If you’ve purchased a new refrigerator recently, you probably thought about putting your old one in the garage. Most older fridges make great secondary storage for bulk food or beer. However, if your garage isn’t climate controlled or insulated, you may be wondering if you can put your old fridge in there.
You can put a fridge in an uninsulated garage, but temperature fluctuations in the garage can affect the fridge’s performance and ability to preserve the items inside it. Drastic temperature changes in the garage can also accelerate wear and tear for the fridge’s components.
The rest of the article will cover some important points to consider when you are thinking about putting a fridge in your uninsulated garage. Watch out for tips on how to protect the fridge from the elements while in the garage.
Does Room Temperature Affect Your Fridge?
The ambient room temperature has a lot of impact on on how your refrigerator and freezer perform. Not only will they use up to 50% more electricity in a warm room than a cooler one, but they’ll work harder as well.
Most refrigerators were designed to work inside your climate controlled home. They’re expecting an operating temperature between 60-85ºF (15-30ºC). Even so-called outdoor fridges only extend that range to between 50º and around 110º F.
In an uninsulated garage, the temperatures can go well below freezing for long periods of time, or get as hot as 100°F (38 ºC) or worse, depending on where you live. In theory, that means your fridge can handle warm temperatures better than cold temperatures, right?
Not so fast.
For every 1º F change in the ambient room temperature, you can expect an increase of between 2% to 2.5% in the energy consumption by the fridge.
This means that if the temperature in your uninsulated garage climbs to 80ºF (27 ºC) in the summer while your kitchen temperature is 70ºF (21ºC), you will be using 22-25% more energy to power the fridge. The percentage climbs to 45-50% if the temperature in the garage climbs up to 90ºF (32ºC).
When the room is extremely hot, your fridge is forced to work a lot harder to keep everything inside it cold.
That results in more strain on the compressor and other components. The longer your fridge is working harder than it should, the shorter it’s lifespan will be.
Can You Put a Fridge in a Cold Garage?
It makes sense that refrigerators don’t like being in hot rooms, but what happens in the winter when temperatures start to drop?
Strangely enough, cold rooms pose a different set of challenges for your fridge. To understand why, we first need to know how a refrigerator works.
The thermostat in your fridge will turn on the compressor if the temperature inside gets above a certain point in order to cool it down.
Even though the inside of your refrigerator is insulated, it can still freeze over if the outside temperature gets too cold. When the room temperature fluctuates between 36º and 50º F, the items in your fridge could freeze and thaw over and over again, spoiling the food.
Fridges with a single thermostat can get confused when the room temperature is too cold. It stops it from turning the compressor on, even if it the temperature inside is warm enough to need it.
If your fridge has two thermostats (one inside and one outside), it is less likely to have issues with freezing or thawing when in the garage.
Another concern is if the fridge has water lines connected. They may also freeze and burst in the extreme cold.
How to Safely Run a Fridge in an Uninsulated Garage
If you want to use your fridge in an uninsulated garage without worrying as much, here are a few things you can do.
Look for Garage-Ready Refrigerators
Garage-ready refrigerators have an extended operating temperature range. That allows them to work much better when the temperatures drop below freezing.
They come with internal heaters which ensure that the machine is always working at a controlled temperature. Heater-equipped fridges also have larger compressors, extra insulation, and more refrigerant.
For more information on what garage-ready refrigerators are and how they work check out my article here. I also have some recommendations for some of the best ones to shop for.
Regulate the Temperature Around the Fridge
Ideally you would insulate your entire garage to help regulate the temperature. However, if that’s a bigger project than you want to do, there are other options.
Instead, you could create a small temperature-controlled space in your garage to house the fridge. An insulated wooden cabinet with a small vent to let out heat is enough. Just be sure that there’s adequate room for ventilation and access to any panels you need to maintain your fridge.
Heat Up Your Fridge’s Thermostat
Remember, we want the air around your refrigerator’s thermostat to be warm enough in the winter to make it turn on. Depending on how cold it gets in your garage, there are a few ways you can do this.
We talked about garage-ready refrigerators earlier, but some manufacturers make a kit that lets you convert an older fridge into one that can work in colder temperatures.
Those kits aren’t available for all manufacturers, but if you have certain Frigidaire or Kenmore models, then there may be an inexpensive option for you.
Another way to trick your fridge’s thermostat into thinking it’s warmer than it really is, is to use a clamp-on work lamp near the fridge. You can pick these up at your local home improvement store for a few dollars and fit them with an incandescent light bulb. For colder temperatures, you can use an infrared heater to accomplish the same thing.
However, this option will only work if you have a fridge with an external thermostat.
While you can certainly put a fridge in an uninsulated garage, it may not be the best option depending on the climate in your area.
Because refrigerators and freezers work harder when it’s hot, you could wind up spending a lot more on your electricity bill than you bargained for.
In winters, where the temperatures drop below freezing for extended periods of time, you run the risk of food spoilage because your fridge won’t work the way it should.
Either way, you need to carefully weigh your options and decide if putting your fridge in your un-insulated garage is really the best decision for you.
If you do decide to put a refrigerator in your garage, check out my guide to garage refrigerators. It’s got a lot of great information about what to look for, as well as some recommendations which fridges work best in the garage.
However, if you’re still on the fence about whether insulating your garage is the right decision for you, I have another article that looks at some of the decisions I had to make before insulating my own garage’s walls and door.