3 Good Refrigerators for a Garage

Refrigerators for a GaragePeople looking for refrigerators for a garage tend to fall into two camps.

The first camp wants a refrigerator that will operate properly in the extreme temperature fluctuations of an uninsulated garage. One that will not burn out in the Summer, or stop freezing food in the Winter.

The second camp is thinking about the workspace. They want a fridge that will blend into the work environment, and be rugged, durable, and flexible enough to stand up to the same kind of wear and tear that the other tools and machines in the garage do.

Some people fall into both camps.

In this article, I list three refrigerators that will satisfy people in the first, the second, and both camps.
Before that, I’d like to talk to the first camp about why you would need a special refrigerator to operate a refrigerator in extreme temperatures. (I’ll try not to get TOO technical.)

The Temperatures in Your Garage

First, a quick one-two-three about how a refrigerator works:

  1. The_Refrigerator_CycleA thermostat inside the fridge maintains the temperature by controlling a compressor (the mechanical part that causes all the humming noise your fridge makes).
  2. This compresses and pumps liquid gas (freon) through tubes and coils throughout the fridge, moving heat from the freezer section to the outside, keeping everything cold inside.
  3. A fan blows the ice-cold air from the freezer section into the refrigerator section, until it gets cold.

Standard refrigerators are designed to work in the relatively moderate temperatures of your household — anywhere from about 50ºF to about 100ºF (10ºC~38ºC).

Problems with your refrigerator begin when the temperature in your uninsulated garage drops to below 40ºF in the Winter, or rises to above 100ºF in the Summer.

Too Hot…

In extreme heat — 110ºF or more — the compressor works extra hard to keep everything cold. It has to make sure all that heat stays on the outside of the refrigerator. This can lead to early wear & tear on the appliance, shortening its lifespan.

Additionally, the extreme difference in temperature between the inside and outside can cause moisture condensation on metal parts, resulting in rust on important components.

Too Cold…

You would think a cold garage would be fine for a refrigerator. But, extreme cold is what leads to most of the problems people have with refrigerators in their garages.

Refrigerator_backThe refrigerator’s thermostat keeps the temperature inside the fridge at about 38-40ºF. As I mentioned above, it does this by, first, turning on the compressor to freeze the freezer section, and then, by using some of the freezing air from the freezer to keep the main section cool.

When the outside temperature drops to below that 38-40º, the thermostat is less likely to turn on the compressor, because the inside and outside temperatures are the same, and it’s “happy”.

With the compressor off, the freezer section won’t be getting heat removed to keep its temperature below freezing.

Which means stuff in it will start to thaw, and then, spoil.

When your garage temperature drops even further to below freezing (32ºF), the inside of the fridge will also drop to below freezing, so everything in the freezer section will be frozen — which is fine — but, everything in the refrigerator section will start to freeze, too.

Vegetables and fruits, drinks, and other things will be ruined because they will be frozen.

This guy explains it all pretty well here:

Make sense?

DIY Tip: I recently discovered that you might create a controlled-temperature environment for your garage refrigerator by creating a special room or compartment within your garage for it. I talk a little about that idea here.

The Ideal Garage Refrigerator Freezer

So, your ideal garage refrigerator freezer will be designed to operate at subfreezing temperatures in the Winter, and/or extreme heat above 100ºF in the Summer, depending on where you live and the conditions of your garage.

Sample from the installation section of an owner’s manual about operating temperatures

Before purchasing a refrigerator for your garage, be sure to download the owner’s manual from the manufacturer’s website or your online shop, and check the operating temperature range (usually found in the installation section). Make sure it matches your needs and the conditions in your garage.

Note: It is also possible to convert your current standard refrigerator to be “garage-ready” by installing a garage refrigerator kit on your fridge. See the end of this article for details.

3 Garage-Ready Refrigerators

Ok, now that we have all that technical stuff out of the way, let’s look at a few refrigerators.

Here are my 3 suggestions for garage ready refrigerators that will either blend into your workspace, handle extreme temperatures, or both.

I’ve categorized them by “camp,” starting with the most expensive and versatile…

UPDATE: (August 2017)
The industry has changed a bit since I first wrote this article. Truly “garage ready” refrigerators seem to be much harder to find, as companies probably cut costs in production, and more people put refrigerators in garages in a wider range of climates — stretching the legal definition of what “garage ready” means, and forcing companies to try to satisfy a more general demand.

Two of my original recommendations had to be replaced here. However, I have left them in the post so that you can see what made them good, and maybe even seek them out as used or refurbished.

Both Camps: Sturdy & Extreme Temperatures

Summit FF1511SS

Summit-FF1511SS

Price: $1,449.99 Retail ($899~$1,159 Online)
Company: Summit Appliance

Pros: Works in sub-freezing temperatures;
compact design fits a smaller workspace; dual digital thermostats

Cons: Somewhat pricey

The Summit FF1511SS (and its counterpart, the Summit FF1512SSIM which has a built-in ice maker) boasts a roomy yet compact design originally intended for smaller apartments. However, that design, combined with its ability to handle a colder environment make it a good fit for a crowded garage.

