Having a second refrigerator in the garage can really help with space. It’s nice to always have frosty cold beverages available out in the garage fridge opening up storage space in your kitchen fridge for other things. Can you use any refrigerator outside in the garage if you have an uninsulated garage without heating or cooling? What do you need to consider when keeping a refrigerator in the garage? Below are some things to know before putting a second fridge out in your garage.
- Keeping a refrigerator in the garage tips
- 1 – A refrigerator with a single thermostat won’t work at near freezing temperatures.
- 2 – Most refrigerators aren’t designed to operate above 100F
- 3 – Use a heater in your refrigerator to keep it going in freezing temperatures
- 4 – Setup fans to circulate air around your refrigerator in hot temperatures
- 5 – Don’t use a refrigerator with water filter/ice maker in freezing temperatures
- 6 – An old refrigerator will handle temperature swings better
- 7 – A Garage Ready refrigerator will work better
- 8 – Check the power rating of your garage outlets
- 9 – Keep your garage clean and dust free
- 10 – Make a temperature controlled spot for your garage refrigerator
- 11 – Keep ice in the freezer
- 12 – Don’t leave your refrigerator empty
- 13 – Don’t keep easily spoiled food in the garage freezer or fridge
- 14 – Don’t waste money on an Outdoor Refrigerator for your garage
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Keeping a refrigerator in the garage tips
Refrigerators work best between freezing and 100F. Their optimal operating temperature range is room temperature between 68 and 71F degrees. Putting one in your garage can expose it to temperatures well outside of its normal operating range. Is it impossible to run a refrigerator in an unheated garage? No, it isn’t. You need to look for the right refrigerator and there are some precautions you need to take.
1 – A refrigerator with a single thermostat won’t work at near freezing temperatures.
Most fridge freezer combos have a thermostat in the fresh produce part of the refrigerator. If the outside temperature is below the refrigerator setting but above freezing, it will shut off and stop cooling the refrigerator.
Most refrigerators work by cooling the refrigerator section with air from the freezer compartment. Now that the refrigerator section is cold enough it has shut off the refrigerator and freezer and is no longer cooling. The temperature outside is still above freezing so the freezer temperature will now be above freezing spoiling everything in it. A refrigerator with 2 thermostats (1 in the refrigerator section and 1 in freezer section) will handle cold outside temperatures better by keeping the freezer running if the freezer air warms above it’s setting.
A refrigerator only unit like a mini fridge will only have one thermostat. It will shutoff when it goes below it’s operating temperature and then go as cold as the garage after that. The only risk is if it gets cold enough for items in the mini fridge to burst. A blown up can of coke can make a gigantic mess inside your fridge. I found that out on my dads boat one day when I put one too close to the freezer element in the fridge.
2 – Most refrigerators aren’t designed to operate above 100F
Many refrigerator manufacturers such as GE recommend you don’t use their refrigerator above an ambient temperature of 110F degrees as it will cause the motor/compressor to burn up. Running the refrigerator in 100F or higher temperatures will cause the compressor to run almost non stop meaning it will cost a lot and not be very efficient.
3 – Use a heater in your refrigerator to keep it going in freezing temperatures
A heating coil can be installed inside the refrigerator to heat the thermostat so it doesn’t shut off in near freezing temperature. A refrigerator designed to operate in very cold temperatures will need to heat the refrigerator section to keep it at ideal refrigeration temperature. A heating kit or garage refrigerator kit is available for many refrigerators.
Consult a refrigerator service technician or repair guy to see if they can add a heater or garage kit to your fridge before putting it out in the garage. For the DIY people out there you can try to put a heater pad by the thermostat to trick it and do the same thing.
4 – Setup fans to circulate air around your refrigerator in hot temperatures
If you have a hot garage that can go above 100F, setup a fan to blow air across the refrigerator coils and vents in the back. Make sure your refrigerator has good airflow across the coils so that warm air won’t build up potentially burning up the compressor.
5 – Don’t use a refrigerator with water filter/ice maker in freezing temperatures
Water lines may freeze if your garage goes below freezing. A refrigerator with a water dispenser or ice dispenser will need a water line run to it that can freeze. Get a simple fridge for outdoor operation that doesn’t have this feature.
6 – An old refrigerator will handle temperature swings better
Newer fridge models are more energy efficient which makes them more susceptible to changes in the environment. They are designed to operate in a narrow temperature range for highest efficiency. They have compressors designed for high efficiency operation. This also means they aren’t designed for operating at extreme temperatures. There is robustness to the components to handle a lot of abuse. An old garage fridge may last much longer at high or low garage temperature. It will also cost more because it’s lacking in high efficiency energy saving design.
7 – A Garage Ready refrigerator will work better
Garage ready fridges are setup to handle larger temperature fluctuation and cold air better. They will work in colder temperatures. You still need to check the manual to see what the operating temperature range is and if that will work with your garage. If you live somewhere with very extreme high or low temperatures you may still have a problem.
8 – Check the power rating of your garage outlets
Check the power rating of your outlet and power consumption of your refrigerator. Some refrigerators require a 20 amp circuit. Most house circuits are wired for 15 amp use. Check the manual of the refrigerator you are thinking about before buying it.
9 – Keep your garage clean and dust free
Dust is the worst enemy of anything that needs good air circulation to operate. If dust and dirt clogs the vents near the compressor and coil on your refrigerator it can overheat quickly. It will not operate efficiently with clogged vents so it will cost more too. Keep the area around your garage fridge neat and tidy and free of dust and debris.
10 – Make a temperature controlled spot for your garage refrigerator
If you don’t want to heat and cool your entire garage, make a small climate controlled area just for the refrigerator. If you want to use your garage for a workshop or gym you might want to consider heating and cooling your garage. See our articles on heating your garage and cooling your garage to learn more.
11 – Keep ice in the freezer
Storing extra ice in the freezer can allow it to handle outside temperature swings better. Ice and water are good at storing heat or cold. Keeping ice in your freezer will allow it to stay cold when it’s really hot in your garage or if your refrigerator turns off which can save your frozen food. It will also let you know if it warmed up in your freezer because all the ice is melted and no longer in cubes.
12 – Don’t leave your refrigerator empty
Don’t leave your refrigerator empty. Having something in there helps buffer the temperature inside your refrigerator. Always keep some beer or pop in garage beer fridge. The cold mass will help regulate the temperature inside your refrigerator and allow it to operate more efficiently.
13 – Don’t keep easily spoiled food in the garage freezer or fridge
Save your garage refrigerator for items that won’t spoil if they go warm like beer or pop/soda. Keep items that spoil quickly in your indoor fridge. If your main goal is more freezer capacity then you might want to consider a chest freezer or upright freezer instead of a spare refrigerator freezer combo. These can operate reliably in freezing temperatures.
14 – Don’t waste money on an Outdoor Refrigerator for your garage
Outside Refrigerators are not rated for temperatures any colder than regular or garage refrigerators. They are built with water resistance for use in wet locations.
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About the author
My name is Doug Ryan. I am a homeowner and love having get togethers and finding the best things to make spending time at home easier and more fun. We spend a lot of time at home so why shouldn’t we have a great time there? I decided to start Great Home Gear as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for all things home living with everyone.