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!

IMG_20170604_124835

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.
    41pdjsdijnl
  • 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.
    816ul1l2byfl-_sl1500_
  • 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.)
    41posuepdnl

 

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:

 

joules_calc

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:

hours_calc

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.

IMG_20170610_152520

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!).

Conclusions

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!

 

 

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16 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?

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    • 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.

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

  3. I just bought a deep freezer too. But I made the mistake of buying one that is too small. I will use it for awhile and then buy a bigger one. The sides of my hips touch the walls. I am able to squat down so the water is above my belly, but tad below my chest. I bought a device to measures the temperature of the water and keeps it between two set points. It is working great keep the water at 40 degrees. I set it to 33 degrees, but ice formed on the sides and I wouldn’t fit. So I am bumped it up to 40 degrees and will lower it slowly to see how far I can go before the ice forms on the sides again. I sealed the seams with silicone too. I am using an infrared sauna for 20 minutes in the morning, then hitting the cold deep freeze tank. I am only doing a minute right now, but will slowly build up to several minutes. I am also hitting the tub before bed. Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Body book got me interested in cold water therapy.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01KEYDNKK

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N6AEEIK

    https://www.wired.com/2013/02/ff-cold-weight-loss/

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    • Good stuff @theyarealreadyamoungus. I like the temperature controller you found on Amazon. I’ve saved it to my wishlist, as I’m don’t think I need it for this, but I know I’ll need it for something at some point in my life :).

      I am due for a follow-up post on my chest freezer, but I’ll summarize a couple things I was planning to say there. First, I already raised the temperature of mine to 41-44 F. I was both tired of ice build-up, and 41-44 feels the same to my body as 35 but without such intense burning in the hands and feet. I figured the intense burning might be a “challenge” to overcome, but I just find it easier to relax and focus in 41-44 F and still get the energy and heat afterwads. I was doing about 4min/day at 35F, and now do about 5min/day at 40-45F. (though I’ve been busy and not getting to it everyday). Also, after spending some time with my timer, I’ve found that I can have it run for 2-2.5 hours in the middle of the night and its temperature stays pretty constant. I like the temp controller idea, but I now that the timer is on a good cycle I don’t have a reason to change. OTOH, I had wanted to build a temperature-controlled enclosure for my 3d printer perhaps using a space heater… this seems like it would fit the bill. But I’d need to build the enclosure, first.

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      • I’m ready to get a freezer and was thinking of getting the same one but the specs say there is a light inside the freezer. How does this not cause issues?

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      • I’m not sure I understand the question. Whenever I use the freezer to sit in it, the power is off, usually because I unplugged it. If I forgot to unplug it’s still off because the outlet timer keeps it off except for 2am-4:30am every morning. I rarely see the light.

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      • Well I’ve never seen a light in a chest freezer but it would seem water would cause problems with an electrical circuit.

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  4. Alan thank you for putting your project and experience of your process into prose. Efforts appreciated and admired.

    I’ve been looking to do a very similar type of thing, though my premise (whilst partial to what little I know of the WIM HOF methods) is based more on sports science for ice recovery to reduce inflammation and increase healing from bouts of random physical movements at high-intensity (i.e. sports). Home cold recovery units aren’t cheap so I’m looking for an alternative on a more modest/ student budget.

    Sports science recommendations for cold hydrotherapy advise 8-12 deg Celsius (45 – 55 Fahrenheit) for approx 10-15 minutes maximum as the optimum parameters. From what I gather WIM HOF is usually under 5 mins for submersion and quite a few degrees colder, as you write.

    Based on all this and your endeavors I have two questions:

    1) Not sure I saw which part of the US you are in but I’m in Melbourne Australia so it’s quite possible we’re in somewhat different climates and I’m trying to get a clearer idea of temperature ranges you have measured so I can use that to help decide if I need to adjust/ change the internal thermostat or I can get away with cooling for less time to achieve the temperature range I desire. My question simply, is- have you measured the water temp before the 2.5 the chest freezer is powered on for cooling? If so where does it range?

    2) I concern about keeping the water sanitary. How often do you change the water? If not often have you considered this and what have you done to manage sanitation? Whilst I expect to shower before use and it should go without saying I no one would intend to treat such a process like the local kiddie-pool, for myself, I think I may want to at least be aware of pH levels if not changing the water often.

    Cheers,

    Nick, Melbourne Australia.

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    • In general, WHM encourages daily 10 minute cold showers, which are typically in the range you mentioned for temp and exposure (warmer in the summer, unfortunately, which was part of my motivation for getting the chest freezer). I have tended to lean towards lower temperatures with lower exposure times, as a matter of experimentation and conditioning, but I had been planning to write a follow up post that I changed my preference to keeping the tub at 41-45 F and doing 5-10 minutes. I do that multiple times per week now and much prefer it. 45-55 F and 10-15 min would also be good, but I don’t want to sit around twiddling my thumbs that long 🙂

      I haven’t actively monitored the water before and after the 2.5 hours it is on. But I have estimated that the tub cools about 1 F for every hour it is on (so I’m restoring 2.5 F with 2.5 hr being on). This matches my observation that if I accidentally leave it unplugged for a couple days, it’ll be 5-7 warmer. So far, all observations have been in my garage and this whole thing started this summer when it’s been super hot in the garage, probably like being outside (in the shade).

      The sanitation part has evaded me. I have been undecided how to deal with it, and I have been meaning to do more research on chemicals used in commercial cold tubs. My water is untreated, and I have been changing the water about every 3 weeks, using it 4-5 times per week. At a minimum, dirt from my feet walking to the tub and various pieces of lint gets in it and reminds me why it’s nice to have circulation and filtration in a real tub/pool. When I do change the water, I clean the insides with a soft cleaning agent and rags before refilling. I’m not too worried about things growing in it, since it is essentially a refrigerator, but that was more applicable at 35F, not 41-55F. I would like to do something (more than nothing) I just haven’t put in the time to figure out what. Recommendations welcome!

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  5. Nice write up!

    i was at the Master Class in LA- we may have spoken about my Chest Freezer?

    only difference i notice is that it takes quite a bit of solid ice formed for my tub to actually be at 35f- are you fully agitating the water before you take the temperature? its always quite a bit colder at the surface.

    after over a year of constant use mine is slowing down in terms of how quick it gets cold.. from 36hrs to more like 48.. still holds temp quite well once it gets there..

    keep it up!

    -Quinn

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    • I actually use one of the baskets that came with the freezer to agitate the water before I measure. It’s perfect to submerge and pull from one side to the other. However I was bothered by the ice build-up and the intensity of the burning in my hands so I keep it around 42F now. Both problems solved, I just spend a little more time in it. 5-10 min instead of 4-6

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  6. I am very interested in doing this. I am getting tired of hauling ice to the tub. I know this might sound strange but I have not seen anyone mention it yet. Are you afraid of the door closing on you? I have a fear of getting trapped in it. Also any update on how you clean it. I have heard of people using pond pumps but not sure ? Thanks

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