Chest Freezer Ice Bathing

I still want to write a post about the WHM Advanced Module itself (not just what I learned from it), but I’m too excited about my new chest freezer.

Someone in LA mentioned doing this and I instantly got excited about it, because I’ve found it to be a remarkable burden to do a real ice bath otherwise.  It’s time and money to go out and buy ice for $0.25/lb, then filling and draining the bath tub is a massive waste of time and water just for one bath.   Now, I have a chest freezer that I can fit in comfortably, and can be 32-40F all the time.

IMPORTANT:  Always unplug the chest freezer before getting in, even with all the other components discussed here!


Whirlpool chest freezer for always-available ice bathing!  (14.8 cu.ft)


The only thing I have left to do at this point is get a couple wooden steps and some kind of mat where I can do a horse stance and dry off when I get out.

I wanted to document what I’ve done here for anyone else who is thinking about doing this.  And I do highly recommend it!

Picking a Chest Freezer

Doing some research, I determined that 10-12 cu ft was probably big enough for someone of my size (about 5’11”, 185 lbs).  But I didn’t want to risk getting something too small, and I’ll never complain about having extra space to stretch out.  The one I picked is approximately 15 cubic feet, and I will admit it’s pretty spacious.

I checked craigslist, but only found one person within 20 mi who had a chest freezer in the 10-18 cu ft  range, and they never responded to me so I assume they already sold it.  Admittedly, that would’ve been the best way, but there just wasn’t a selection near me.  So instead I had to buy something new.  So I prepared for my normal large appliance battle:

I picked out this one from a Lowes near me:

Next, I got onto Ebay, and bought a 10% coupon for Lowes for $5, the ones that are usually given to new home-owners who likely need to buy lots of new stuff, but primarily end up being sold on Ebay.

Then I purchased a Lowes gift card from Ebay.  In my case, I was able to get a gift card with $200 remaining for about $170.  In both cases, the seller was able to email me the codes right away to use for an online purchase.

Finally, I went to the Lowes website from my wife’s ebates account, which gets another couple percent off the purchase.  My $400 chest freezer ended up being closer to $320 + tax.  I think it said there was free delivery, too, but I was too anxious, and a neighbor with a pickup truck went with me to go pick it up the next day.

Accessories to Buy

So there’s a couple other things you will want in order to setup your freezer:

  • I used a small tube of 100% Silicone Caulk to seal all the seams on the inside of the freezer.  I did this before I went to bed (before turning on the freezer), to be sure that it was properly sealed.  It’s probably already factory sealed, but it wasn’t terribly expensive or difficult to do for my own peace of mind.
  • I got an outlet timer to manage the duty cycle of the freezer.  The freezer claims to operate at -10F to +10F, which means that if it were to be on all the time I’d end up with a giant block of ice.   On the WHM facebook group, someone said that running it only a couple hours per day is enough to keep it at 32F.  I set mine up for 2am-5am every day.  I’ll be experimenting with more or less time depending on how much ice buildup there is.
  • Although you really should unplug it before getting in, I wanted extra protection in case I forget.  So I purchased a GCFI outlet adapter.  The whole point of the GFCI is to detect when there’s a ground fault (which is what happens when you drop a plugged-in extension cord into water) and then cuts the power.  US building code requires having built-in GFCI wall outlets within a certain distance of kitchen sinks, bathtubs, etc.   After talking to an electrician friend about it, he said that the “Test” button on these outlets is actually creating a ground fault and should trigger the shut-off.  I could’ve guessed that was what it does, but I rarely trust something that seems so easy!  (UPDATE:  I went to plug in my new GFCI adapter and realized that the wall outlet is already GFCI.   Whoops.)


Cooling Down the Water

After sealing the seams, I filled up the freezer about 80% using a garden hose, unfortunately, the water from the hose was close to 70F so the freezer had a lot of work to do to get it down to freezing.  After waiting 8 hours it had only dropped to like 61-62F and the sides of the freezer were really hot.   It then occurred to me to do a calculation:



So we’re looking at about 28.5 mega-joules to heat all the water.  In the US, we have wall outlets that max out at 1,800 W, though the one thing I remembered from thermodynamics was that maximum theoretical refrigerator efficiency is 21.9%.  Knowing that the conversion from wall energy into the compressor energy, and transferring it to the water itself was going to be significantly less than that.  I assumed about 12%, though I suspect even that is optimistic:


So, I was looking at about 1.5 days to get this thing cool, which kind fit my observation.   However,  given how hot it got from just 8 hours of work, I was worried about burning out the electronics.  So I sucked it up and went to the store and got nine, 8lb bags of ice.  The first five bags melted pretty quickly which brought the temperature down from about 61 F to 50 F.  The rest of it got it near 40 F.  At this point, I turned off the freezer and let it take a break for the night.  Today I plugged it in for about 4 hours and it’s now down below 40 F, with ice starting to form around the edges.  Even if it’s not exactly 32, I’m perfectly content with 35-38 F.


Freezer runs 3 hrs/day, keeps it around 36F with a little bit of ice build up around the edges.

On that note, while my previous posts showed measurements of ~37 F in my bathtub, those were surface temperatures with ice still floating.  I tried to stir it up before those measurements, but I suspect the average temperate was a bit higher.  I make that conclusion after taking a real ice bath at the course in LA, and it was brutal.  They had a full 3 inches of ice floating on the surface of the pool, so it was definitely ~32 F.  And I was  caught off-guard by how much shock and discomfort there was even after all my experience.   I did the two minutes that was prescribed but I’m not sure I could’ve done a lot more (probably 4-5 min).   I even got an afterdrop and started shivering a few minutes after I got out (I can’t even remember the last time I shivered!).


I’ve only done two soaks in this thing so far, but both have been heavenly.   Not only is it brutally cold, it is so without floating ice which I find somewhat distracting.  This feels like “pure” cold pressure.  I am constantly reminded just how cold ice really is.  But that is a good thing, since we learned in the course that part of the cold exercises is to find intense focus and produce a strong stress response from your body.

Overall, if you are serious about Hoffing, this is a wonderful investment of time and money!  Highly recommended!

P.S. Here’s a joke I learned in the course:  What do you call it when multiple people take an ice bath at the same time?   Synchronized Wimming!




5 thoughts on “Chest Freezer Ice Bathing

  1. Does your chest freezers drain plug hold water safely? Mine doesnt, so I used water proof thread with special lubricant and it hold 99,5% water.
    It leaks around 10mm in 10hours – so not perfect in the long run. Any advice perhaps?


    • I got lucky. The drain plug on mine works flawlessly. I was scared I’d have to engineer something to fix it, but the top of the cap is super wide and I guess it gets pressed hard into the drain from the water pressure.


  2. Pingback: WHM Advanced Course (Part 2) | The SOAR Blog

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