How I plan to cool meat.

ribo451

Member
Jun 4, 2013
264
I am posting this thread about the walk-in cooler my Dad and I built for anyone who may have been thinking of doing the same thing.

The first thing I would do if I were interested in building this is to look at the website www.storeitcold.com. That is the website of the manufacturer that makes the "coolbot". It's an aftermarket controller that hooks to a conventional window mounted A/C unit which is the method we use to keep our cooler cold. There is more info on there website than I would ever want to type.

The next thing I will say is this cost us around $1100. We didn't have access to a reliable place to hang game and we wanted a cooler we could use whenever and wherever we wanted as we butcher all our own meat. We also wanted the ability to hang game and not have to butcher it immediately if the weather wasn't cooperating.

The inside dimensions of our cooler are 48"x87" and 89" tall. I made all the wall and floor and roof panels independent of each other with the idea that this could be disassembled when not in use. It sits on a concrete pad that my parents used to have a hot tub on. If yours doesn't sit on a concrete pad you would have to build the floor different from ours to support the weight of people hanging meat.

All of our framing material was cedar from a deck my parents took down. They were 2x6's that we ripped down to 4" to fit the 4" of Styrofoam we used to insulate the walls. We used 4x8 panels of 2" insulation that had an R-value of 13.6 per panel. We doubled them up so our walls have an R-Value of over 27 as well as the roof. The manufacturer of the cool bot said that if the floor was on concrete that one panel of insulation on the ground with a sheet of plywood on it is all you need. We encased our panel for the floor in 2" framing material with a 1/2 OSB panel on the bottom and a 3/4 OSB panel on top. If your floor isn't on concrete you would probably want to put 2 sheets of insulation in the floor as cold sinks.

We put the 48x87 floor down then wrapped the walls around it and secured the walls to the floor with 8" timber tech lag screws. The end walls are 48" wide and the front one has a 36" door and the back one has the air conditioner hole in it. The side walls are 96" long and when the front walls sit tight to the floor, the side walls sit tight to the floor and are the same length as the floor and end walls. The two end walls have 1x6 boards that overhang the edges so when all the walls are together we screwed through the 1x6 to attach the walls to each other. We stapled a layer of Styrofoam sill seal in between every joint to make things air tight.

If you are making one that is permanent you could probably skip some of these steps and build it with more traditional framing methods.

The roof for ours is also 48x87 and 4" deep. The plywood overhangs the ends by 4 1/2" each way to sit on the end walls and there are more 1x6 boards on the sides to overlap the sidewalls. We had to add a strip of 1/2" OSB to the top of the side walls for the 1x6's to sit flush with the rest of the framing. The roof slips into the the walls like the lid of a cooler and again has sill seal at all the joints.

My Dad had access to some heavy mill plastic that has string woven through it in sort of a chain link fence pattern. We wrapped the inside of each wall and the roof with this before assembly which made the roof slide into place easier. We put this on thinking it would make the insides easy to clean. We are intending to put a tarp or more heavy plastic down on the floor that can be removed and either cleaned or replaced between hanging animals.

We used a 36" solid core interior door for ours because there was a new one for sale at the Habitat for Humanity restore for $50. It only has an R-Value of roughly 3 so we glued the scrap insulation to the back of the door and then screwed plywood to the back to hold the insulation in place. Our door now has an R-Value of about 20. We installed the door backwards so it opens outside and doesn't need to swing in and take up cooler space. Our floor sits 2" higher than the door opening. I put 1" material around the threshold and jamb of the door with weather stripping on it that the door closes into to make it air tight. If you are making one permanent you could use an insulated exterior door and not bother with any of that but I didn't want to pay the money for one and with our floor sitting higher than the door opening I would have had to remove the threshold anyway to get the door to swing out.

I then shot expanding spray foam around the door case. The manufacturer says not to use fiberglass insulation as the cold environment in the cooler will pull moisture through the walls and cause mold issues. We stuffed fiberglass around the air conditioner anyway because I didn't want to use spray foam as that would make it difficult to remove the air conditioner later and I figured that when the fiberglass around the air conditioner molds it will be easy to take it out and replace it.

There are detailed plans on the coolbot website showing how to make an airtight wall system that would allow you to use fiberglass batts in the walls which would be cheaper than the Styrofoam but wouldn't get the same R-Value and I didn't want to worry about potential mold issues.

There is channel metal that sits on top of the walls that have 8 eye bolts run through them to hang game on. We are looking for some sort of metal cart or maybe a wall mounted shelf like a closet organizer that can be easily removed when not needed for hanging setting loose meat like backstraps or tenderloins on. It looks like we can easily hang 2 elk at a time in here but we haven't hung any meat in it yet to see how much room they actually take up. We did turn it on and it got down to 35 degrees in about 20 minutes. I don't think it's supposed to get cold enough to freeze but both the coolbot's thermometer and two separate thermometers that we set in there to check temperature have all been as low as 32.