The manual states this fridge can be installed in temperatures as low as 23ºF (-5ºC). It also has separate thermostats for the refrigerator and freezer compartments, controlled by a slick digital panel in the wall of the fridge.

Reviewers online find it very spacious for its size. It includes a large standard-for-the-home vegetable drawer, adjustable shelves, door shelves with space enough for taller bottles, frost-free operation, and a reversible door (so that it will fit properly in the desired corner of your garage, without awkwardly opening on the wrong side).

The main model is missing an ice maker, but if you need that, take a look at the Summit FF1512SSIM, as I mentioned above.

Some of the more unusual features aside from the digital control panel include a sealed back for easier cleaning, LED lighting, an open-door alarm, and a strange (to ME, anyway) “vacation setting” which will turn off certain features while you’re away.

3 Good Places to Buy:

HOME DEPOT:

Click here to buy the Summit FF1511SS
or here for the FF1512SSIM w/Ice-maker

Appliances Connection:

Click here to buy the Summit FF1511SS
or here for the FF1512SSIM w/Ice-maker

Or, find them here on Amazon.com

Previous Recommendation:
The Gladiator Chillerator Garage Refrigerator

Gladiator_ChilleratorPrice: $1,299.99 Retail ($560~$1,000 Refurbished online)
Company: Gladiator (by Whirlpool)

Pros: Works in extreme temperatures;
sturdy design fits a rugged workspace; wheels for movability;
excellent customer service

Cons: Somewhat pricey; Discontinued

The Gladiator Chillerator Garage Refrigerator was probably the most popular result you used to find when searching for a garage refrigerator online. And rightly so: It satisfied the needs of both camps.

Unfortunately, Whirlpool discontinued the model.

However, I continue to see it sold online used or refurbished, so I think it’s still worth mentioning here.

The Chillerator was designed to work in a wider range of ambient temperatures than a standard refrigerator. The manual states the operational range as 0ºF~115ºF (-17ºC~43ºC). It will work properly in all but the coldest of subzero Winters, and hottest of Summers.

The sturdy, heavy-duty design makes it a good fit in a workman’s garage, and wheels on the bottom allow you to easily move it around or out of the way for convenience.

It comes with the same standard features you’d expect in a home fridge, such as self-monitoring defrost, ice-maker, fruit and vegetable drawers, and a drink-caddy.

In a few reviews online, a number of people complained that the refrigerator section was not cold enough, but at the same time, they also praised Gladiator’s Customer Support for addressing their concerns fairly and promptly.

While the Chillerator can be a bit pricey, it does deliver what most people expect from a garage refrigerator.

Click here to find the Chillerator on Amazon.com

First Camp: Extreme Temperatures

Frigidaire FFRU17B2QW Freezerless Refrigerator

Price: $749~769 Retail ($674~719 Online)
Company: Frigidaire

Pros: More refrigerator storage space; operates in temperatures from 10°F~110°F (-12°C~43°C)

Cons: No freezer; Door can sometimes be stiff to open

As the name suggests, the Frigidaire FFRU17B2QW Refrigerator has no freezer. That might be a drawback for some, but this actually gives it a few advantages over the standard refrigerator-freezer.

First of all, with the freezer gone there’s the extra space available for items you simply want refrigerated, and not frozen. With a total of 5 shelves (4 adjustable) and 5 full width door racks for bottles, jars, and other small items, this freezerless refrigerator is perfect for storing all your extra food items out of the way.

Additionally, without a freezer, there’s no need to compensate for the dual functions of freezing and refrigerating with separate thermostats. The refrigerator can be optimized to operate in a wider range of temperatures.

As a matter of fact, the Frigidaire FFRU17B2QW also adds what they call their Freeze Control Feature, which is what makes it particularly “Garage-Friendly”. This feature maintains proper refrigerator temperature even when the garage temperature drops down to as low as 10°F (-12°C), or as high as 110°F (43°C).

Some reviewers complain that the door seal can sometimes require extra force to open, due to the the vacuum created by the temperature difference between the fridge and the room/garage. Personally, I don’t mind a solidly sealed fridge, and you can use your finger to push and shift the seal slightly, releasing the vacuum and allowing the door to open more easily.

If you think you’ll need drawers for your fruits and vegetables, consider its sister model, the Frigidaire FFRU17G8QW Freezerless Refrigerator. This model features basket-drawers in the bottom, and 3 adjustable glass shelves (instead of the standard wire shelving, which can make balancing individual drinks on the shelves a little difficult.)

