Is it okay to put a refrigerator outside? Trust me, I understand why you’d want to ask this question.
It’s every person’s dream to have a cold beverage oasis right next to their patio or outdoor space. However, the answer is a bit complicated.
Yes, you can put a refrigerator outside. No, it probably won’t work as well as it would inside. We’ll evaluate the nuances and by the end of the article, you’ll be an expert!
First, let’s cover the differences between indoor and outdoor refrigerators.
Differences Between Indoor and Outdoor Refrigerators
You’d be forgiven if you thought all refrigerators were created equal.
While the same basic science applies whether you’re indoors or outdoors, each refrigerator is suitable for specific environments. Different temperature ranges call for different strategies of cooling.
You see, your average household never strays very far from 55-80 Fahrenheit (13 – 27 C). Indoor refrigerators lose effectiveness outside of this range. Below freezing, your refrigerator may even seize and stop working completely!
So, like I said above: yes, you can move your fridge outside. However, there’s a reason why patio and garage refrigerators are typically relegated to beverages. You’ll likely experience some problems in the hotter and colder months.
Outdoor refrigerators have safeguards against the kind of problems you’ll experience with indoor refrigerators. Outdoor fridges have a wider range of ambient temperatures they can reliably function at.
They’re also made of durable material that can withstand the elements. However, this type of refrigerator can be costly. We’re going to assume you’ll be putting an indoor refrigerator outdoors.
Problems With Using A Refrigerator Outside
What problems might you experience when putting a refrigerator outside? Well, it depends on whether you’re running it in January or July!
Extremely hot weather will cause different problems than extremely cold weather. Additionally, the wild temperature swings of Autumn and Spring can cause different problems. First, let’s break it down by weather.
Issues With The Heat
When I’m talking heat, I’m describing temperatures above 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Most manufacturers will guarantee proper cooling up until that level.
This may surprise you, but it’s actually quite easy to keep the contents of a refrigerator cold once they’re already cold. Assuming you’re not leaving the refrigerator door open or getting a new drink every 5 minutes, most hot weather just means slightly higher electricity bills.
That being said, when the mercury creeps above 110 degrees, problems can start to arise. The refrigerator has to work harder, causing more strain on the hardware.
The higher temperatures mean the components and gaskets/seals will also be hotter. This can reduce their effectiveness and increase the rate of wear.
However, you’ll start to experience real problems when the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit or so.
Issues With The Cold
If you’re chilling beverages in your refrigerator, cooler weather is perfect (we’re talking between 32 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit). The fridge doesn’t have to work nearly as hard to keep the contents’ temperatures low, reducing the overall electrical load.
While this may sound great, it comes at a cost. Since the air going through the compressor never sufficiently heats back up, the mechanism that keeps the freezer cold doesn’t work nearly as well.
This reduction in efficiency means the freezer will struggle to continue foods frozen (check out our sister guide on deep freezers).
Cold weather reverses this inefficiency, but you run the risk of the compressor seizing up in freezing (below 32 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures.
While the freezing temperatures outside will keep your food and drinks cold for the short term, you should double-check that your refrigerator is running when the weather warms back up.
Tips To Keep Your Outdoor Fridge Running
Even if you’ve played your outdoor refrigerator the way of harsh weather, you can still take steps to ensure smooth operation. Here are some tips to help make that happen.
Add Additional Insulation
Adding additional insulation to the refrigerator will reduce the work necessary to keep the internals working and in good condition. For an example of someone doing this, check out this permaculture forum (link).
If possible, you might consider building an entire insulated (but still ventilated) area for your outdoor refrigerator.
Place The Fridge Out of Direct Sunlight
This is simple to do. If you have a covered porch or screened in patio, you can simply make sure the refrigerator is underneath it. If you don’t, try to move it to a shaded area of your patio or outdoor space.
Protect The Fridge From The Elements
This may be covered by #2, but it’s very important that your refrigerator isn’t exposed directly to rain or snow.
This can cause your outdoor refrigerator to rust and potentially damages the internals. If your patio has a problem with standing water, I recommend installing a small platform to keep the fridge off the wet ground.
Here’s an adjustable model from Amazon that should fit the bill (link), depending on the weight of your fridge and how much you have inside of it.