Outdoor Refrigerator Buying Guide

How to Buy an Outdoor Refrigerator

Outdoor refrigerators work harder so it’s important to seek out models designed specifically for the task.

With temperature regulating systems that function constantly, refrigerators are one of the hardest working appliances in the home. When placed outside the home, they are required to work even harder to maintain proper temperatures. In addition, they must operate safely even when exposed to inclement weather. For that reason, it’s important to purchase a refrigerator designed specifically for efficient and reliable outdoor use. 



1. Placement

Where do you plan on placing your outdoor refrigerator? Will you be building it into an outdoor kitchen island, or will it be stand-alone on your patio? It is also important to make sure your refrigerator is placed in a covered area, out of direct sunlight or weather, as this will definitely affect the performance and life of the refrigerator. Knowing where you will ultimately place it will help ensure you purchase a refrigerator that's perfect for your space.

If you plan on building your refrigerator into an outdoor kitchen island, it is import to consider how the refrigerator vents, as well as its cutout dimensions. Front-vented refrigerators ventilate from the front of the appliance and require no extra spacing around the refrigerator for ventilation when placed into your island cutout. If you already know your islands cutout dimensions for the refrigerator, you will need to find one with the proper width, depth, and height dimensions to ensure it fits properly.

Rear-vented refrigerators vent from the back side of the appliance. If you plan on installing a rear vented refrigerator into your outdoor kitchen island, you should take into account the extra spacing needed around the refrigerator in your island cutout for proper ventilation. Ventilation requirements are published by the manufacturer. Many customers add island vent panels in the rear of their island to increase air flow.

2. Durability

It is important to consider the durability of an outdoor refrigerator to make sure it will withstand the ever-changing outdoor environment. This makes all the difference in having a refrigerator that will last for only a few years or one that will go the distance.

Outdoor rated refrigerators are the best choice for ensuring durability. They undergo a series of tests for durability to be approved and warrantied for outdoor use. These fridges are usually built with a high-grade stainless steel exterior and designed to withstand the harsh outdoor environment.

3. Capacity

Knowing what you plan on storing in your outdoor refrigerator will help you decide on the capacity that's right for you. Consider the dimensions and layout inside the refrigerator to see if its storage is adequate to your needs.

If you are planning on storing food in your outdoor refrigerator, then one that is food safety certified should be considered. Food safety certified refrigerators have passed a strict set of evaluations to ensure food safety requirements and standards are met. These products are evaluated, tested, and certified to maintain temperatures below 40-degrees outdoors, and are built with food-safe materials, giving you more confidence in knowing that your food can be stored safely and properly.

4. Performance

Consider the cooling type each outdoor refrigerator offers, as it can make all the difference when it comes to performance. There are typically two types of cooling offered when it comes to outdoor compact refrigerators: forced air and cold plate.

Cold plate refrigerators feature a cooling plate in the back of the appliance. The drawback to this cooling method is that your contents in the back of the refrigerator may obstruct the cold air-flow, creating inconsistent temperatures from the front to the back of the unit.

The best cooling method for outdoor refrigeration is forced air. Forced air refrigerators feature fans inside the refrigerator that circulate to keep the temperature more precise and consistent throughout. This cooling method also cools down your refrigerator much faster than the cold plate.

5. Security

A locking outdoor refrigerator is great for keeping children safe or if you simply want to protect the contents of your fridge. These refrigerators typically feature a keyed lock on the front door.

Choosing the right design

  • Metal vs. glass shelving - You’ll find plenty of outdoor refrigerators with both metal and glass shelving, but choosing one over the other is strictly a preference.  Metal shelving is a great choice for increasing airflow and improving the energy efficiency of your outdoor refrigerator because the air flows between the grates. However, glass is a great choice for smaller items and storage, especially if you have perishable items in your refrigerator. Both metal and glass have advantages, so consider how you want to use your fridge before you buy. Sliding glass shelves and shelves specifically made for wine are other options.
  • Lighting - A well-lit refrigerator makes it easy to enjoy the outdoors after dark. Look for LED lights to avoid creating heat inside your refrigerator. These long-lasting, high-performance lights are the best choice for energy efficiency and long-term use.
  • Drawers - Drawer fridges are just another option.  They can be used the same as regular fridges. Some people like storing fresh fruits and vegetables in the drawers because of the depth and capacity of the drawers.  They are also a great place to store quick snacks if your kids need a treat while they play outside.
  • Brands and design - First, decide whether you want just a refrigerator or a fridge and freezer combo. If beverage storage is important, you might want an ice-maker, too! Then, look for companies with high-quality stainless steel that has at least a 304 stainless steel rating. Most brands made in the USA provide high-quality workmanship for an appliance that lasts.  Most outdoor fridges for kitchens are 24 inches high by 34 inches tall.

Installation and maintenance

  • Maximum efficiency - After you buy your new outdoor refrigerator, make sure it works perfectly by keeping it fully stocked. Buy a refrigerator that perfectly fits the amount of food you’ll typically store outside to increase efficiency. A fully stocked fridge doesn’t have to cool any extra space, saving energy costs. In addition, leave a 1/2″ to 1″ gap around the entire refrigerator when you install it. Even for built-in refrigerators, this space maximizes efficiency and improves air flow.
  • Maintenance - Clean the coils and compressor fan regularly to maintain the sleek look and maximum efficiency of your refrigerator. A fridge with clean coils won’t have to work as hard to maintain the same level of excellence.
  • Long-term non-use - If you know you won’t use your refrigerator for a long time, turn it off. For example, you might shut down your outdoor refrigerator during the winter or when you go on vacation. Turn the refrigerator off 24 hours before you leave. Make sure it’s dried out and leave a package of baking soda inside to absorb any odors. When you’re ready to use your fridge again, it’s ready to go!

With so many great options, it’s hard to choose an outdoor refrigerator for your lifestyle. Use this guide to choose the outdoor refrigerator that’s best for you!

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