Ultimate Frankencooler



My Frankencooler design taken to the next level with the finest all-copper radiators I could find, a massive lithium iron phosphate power cell, better insulation, and revised plumbing.

But does spending twice as much money equate to dramatically better performance?

At least as far as the radiators go, not really. My original design’s lightweight and affordable components cool nearly the same for many hundreds of dollars less.

Nevertheless, this cooler incorporates some significant improvements and my Frankencooler Build Plans have been updated to reflect some of these changes.

The Layout

The time spent laying out where everything will go on your ice chest air conditioner is critical, as you can’t undo a hole once it’s cut in the lid of your new $80 cooler. The old adage “measure twice, cut once” really applies here, as there’s nothing worse than cutting a hole for a blower, only to turn the lid over and realize that there isn’t room to center a radiator underneath it.

I’ve taken to cutting out pieces of cardboard the size of blowers, radiators, motor controllers, and whatever else is going to be mounted on the cooler lid so I can place them on both sides of the lid to see how it’s all going to fit. Once done, I then outline the item in pencil. After measuring to make sure everything’s symmetrical, I then carefully cut on the inside of the lines (enlarging a hole is easy, reducing one is pretty much impossible).

FCII TopbWhether one surface mounts heat exchangers or countersinks them into the cooler lid┬ádepends on the lid characteristics – especially┬áthickness. The build I’m currently working on required countersinking nearly everything to do it right, so I’ve had to make a ton of holes in this lid – the majority of which I did with a razor knife and straightedge (tedious beyond belief).

In my opinion, this is the worst part of building a Frankencooler. From here, it’s a matter of mounting all the components in their places and doing the respective electrical and plumbing connections – something I find a lot less nerve-wracking.┬áCimg5508.jpg

Frankencooler Batteries

As most of you are aware, I have been powering my Frankencooler ice chest air conditioners with 18V Ryobi batteries. This came about because I originally purchased a Ryobi Work Fan to use as the basis of my first cooler featuring a fan blowing across ice. If you’ve watched my video, you know this idea failed miserably, and I went on to repeatedly modify this cooler into a design that works really well.

Most people like the idea of using a Ryobi battery to power their Frankencooler since they also own Ryobi cordless tools and chargers, but doing this comes with a few shortcomings:

  • Coming up with a Ryobi receptacle (plug). I’ve been buying $50 Ryobi Work Fans just to strip the easily removable, self-contained battery receptacle.
  • The largest Ryobi 18V battery available currently is a recently-introduced 5.0 Ah unit. The 4.0 Ah models I’ve been using go approximately 1.5 – 2 hours on a charge at normal running speeds – the 5.0 should add another 20 minutes or so. Long enough for tailgating, but some people want/need more.
  • Inline blowers of the type I use are 12V. I’ve had zero problems over 2 1/2 years running these blowers through motor controllers using 18V power, but obviously, it’s not ideal.

Because of these negatives, My latest Frankencooler is powered by a state-of-the-art lithium iron phosphate power cell. These battery packs are light, powerful, and available in a number of sizes. The ones I use feature onboard circuitry that equalize voltage output and charging.

Mounting these batteries to a cooler can be accomplished using a waterproof, hinged-lid standoff electrical box or exterior receptacle cover, depending on the size of the power cell.

I’ll have to see if the added performance and quality of these power cells outweighs the user-friendliness, low price point, and super-fast recharge speeds of the Ryobi-based batteries.