from plastic or foam. This insulation brings about a reduction in the rate at which hot air circulates. As insulation helps in reducing the rate at which hot air circulates, ice helps inside the cooler stay cool. The process through which insulation brings about a slowdown of hot air is called convection.

While convection plays a major role in keeping a cooler warm, it is not the only factor that helps with a cooler’s temperature. For a cooler to stay cool, insulation prevents conduction from happening. Conduction involves the loss of temperature by an object. When this happens, other objects around are affected.

Although convection helps your cooler keep its temperature, the presence of ice in the cooler keeps the temperature cold. For this to work, however, the cover of the cooler has to be closed. Each time you open the cooler’s cover, warm air is able to find its way into the cooler. When this is done, the temperature in the cooler goes up at a faster rate than it would if the cover stays closed.


Convection is a process through which heat travels through a space that is enclosed. While the convection that takes place in a cooler does not happen at a fast rate, it cannot be avoided. With convection, your cooler is able to stay cold for a long time.


When two objects are in close proximity, heat spreads from one to another through a process known as conduction.

How Long Can Ice Stay in a Cooler before Melting

Although insulation plays a role in keeping coolers cold, a lot of coolers will be unable to stay chilly in the absence of ice. When placed in a cooler, ice has the ability to last a week. The duration of ice in a cooler is dependent on what type of ice you use. If you make use of block ice in a cooler, it is expected to last 5 – 7 days. Ice cubes have a duration of 1 to 2 days, and dry ice can last between 18-24 hours.

Dry Ice

It might not look like dry ice can do a lot. Nonetheless, you can use dry ice in keeping your cooler cold. To do this, simply put a couple of layers of newspaper around it. Once done, put it inside your cooler. While dry ice can help keep your cooler cold, you should not leave it in your car for a long period. Also, you should avoid handling it with bare hands.

Ice Cubes

Ice cubes can be bought at gas stations or grocery stores and come in different sizes. They are ideal for people going for picnics and other outdoor events.

Block Ice

Block ice is for fairly large events. They are more expensive than other types of ice. Nonetheless, they are the most effective and the most durable.

Before deciding on the type of ice you want to purchase when looking to keep your cooler cold, you must be sure of the event you will be attending. Will you be spending a relatively short time outside, ice cubes or dry ice will be great. However, if you will be spending a lot of time outside or going for a long trip, block ice will come in very handy.

How to Ensure Your Cooler Stays Cold for a Long Time

Beyond knowing the workings of a cooler from, to get the best from the use of one, you should know the steps to take to keep your cooler cold for a long time. While the right ice and insulation can play a role in keeping your cooler cold, they are not all you need to keep your ice chest cold for a long time.

Let’s look at some tips that can help your cooler stay cold for longer.

Get Drinks and Food Pre-Chilled: One thing you should do if you want to keep your cooler cold for longer is ensuring that the foods and drinks to be kept in your cooler are stored in a freezer a day before an event. This way, you can keep things cold for a long time without any struggle.

Stuff Your Cooler: The more stuffed your cooler is, the more its chances of retaining its coolness. Going by this, if you want your cooler to stay cool for a long time, you should fill it with lots of delicious snacks and drinks. When you do this, there will be a reduction in the empty spaces available for warm air to fill.

Freeze Bottled Water: There are times it might be impossible to get your cooler properly stuffed up. If you run out of items to fill your cooler with, you can keep extra spaces away by making use of frozen bottle water. With frozen bottled water in your cooler, it will be difficult for warm air to find its way into your cooler. They will also play the role of ice packs.

Avoid the Sun

This is quite obvious. The heat from the sun can make your ice melt faster and your cooler might lose its low temperature more rapidly. So, to avoid this, you might want to store your cooler under a shade.

If there is a tree around, then, that will make a perfect shade. However, if there is no tree, a canopy will be ideal.


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