So, aside from size and cost, there are a few important features you need to look for when shopping for outdoor mini refrigerators:
- It absolutely must be rated for outdoor use.
- It should be rust resistant.
- It should be designed to be built-in if installed into an outdoor kitchen island or cabinet.
I've discussed these in detail in a previous article, but let's review those features briefly before I list my suggestions for a few good outdoor mini refrigerators…
(or, you can click here to jump ahead.)
Look for Outdoor-Rated Refrigerators
Outdoor refrigerators are at a disadvantage simply by being outside.
Outside temperature can change drastically—from very hot in the day, to very cool at night. This makes it difficult to keep everything cool inside at an even temperature. To compensate for this, outdoor refrigerator are designed with compressors that work harder.
They also have special insulation to make sure the heat doesn't get back into the fridge too quickly.*
Additionally, weatherproofing is required for the electrical components. Even when built into an outdoor kitchen island cabinet or some other outdoor fixture, outdoor refrigerators can be exposed to water from rain, humidity condensation, splashing from a swimming pool, or the like.
Electricity and water a dangerous mix, so special design precautions are taken to reduce the risk of electrocution. Check that your fridge is UL (Underwriters Laboratory) Approved for outdoor use.
*Keep in mind that even outdoor refrigerators have an optimal operational temperature range—often between 50ºF and 95ºF. Check the operation or installation manual to be sure your fridge will work in your outdoor environment. Also, you might want to power-off and empty your outdoor refrigerator during the off season if it's built-in to an outdoor kitchen island, or other fixture, and must remain outdoors.
It Should be Rust-Resistant
Almost all outdoor fridges are made from stainless steel for its ability to resist rust. However, not all stainless steel is made with the same level of rust-resistance, and can still rust under the worst of wet-weather conditions.
Look for an outdoor fridge with a higher grade of stainless steel. While more affordable, lower grades of stainless steel are more susceptible to rust. Less expensive refrigerators may be made of plastic-wrapped steel, which is an inferior method of rust-resistance.
Installing Your Outdoor Mini Fridge into an Outdoor Kitchen Island?
Refrigerators work by taking the heat out of the fridge, and releasing it into the air around it.
This is why most refrigerators need a few inches of ventilation space on all sides, so that the hot air can blow away and allow for more heat to come out of the fridge.
When you build a fridge into a cabinet or a wall, this prevents air from circulating around the fridge, and inhibits the refrigerator's ability to cool the inside.
That's why some “bulit-in” models are specially designed to have vent on the front. This allows the hot-air to escape, while allowing you to install the fridge snugly into your outdoor kitchen island or cabinet.
If you install a “freestanding” fridge into your island without proper space and ventilation, it will not only fail to refrigerate its contents, it may overheat and cause damage as well.
The advantage to a freestanding outdoor refrigerator is that you can place it anywhere. You can set it closer to your guests while entertaining, or by your outdoor kitchen grill while preparing food, or bring it into your garage in the off-season. Some built-in models can also be freestanding and placed anywhere if the back and sides are designed to resist the elements.
Optional Compact Outdoor Refrigerator Features
Other features you'll want to consider include:
- Insulated glass doors, to easily view refrigerator contents;
- Slide-out drawer units, for convenient access;
- Beverage-specific shelving, to securely and conveniently hold cans or single-serve bottles;
- Glide-out wooden shelving for wine bottles;
- Locking doors, to prevent unwanted access, such as to small children.
3 Good Outdoor Compact Refrigerators
There are a lot of reputable refrigerator brands that make good outdoor compact refrigerators. I've chosen these main 3 suggestions because these models represent some of the most basic needs to more luxurious amenities in the the middle price range of outdoor mini refrigerators.
We'll go from the more expensive to the least…
24″ Built-In Counter Depth Outdoor Compact Refrigerator Freezer
$2,873.75 Retail | $2,299~$2,799 Online
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Marvel's Outdoor Refrigerator Freezer has just about everything you'd get in a full-sized fridge, but in a smaller package.
This full-featured 3.9 cu. ft. capacity fridge includes a crisper/drawer, and a separate 1 cu. ft. freezer with a self-closing door and automatic defrost that is large enough to hold up to 12 pints of ice cream. (The freezer can replaced with an optional ice-maker kit.)
With its corrosion-resistant stainless steel exterior, this fridge is certified for outdoor use, and designed to withstand the elements such rain, high humidity, and heat—performing in temperatures as high as 115°F. Thermal-efficient insulation ensures optimum cooling performance, while the Dynamic Cooling Technology™ cools nearly two times faster than other models.
Other nice features include:
- Can be built-in, or freestanding.
- Controls allow you to manage the temperatures of the refrigerator and freezer compartments independently.
- The easy-to-clean white interior enhances the white LED illumination for better viewing of fridge contents.
- Audible alarms for “door ajar” and “high or low temperature” help you keep your fridge contents at optimal temperature.
- Close Door Assist System™ that automatically draws the door closed, ensuring it's never accidentally left ajar.
- Door lock for added safety and security.
24″ Premium Outdoor Rated Compact Refrigerator
$ Retail | $1,245~$1,299 Online 1799.00
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Bull Outdoor Products is better known for it's outdoor kitchen cooking appliances, such as grills. But, they make a couple of refrigerators that are worth a look.
Their “premium” outdoor mini fridge boasts a large 5.6 Cu. Ft. capacity with 3 adjustable wire shelves and one glass shelf for plenty of storage for food and beverages.
The internal temperature is maintained by a dual fan system, and controlled with a digital LED control panel in the back of the fridge, keeping the contents cool in weather as hot as 109ºF.
Both the inside and outside are constructed completely out of 304 stainless steel to resist rust and weather, and the front-venting internal and external fan systems are enclosed for durable outdoor use, whether built-in or freestanding. The door is reversible, and features a lock to protect the contents from unwanted access.
24″ Built-in/Freestanding Compact Outdoor Refrigerator
$1,255.00 Retail | $859~$979 Online
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Summit Appliance makes a wide variety of refrigeration solutions for unusual spaces, such as small apartments, under-counter installations, and outdoor kitchens.
Summit's SPR627OS Series are 4.6 cu.ft. “all-refrigerators” (no freezer). This certified commercial refrigerator is designed and constructed for use in the outdoors, and equipped with convenient user-friendly features for use in any residential or outdoor kitchen.
On the outside, the fully finished black cabinet and stainless steel door allow the unit to be used freestanding in the outdoors, functioning in temperatures up to 90ºF, while its front-breathable vent allows for under-cabinet, built-in installation. A keyed lock secures the interior from unwanted access.
Inside, you'll find:
- A digital thermostat to adjust the temperature at the touch of a button;
- An internal fan provides for an evenly cooled interior in this frost-free refrigerator; and
- An LED light illuminates the fridge with an elegant glow.
Contents are easily organized with the adjustable glass shelves, a specially slotted floor to hold bottles in place, and a flat door liner to accept larger trays. An optional shelf kit can be added for additional door storage.
Finding the Best Outdoor Mini Refrigerators
With an understanding of what you're looking for, and a little research for installation manuals online, it's not difficult to find the best outdoor mini refrigerators for your deck, yard, or outdoor kitchen. Check out my other articles on outdoor refrigerators for further information and recommendations.
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for me or other readers, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks for reading.