3 Good Places to Buy:

Home Depot: Click here to purchase the Frigidaire FFRU17B2QW
…or here for the FFRU17G8QW with drawers
Appliances Connection: Click here to purchase the Frigidaire FFRU17B2QW
…or here for the FFRU17G8QW with drawers
Amazon.com: Click here to purchase the Frigidaire FFRU17B2QW
…or here for the FFRU17G8QW with drawers

Previous Recommendation:
Frigidaire Garage-Ready FFTR1821 Series

Frigidaire FFTR1821QSPrice: $729~829 Retail ($549~649 Online)
Company: Frigidaire

Pros: Separate thermostats for garage use;
several drawers for storage options;
comes in 4 colors

Cons: Loud; No ice-maker; Design is no longer “garage-ready”

Frigidaire used to make several lines of refrigerators that they designed and marketed as “garage-ready”— able to work in temperatures below 55ºF. I selected the FFTR1821 series because of the balance of size, price, features, and good online ratings.

Frigidaire has since changed the design of the FFTR1821 series, and they no longer market it as “garage ready”. While the manual states that it can work in temperatures as low as 39ºF, some installation instructions say not to place it in areas below 55ºF.

Its “garage-readiness” was partially accomplished by putting separate thermostats in both the refrigerator and freezer sections. The freezer’s coldest setting was also labeled “garage”. At this setting, the compressor would still turn on in colder ambient temperatures so the freezer keeps everything frozen.

The FFTR1821 continues to offer more than what you’d expect from the average family kitchen refrigerator. Sliding shelves for easy access, humidity-controlled crisper bins, a deli/meat drawer, and a dairy bin make it a desirable package. One drawback is the lack of an ice-maker.

A common complaint about the fridge is that it is loud when the compressor turns on. Despite this, people still gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

The FFTR1821 comes in 4 colors: black, white, misty silver, and stainless steel.

(Note: Frigidaire also makes one of the garage refrigerator kits I mention below.)

Click here to buy the Frigidaire FFTR1821 Series on Amazon.com

Second Camp: Sturdy for the Workplace

Versonel Portable Garage Toolbox Refrigerator

Versonel-redPrice: $549.00 Retail ($355~$420 Online)
Company: Versonel

Pros: Blends in with workshop or garage setting;
useable tool drawers;
swivel castors for easy mobility
;
comes in two colors

Cons: Small; no freezer;
castors do not allow for leveling

This refrigerator is a really fun option for keeping drinks in your garage work area.

Versonel Blue Portable Garage Toolbox Refrigerator

…also in Blue

The Versonel Portable Garage Toolbox/Toolchest Refrigerator is designed to blend into the garage environment by looking like a chest of tool drawers.

Actually, it DOUBLES as a tool chest: Just above the refrigerator door are two drawers you can use to store tools.

Castors built into the base allow you to easily move it around your workshop. The wheels can lock to prevent rolling, but don’t allow you to level the refrigerator.

This fridge is smaller than the ones above. At just over 2½ feet high, it’s not designed to store much more than drinks and smaller food items, and doesn’t have a freezer compartment.

The shelf is adjustable to give some flexibility is storage options.

The Versonel Portable Garage Toolbox Refrigerator also comes in blue.

Click here to purchase the Versonel Portable Garage Toolbox Refrigerator on Amazon.com

Another Solution: A Garage Refrigerator Kit

Garage-Refrigerator-KitIf you’re searching for a refrigerator that will work in extremely cold temperatures in your garage, you might not need to buy a whole new refrigerator. It could be that you just need a Garage Refrigerator Kit.

A refrigerator garage kit is essentially a small heater that, when installed, tricks the thermostat in the fridge into running your compressor so that your freezer keeps your freezer items frozen.

The kits come with instructions, and are relatively easy to install. However, I don’t recommend doing it yourself if you are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with basic wiring or taking apart the control box of your fridge.

Kits cost about$20-30, and are usually designed with specific brands in mind. They can, however, be adapted to fit a variety of brands, and are an extremely affordable way to convert your current home fridge into a garage-ready refrigerator.

Note: In particularly freezing temperatures (closer to 0ºF and below), you might need to heat the compressor itself to prevent the freon gas from becoming a liquid. The compressor cannot pump liquid freon properly. It only pumps freon in it’s gaseous state. In freezing garages it might be necessary to install a Self Regulating Crankcase Heater on the compressor.

Click here to purchase a Garage Refrigerator Kit on Amazon.com

Conclusion: The Best Refrigerator for a Garage

So… workspace, ambient temperature, and functionality are all factors to consider when looking for the best refrigerator for a garage. But, you should be now well-equipped and informed about how to balance those factors out when selecting a fridge.

I hope that these three options will give you a good start towards finding the best garage refrigerator for you.

If you have any questions, or even suggestions for other refrigerators for a garage, please add them to the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you.

~ Scott

Disclosure: 3GoodOnes.com is a professional review site. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission for your purchase. It is my hope that this post leaves you so well informed that you won't mind that very much.

 

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