The only other specs I can think of is that we used a 8000BTU air conditioner. That is within the specs of what the manufacturer requires. My cousin's husband and his dad built a permanent one of these about the same size and they used a 6000BTU air conditioner and they said that if they did it again they would go with a bigger unit.

Cost of this broke down roughly as
460 for insulation
315 for the coolbot
125 for the A/C unit new on Craigslist
80 for the OSB
50 for the door
70 for extras like spray foam, screws, sill seal, eye bolts, and whatever else we needed.

I have been in construction for 11 years so we had all the tools and experience to build this we needed but I think as long as you are reasonably handy this wouldn't be that hard to build. It took us about 24 hours total.

Also I guess a word of warning about ripping the Styrofoam panels on a table saw is that everything I read says they will kick back on on you often but if you are experienced with a table saw you shouldn't have any problems. I didn't have any kick on me but I see how you could bind the blade easy as they are so light but I imagine that even if you did kick one back it probably wouldn't hurt all that much being Styrofoam.

If anyone plans to build one of these and has questions feel free to ask and I will try to answer them. Also I have read from a few other people on here that they have built the same thing so if anyone wants to post pics of there's or has more to offer feel free. I will post the pics I have of ours now and hopefully will update this soon with meat in ours.
 

ribo451

Member
Jun 4, 2013
264
Here are a few pics of the A/C unit and the coolbot that goes on it as well as a few of the build in process. You will notice I went with studs at 4' center on the side walls. It's not meant to be load bearing and I wanted more insulation than stud in the walls. Also I figured the less I had to rip Styrofoam the better. Even though it's not meant to be load bearing on the roof, I wandered around all over it putting it together and it felt really solid even with 220 pounds of me on it.

The channel metal that holds the eye bolts and the meat is supposed to run the length of the building and it supported by the headers that are framed above the door and the A/C unit.
 

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ribo451

Member
Jun 4, 2013
264
Here are two more pics. One shows some detail about the building and the other is of the A/C unit and the coolbot. The A/C unit is set at 72 but you can see the temperature in the room displayed on the coolbot.
 

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ribo451

Member
Jun 4, 2013
264
And here's the last two I have. It's of the outside front and back. Even though the A/C unit is meant to be outside we put a temporary cover over it to keep some rain off. If we leave this standing and don't take it down we will have to do something else to protect the outside and bottom of it. My parents are building another house in a few years and this will eventually go in there shop.
 

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Mad_Angler

New member
Aug 26, 2015
23
Good idea and great write up.


My buddies built something similar in their barn.  It is a 6'x6' unit that uses an AC unit.


I always wondered about teh control.  The coolbot link is great.
 

NJDiverDan

New member
Aug 26, 2015
10
I have built something very similar.  Mine is 6X8X10.  The cool-bot is a great controller as it both tricks the AC unit to run the compressor to your set temp but also detects and prevents the unit from icing up. 

I will see if I can up load some pictures
 

RRD3

New member
Sep 6, 2015
4
Never thought of that. I am so going to build this.
Now I have to get the meat to put in it  ;)
 

ribo451

Member
Jun 4, 2013
264
Here is a pic of it finally being used. My Mom filled her moose tag and there is also half a deer hanging in this picture from my Dads extra antlerless whitetail tag.
 

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ribo451

Member
Jun 4, 2013
264
It's pretty full now. The moose and the one deer are gone but now there are 5 deer hanging in it. My Mom shot a 4x4 and filled her antlerless tag. My Dad had already filled his antlerless tag and he shot a 2x3. And I shot a 4x4 and filled my antlerless tag. We got 4 of those deer in 3 days. All were whitetails. I was looking for a mule deer I had been seeing but when I went back into where he lived all I saw was 9 whitetails including the one I shot and one other buck chasing does. My buck had a doe as well. The doe I shot to fill my antlerless tag also had a buck following her. The rut really seems to be cranking for whitetails now.

I think we could fit one more deer in here but that would be about it.

Here is a pic of the meat locker full of deer and one of my buck.
 

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Mike Vines

New member
Feb 23, 2014
2
Good idea.  You must not have a Home Owner's Association there.  I'm sure my neighbors are happy we belong to a HOA.  It keeps me from acting out a LOT of my ideas.  HA!!!
 

Kilnbux

New member
Dec 26, 2015
3
Great write up but couldn't you bone out the animal and just put it in the fridge for 7 days?
 

ribo451

Member
Jun 4, 2013
264
You can do whatever it takes to keep your meat cool. My Dad and I shot bulls about a week apart in 2012 and we ended up putting some meat in a fridge and ended up losing about 15 pounds that went bad before the fridge could cool it down. If you have a fridge big enough to fit an elk in go for it but even boned out meat will need a lot of room for air to circulate around the meat.

This year we had a moose and a deer in the cooler at the same time and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have fit in a fridge even boned out. Later we had 5 deer hanging at the same time and later again we had two deer and an elk.

One of the biggest reasons we built this was so if we did shoot something we didn't have to drop everything and butcher it immediately.

It was pretty nice to have the room to hang multiple animals and be able to butcher them at whatever pace we felt like.
 

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