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What is a garage ready refrigerator or freezer? Do I need one?

Whether it's extra storage for a large family or easy access during DIY projects, people put refrigerators and freezers in their garages for many different reasons. If you are considering adding a fridge or freezer to your garage, you've probably heard the term "garage ready" and are wondering what it means and if you should purchase one.

Garage with ready for use with fridge and freezer
With everything going on in a garage, a fridge is the last thing you want to have to worry about

Why can't I use just any fridge in my garage?

Most refrigerators are designed to be used within a fairly narrow temperature range. The inside of most houses never get hotter than 80° F or colder than 60° F. Unless you live in a climate with consistent year-round temperatures, or have an insulated and climate controlled garage, the temperature could go from below freezing to above 100° F. Add humidity to the equation and using a normal fridge in the garage is just a bad idea.

Extreme weather can destroy non garage ready refrigerators and freezers
Extreme weather can wreak havoc on appliances

Often, running a refrigerator in an environment that is outside the manufacturers recommended guidelines will void the warranty. This is because a high exterior temperature will cause the compressor in a regular refrigerator to run overtime as it struggles to keep the interior cold. A refrigerator without a compressor is just an insulated box, so when it breaks you will have a major issue on your hands, not to mention the increased power bill from having it run constantly.

So why is it bad for the refrigerator or freezer to be out in the cold?

You would think that a refrigerator would be fine in the cold right? Not quite. A refrigerator, especially an older model, typically has a single sensor that senses how cold the inside of the freezer is and adjusts it if it gets too warm. It then pumps some of that cold air into the fridge to keep that section cool as well. When the room temperature drops to around freezing, this unit can be fooled into thinking that the temperature in the freezer is ok, even if the internal temperature is above freezing. This could cause you to find a freezer full of thawed or spoiled food because the compressor never turned on. The other issue with excessive cold is that if it gets extremely cold and stays there, the food inside your fridge could freeze.

If you live in a climate where you don't get excessive heat, a stand alone freezer would likely be fine in either of these cold weather situations.

Garage ready to the rescue!

You could spend the time digging through spec sheets to find units with multiple compressors or temperature sensors, but the easiest way to get around issues caused by excessive internal temperatures is to buy a unit labeled "garage ready". Basically, these units have more than one temperature sensor and more robust insulation to give them a wider range of acceptable operating temperatures. Of course, you will pay a little more for these units because they are specialized, but in the long run you will save money on repairs and the increased energy consumption of a standard or older unit.

Garage refrigerator kits

If you don’t want to spend more on a garage ready unit or you just want to keep your old refrigerator, another option is to purchase a garage refrigerator kit. These kits usually cost around $20-$30 and work with most refrigerator brands. These let you connect a heating pad or coil to your refrigerator thermostat to trick it into thinking that the temperature is higher than it is.

A garage refrigerator kit heating element
A garage refrigerator kit heating element

If you are unfamiliar with basic wiring and don’t want to deal with taking apart the fridge’s control box though, you may want to see if anyone you know is willing to help.

Final considerations

If you do have an insulated and temperature controlled garage, then of course any standard refrigerator would be fine. Also, if you have an old refrigerator that you are just going to throw in the garage and you’re not worried if it stops functioning at some point, then you will also be fine.

That being said, a garage ready model will likely save you headaches and money on your energy bill.

If you are buying a garage ready fridge or freezer, make sure to check our store reviews before you buy:

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