Ice or Water Chiller for Cold Plunge

Ice or Water Chiller for Cold Plunge

Two popular methods that have emerged as go-to options for athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and individuals seeking relief from various ailments are ice and water chillers for cold plunging. In this article, we dive into the nuances of both ice and water chillers to explore which might be the better option for specific situations.


Ice is a traditional and easily accessible form of cold therapy. Typically, consisting of a bag filled with ice cubes or crushed ice from the local grocery store, which is then placed into a cold plunge to reduce water temperature.

ice box

Pros of Ice:

  1. Convenience and Accessibility for the Short Term: Ice is readily available at your local grocery store and can be easily prepared at home with common household items like ice cubes and a plastic bag. This accessibility makes ice bags a convenient choice for immediate cold therapy.
  2. Cost and Volume: Ice can be a cost-effective solution for cold therapy for beginners interested in wanting to understand more about cold plunging. Before spending thousands of dollars in cold plunge products, we recommend getting acclimated with ice. The temperatures are much more tolerable and the costs are affordable upfront. 

Cons of Ice:

  1. Limited Duration: Ice has a limited duration of effectiveness. Ice gradually melts, and as water temperatures increase, the therapeutic benefits diminish. This may require frequent replacement to maintain a consistent level of cold therapy. Ice is also generally for one time use. 
  2. Messy Application: As ice melts, it can create a mess, potentially leaking water and making the application process less tidy. This can be a drawback, especially when using ice in situations where cleanliness is important.
  3. Cost and Volume: Over time, ice can become expensive depending on the desired temperature and the number of times associated with cold plunging. Lower temperatures require more ice.
  4. Convenience: Most home fridges do not stock enough ice required for cold plunging so you may find yourself making frequent visits to the grocery store. As you cold plunge more often, the drives to the store and hauling bags of ice home can become inconvenient and time consuming. 

Water Chiller:

A Water Chiller is an electronic device that chills water to desired temperatures typically ranging from 69°F down to extreme temperatures in the 30's. A water chiller can consistently hold desired temperatures as it is electronically powered as opposed to ice which is more easily influenced by ambient temperatures. Premium water chillers include bacteria killing systems such as UV light or Ozone. Over time, bacteria can start growing in water so if you are not constantly replacing the water in your cold plunge, this maybe something you consider when purchasing a water chiller. Lastly, the benefit of a water chiller is the ability to filter out debris such as hair, sand and other physical elements found in unfiltered water.

Pro and Standard Chillers

Pros of Water Chiller:

  1. Uniform Temperature Allowing Whole-Body Benefits: Ice generally floats to the top, whereas a water chiller provides uniform water temperatures throughout for whole-body benefits. The immersion of the entire body in cold water can induce a systemic response, affecting circulation, metabolism, and overall recovery.
  2. Convenience and Accessibility for the Long term: A water chiller allows the ability to keep the water at desired temperatures 24/7. The need to create or buy ice is taken out of the equation thus a more convenient solution for those on a tight schedule. The convenience of an at home water chiller may also help with the discipline to engage in cold plunging on a more frequent basis.
  3. Cleaner setup: Water chillers have an inlet and outlet connection that connect directly into a cold plunge. In comparison to ice, the “mess is less”. 

Cons of Water Chiller:

  1. Accessibility Challenges:  The availability can be a limiting factor for some individuals as many websites have long wait times for shipping and delivery.
  2. Cost: The upfront cost of water chillers can range from $1500 and upwards depending on a number of factors: speed to desired temp, lowest temp required, bacteria killing mechanisms and noise level are a few you might consider. 
  3. Education: Picking the right water chiller can be complicated as there are many decisions to choose from: which horsepower, which bacteria killing system or solution, how many microns in your filter, hose type, the list goes on and on. Make sure you do your research prior to the investment as in many cases, it is often a one time purchase.

Choosing the Right Method:

The decision between ice or water chiller depends on various factors, including individual preference, cost and convenience. Here are some guidelines to help individuals make an informed choice:

  1. Full Body Immersion – Ice floats to the top so temperatures may vary not only in the cold plunge but also during the length of time you are cold plunging. Water chillers control temperatures throughout benefiting full body immersion as well as length of time. 
  2. Short term vs Long term use – If you are new to cold plunging and are not sure about the benefits, we recommend starting with ice. Studies show it takes 30 days to create a new routine. If you stick with it and feel the benefits cold plunging can provide to your physical and mental well-being, you may decide to invest in a water chiller as it is a more sustainable, cost effective solution in the long run. 
  3. Convenience and Temperature Control – Large amounts of ice require  trips to the grocery store. For those looking for a faster solution, an at home water chiller provides convenience in time savings and more consistent temperature control. 
  4. Cleanliness – This is a personal preference as those cold plunging outside where ambient temperatures may dry up excess water may not have as much of an issue whereas those cold plunging in areas where excessive water maybe undesirable may prefer a cleaner, water chiller setup.
  5. Clean Water - With ice, you may want to change your water every 3-5 uses. This can deter some as having to engage in a full setup process coupled with a trip to the grocery store can be time consuming. With a water chiller, the water is not only temperature ready 24/7 but also many premium water chillers come with filters to remove debris like dirts, sand, rust coupled with bacteria killing agents such as UV light or Ozone. 

Ultimately, the choice between Ice or a Water Chiller should be based on individual circumstances and long term goals some of which may be convenience, cost and usage. Many experiment with both methods and tailor their cold therapy approach over time for optimal results. Ice offers a cost-effective solution for one off application and short term use. Whether it's the simplicity of Ice or the whole body benefits, 24/7 convenience and cleanliness of a Water Chiller, the therapeutic chill remains a valuable tool in the pursuit of recovery and well-being. 

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