Can I keep a fridge outside?
July 28, 2016 12:29 PM   Subscribe

We need more fridge space - can I put a standard fridge outside?

The fridge will be shielded from the weather and will live in the shade. Will this use lots and lots of electricity in summer (30 celcius)? In winter (-15 celcius) how can I stop the fridge from breaking - would unplugging it be enough? Thanks!
posted by gorcha to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I keep a fridge out in the garage all year. It doesn't seem to harm it any. It's an old fridge too, although I don't know what difference that might make.
posted by INFJ at 12:31 PM on July 28, 2016

Here's an article with some tips for running a refrigerator outside.
posted by ejs at 12:53 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The only serious problem is the oil in the cooling system is designed to operate at room temperature ambients. At -15 the oil thickens which can cause hard starting and potentially reduce the life of the compressor. FYI you can get crankcase heaters for hermetic units that will mitigate this problem but the expense of installing it usually isn't worth it for an older/second hand spare fridge.

All refrigerators only monitor the temperature of either the freezing or fresh food compartment. A fridge that monitors the fresh food compartment may not keep the frozen food compartment sufficiently cold if ambients are much below 0C. I've wired a couple fridges for people in the past such that the interior light (with a 10W bulb) stays on all the time to mitigate this. A frost free fridge rarely has this problem because it has built in heating elements in the freezer section.

Power use is only mildly correlated with room temperature; my house is regularly 30+C inside during the summer (it gets to 40C for weeks at a time in the summer and I don't have A/C). As long as it isn't in direct sun it'll be fine. Give the coils on the back or underneath if it has them; dusty or hair covered coils will have much bigger impact than high ambient temperatures.
posted by Mitheral at 1:47 PM on July 28, 2016

Oh for extra safety make sure the unit is plugged into a GFCI if situated in a wet location. Plug a night light into the other half of the GFCI and you'll be able to tell at a glance if the GFCI has tripped.
posted by Mitheral at 1:49 PM on July 28, 2016

Best answer: We keep a fridge in our unheated, detached garage. When the temps last winter hovered around the -15 celsius range some of the items in the fridge froze. It wasn't a huge deal because we mainly use it to store beverages and condiments, but there was a glass bottle that broke when the contents froze up.
posted by shornco at 3:12 PM on July 28, 2016

"Will this use lots and lots of electricity in the summer?" Yes, of course it will. For more details on the energy use implications of keeping a spare refrigerator, see "Why it’s not okay to have a second refrigerator". If you need more fridge space, it's more efficient to use one larger unit rather than two smaller ones.
posted by Corvid at 4:14 PM on July 28, 2016

Best answer: Almost all the hyperbolic downside in that article is because of re-purposing 15-25 year fridges. And while it may be more energy efficient it's pretty tough to replace 2-17 cu fridges (one of which lives in the basement/garage/store room) with a 34 cu ft monster in your average kitchen (let alone the capital cost). Let's have good faith that gorcha has correctly assessed their situation and actually needs the refrigerated storage space.
posted by Mitheral at 5:17 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Anecdote: We had trouble running a less-than-10-year old fridge in the unheated, yet adjacent-to and covered-by heated house, garage: issues in the winter (well-below freezing though not quite so cold in garage) with fridge too cold and shortened life of fridge.
posted by RoadScholar at 7:23 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When it gets below freezing, the food stored in our garage refrigerator's freezer (up top) begins to thaw. The temperature inside the refrigerator portion never exceeds the threshold of the thermostat, so it never runs. The temperature inside the insulated & closed fridge trends toward equilibrium, so the relatively warmer air in the fridge section (e.g., 37 ºF) warms the air in the freezer section, and things begin to unfreeze.
posted by xiix at 11:56 AM on July 29, 2016

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