I’ve been shopping for coolers this week in preparation for an upcoming build, and while there’s an endless variety to choose from on the market, there are very few well-suited for converting into a Frankencooler.
I prefer wheeled coolers in the 45 – 50 QT. range, as they usually have a lid large enough to accommodate two 4″ blowers, intake radiator, battery receptacle, motor controller, etc., but small enough to comfortably load in the back seat when full. The problem now is that wheeled coolers in this range are shorter in length and taller, resulting in lid areas that are too small for the components I use.
In order to have the longest possible ice retention times, I decided to go with the best wheeled 50 Qt. cooler I could find. After investigating, I settled on one made by a company called Kysek (Yeti will finally introduce a wheeled cooler in July). Before ordering one, I went to a local dealer to scope it out, and I’m glad I did.
While this thing was nearly a yard long (big enough for 4 blowers!) and weighed over 40 pounds empty, the interior volume was tiny, due to the insane amount of insulation Kysek uses. The interior height would actually be too shallow for the heat exchangers and insulated divider I’m going to use. When done, this thing would weigh in at over 70 pounds loaded – frankly more than I care to heft into the back seat of my wife’s car. I had to rethink my strategy.
Considering that the first thing one does when converting an ice chest into an air conditioner is cut numerous holes in the lid for the blowers, etc., I believe it’s more important to have interior height to allow for a thicker insulated divider over the ice than it is to have a super insulated 3″ thick lid. Add the fact that ice melt in a Frankencooler is primarily due to circulating ice water through radiators, and you soon realize that spending $400 for a cooler that can keep ice cold for a week is money wasted. It’s desirable that at least the lid be insulated with foam – something now common in many inexpensive coolers – and size and weight must be reasonable for those of us who don’t have pickups.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, plus my desire to find a cooler with a smooth lid underside for easy heat exchanger mounting, I ended up going with a new-style gray and orange Coleman Xtreme 5 62 QT. wheeled cooler that I purchased for only $70 at a local sporting goods store.
Stay tuned to see this thing converted into a Frankencooler in an upcoming video!