People 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:
- A thermostat inside the fridge maintains the temperature by controlling a compressor (the mechanical part that causes all the humming noise your fridge makes).
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
The 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:
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.
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…
Both Camps: Sturdy & Extreme Temperatures
$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
Click to check prices & features, or
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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. (Click these links to find it at Amazon, Appliances Connection, or Home Depot)
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.
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First Camp: Extreme Temperatures
$949 Retail ($719~819 Online)
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
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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.
***** NEW ARTICLE! *****
MORE Good Garage-Ready Refrigerators (and Freezers)
(Click to see MORE refrigerator options like the one above)
NEW ARTICLE: MORE Good Garage-Ready Refrigerators (and Freezers)
(Click that link to see more refrigerators from this “first camp”)
Second Camp: Sturdy for the Workplace
$1,199.99 Retail ($959~$1,290 Online)
Company: Gladiator Garageworks (by Whirlpool)
Pros: Sturdy design fits a rugged workspace; wheels for movability; Operates in extreme cold;
Cons: Somewhat pricey; Will not preserve food in freezing temperatures;
Click to check prices & features, or
BUY IT NOW from:
A few years after discontinuing the Gladiator Chillerator, mentioned above, Whirlpool Gladiator Garageworks came back with another garage ready refrigerator option, redesigned from the ground up.
The new design removes the freezer (the freezer is now a separate unit—see below) which expands the storage space, and allows for other functionality in this sleek-looking, all-black appliance.
As far as function goes, the first feature that stands out is the “Step-to-Open” pedal at the bottom of each unit. Got your hands full? Just walk up to the fridge, step on the pedal, and the door opens up to let you put your groceries in.
It has and equally sturdy, heavy-duty design as its predecessor, making it a good fit in any workman's garage. Wheels on the bottom allow you to move it around or out of the way easily for convenience.
Standing 30-inches wide, the Gladiator Garage Refrigerator boasts 17.8 cu. ft. of storage space, with adjustable, extra-thick heavy-duty glass shelves that can handle the weight of eight 12-pack of cans. Slide-out heavy-guage wire baskets allow storage for items that are difficult to store on freezer shelves.
Here's an important note. Unlike its predecessor, the Chillerator, this refrigerator is not designed to preserve food in sub-freezing temperatures.
While the manual states that it is “designed to withstand temperatures between 0°F (-17°C) and 110°F (43°C) and remain operational,” it also warns that:
- “If using the refrigerator in an area having temperatures that fall below your refrigerator's internal temperature setting, the internal temperature of the refrigerator will drop.
- When external temperatures reach 32°F (0°C) or below, refrigerator contents may freeze, so monitor food and beverages frequently for freezing, freshness, and taste when using the refrigerator in cold locations. If you are storing contents that are sensitive to freezing, we recommend moving those contents to an in-home refrigerator before they are exposed to freezing temperatures.”
This is why this new design is listed here under the “Second Camp” — for it's sturdiness.
As I mentioned, the new design separates the refrigerator and freezer into two separate units. When placed together, these two all-black appliances make for a striking presence in your garage. It's a cool look that really stands out.
The freezer is sold separately where the refrigerator is sold. Some retailers even give a discount when buying both at once. Check these links for more on the freezer:
Amazon • Home Depot •
Another fun option for the 2nd Camp workspace: a retro-style refrigerator.
These vintage-looking refrigerators provide modern efficiency, with a look that says “old-school craft” and makes a statement about the workplace.
They come in a range of sizes from a 3 cu. ft. mini retro refrigerator up to full size retro refrigerators at 14 cu ft.
Check out my retro refrigerator articles here.
If 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.
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.