Cold accumulator: what is it, how to choose and is it only for travellers?

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Cooler bag with accumulator

In summertime, a cooler bag becomes not a whim, but a very useful thing that keeps food chilled for a long time. Cold accumulators are what keeps the food cold inside the cooler bags.

They usually look like rectangles due to the need to create the maximum contact area. The outer layer consists of:

  • polymeric material that retains its original shape, regardless of the state of the filler;
  • a dense film that allows you to give almost any shape to the cold accumulator (reviews show that this is more convenient).

With a careful attitude, the shelf life of the cold accumulator is practically unlimited, since the freeze / thaw cycles do not affect performance in any way.

What are cold accumulators made of and their features

Visually, they are sealed containers weighing about 500 grams. The main difference between all the products on sale is the chemical composition of the filler. What the cold accumulator consists of directly affects its performance.

Saltwater accumulator

Saltwater accumulator

The name speaks for itself; the cold accumulator in this version is executed in a hard plastic container. It is used in the temperature range from -20 to +8oC. They are considered the simplest kind, and keep a low temperature for no more than a day. Their definite advantage is a large operating range in degrees, which other options do not have.

Gel accumulators

If one day is not enough for you, take a closer look at the gel cold accumulator. It belongs to a new generation of similar products, because the duration of work reaches two days if the cooler bag is not opened.

Gel accumulators

Gel cold accumulators have a dual purpose, i.e. retain both heat and cold well. This is why they have become widespread. Unlike saline accumulators, which, due to the characteristics of the liquid, have to be packed in dense plastic, these are created from a durable film filled with a special gel-like liquid.

The basis is most often carboxy methyl cellulose. The instructions for the gel-type cold accumulator emphasize its safety: even if it leaks, nothing will happen, because the filler is completely safe. For this reason, only they are allowed to cool containers in which medicines are transported.

Silicone accumulators

If you were wondering which cold accumulator is better in terms of duration of action, then the answer is unequivocal: silicone. The set temperature can be maintained for up to 7 days.

Silicone accumulator

It is inferior in peak values to the previous two options, however if service life is more important to you, a silicone-type cold accumulator is what fits best. It looks similar to a gel cold accumulator: a bag with a translucent filler.

Nonetheless, this accumulator type has its drawbacks: the silicone cold accumulator has a very narrow temperature range from 0 to +2 °C.

How to use and cool accumulator

Naturally, you won’t be able to immediately use it: you need to pre-cool the accumulator. We will tell you about how much to freeze the cold battery and what to do in general below:

How to cool accumulatoraccumulator

  1. Put it in the freezer for 4-6 hours. If you just put it in a fridge, it will “gain cold” for a very long time. And if you use the salt water type, you will not be able to reach the maximum temperature available. So only use a freezer.
  2. Considering that the principle of operation of the cold accumulator is based on uniform cooling over the entire area of the container, position it so that it is in maximum contact with the products that will be in the bag. Therefore, put them either on the bottom or on the side: it depends on the size and capacity of your bag.
  3. After using the cold accumulator, simply pull it out, rinse it, wipe it dry, and, if necessary, put it back in the freezer.

The small size of the listed accumulator types allows you to conveniently store it both in the freezer and in any convenient place.

What is the capacity of a cold accumulator and how to place it?

Logically, the more accumulators there are, the better. In fact, the number of cold accumulators needed for a thermal bag directly depends on the volume of the container in which the products will be placed, as well as their temperature, of course: frozen foods will be stored longer than just chilled ones.

An approximate calculation of the number of cold accumulators is 400 grams per 5 liters. To get the maximum result, it is necessary to place them every 10-15 cm. If you follow this principle, the products will remain fresh for a long time.

how to place accumulator

Example: if the bag has a volume of 20 liters, then you need either 4 accumulators of 400 grams or 2 accumulators of 750 grams each. If you do not have the required number of accumulators, then put all those you have on top of the products.

One of the most popular and budget options is cold accumulators by camping. They are made out of gel, and are available in three sizes, corresponding to specific volumes:

  • 200 g per 10 l,
  • 400 g per 15 l,
  • 750 g per 30 liters.

Gel accumulators in a refrigerator bag, in fact, do not cool or heat themselves, but maintain food and drinks at their original temperature. They are universal in terms of application: you can keep drinks icy in summer and hot in winter for much longer than in a standard thermos. The advantage of bags is that you can store not only liquids in them.

Is it possible to use the cold accumulator for a bag in the refrigerator?

Yes, this operation option is also allowed, although it is rarely mentioned, and many people simply do not know about it. This option is best if you frequently open the freezer, as this approach will help smooth out temperature fluctuations. Similarly useful for large batches of products that require refrigeration.

Small costs allow you to extend the life of the equipment, since the compressor will have to turn on less often. Also, if the electricity suddenly goes out, the cold accumulator will maintain the optimum temperature for a long time.

In addition to purely domestic use, such accumulators will also be useful in isothermal chambers in shops or restaurants for:

  • sparkling water,
  • beer,
  • ice cream,
  • frozen semifinished products,
  • other products that are sold cold.

Accumulators of cold in medicine

In medicine, cold accumulators are also used for blood storage in medical institutions or during transportation, human tissues, vaccines, and drugs that require compliance with the temperature regime.

So how to choose the best cold accumulator?

If you do not consider specific brands, but rather rely on the budget and type of accumulator, then the options are very simple.

Cheap but practical

The cheapest option is water-salt accumulators. The major drawback is the plastic case, which does not allow you to give the accumulator a desired shape. In the case of dense packaging and using all the available space of the bag, this can be inconvenient.

Cold accumulator for thermo bag

But if you need to keep the products really icy, then only this option will support them in the desired temperature regime due to the maximum possible temperature range for this product: from -20 to + 8 °C. However, if the accumulator is impaired, the products may get spilled.

Are flexible cold accumulators better?

Water-salt solution is one of the first methods of cooling. You can even make the simplest homemade accumulator in the form of a bottle filled with salted water. But the efficiency will also be appropriate, i.e. the cooler for the thermal bag will hold the temperature for less than a day.

Gel and silicone are fillers of a new generation, therefore the effectiveness, namely, the period of maintaining the temperature will be much longer. Gel accumulators are also safe for the food.

flexible cold accumulator

If you choose between three options, then the characteristics of the cold accumulator are:

Duration of work1 day2-4 daysup to 7 days
Pricethe cheapestmoderateexpe-nsive
Safety3rd place1st place2nd place

If you are planning long trips, especially with small children, such a compact device will be really useful. It is also in demand among lovers of long hikes, tourists, hunters, and fishermen: everyone who is forced to stay away from the usual benefits of civilization for a long time. And even at a time when the accumulator for the thermal bag is not used for its intended purpose, it is quite possible to employ it to “support” the freezer by “facilitating” the work of the compressor.
Read our blog about most durable tactical backpack and how to choose the best multitool?

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