Thermoelectric devices are solid-state devices. Semiconductor thermoelectric cooling, based on the Peltier effect, has interesting capabilities compared to conventional cooling systems. In this work second law analysis of thermoelectric coolers has been done with the help of exergy destruction. In the first part, performance of single-stage thermoelectric coolers and multi stage thermoelectric coolers has been compared for same number of thermoelectric elements i.e. 50. The performance parameters considered to compare their performance are rate of refrigeration, coefficient of performance, second law efficiency and exergy destruction. In second part, multi stage thermoelectric coolers have been analyzed for three different combinations of number of elements in two stages of thermoelectric coolers. The result of the analysis shows that the performance of a multi stage thermoelectric cooler which has total 50 elements gives best performance when it has 30 elements in hotter side and 20 elements in colder side out of the three cases considered. The comparison of single-stage thermoelectric cooler and multistage thermoelectric cooler shows that for same number of elements rate of refrigeration (ROR) of single-stage thermoelectric cooler is much higher than that of multi stage thermoelectric cooler. The COP remains same for both of them but the peak value of cop is obtained at much lower value of current supplied in multi stage thermoelectric cooler. Exergy destruction has constant values in single stage as well as multi stage thermoelectric cooler when the two stages have equal number of elements but it decreases with increase in x. The result of comparison of multistage thermoelectric cooler for three values of x i.e. 0.5, 1, 1.5 shows that the COP, ROR and second law efficiency improve and exergy destruction degrades with increase in x and the best performance has been obtained for x = 1.5 out of the three values considered. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.