Tips on Choosing an Outdoor Refrigerator

Yeah, we know—the outdoor parties are done for the year, right? Most of you don't even need a refrigerator to keep drinks cold outdoors. But the thrifty shoppers know that if you want to get a deal, you shop in the off-season. Here's some tips for choosing an outdoor refrigerator.

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Think all refrigerators are created equal? Think again. A fridge destined for the outdoors has to work harder and hold up in different surroundings. Here are a few things to look out for when choosing an outdoor fridge:

  • Don't assume that an indoor fridge will work outdoors. Appliances that are branded as "outdoor refrigerators" will have more power and be better insulated (to keep drinks cool in the hot summer weather).
  • Look for an outdoor fridge with the Underwriters Laboratories Seal of approval. This means that the fridge and its components are safe for outdoor use, having passed UL's weatherproofing tests to prove their safety in wet conditions.
  • If you're building your outdoor fridge into cabinetry, go for a model that's labeled as a "built-in unit" that is front-vented. If you purchase a fridge classified as a freestanding unit, it will require at least one inch of ventilation clearance on all sides.
  • Make sure your outdoor fridge isn't susceptible to rust. Look for one that's made of super-rust-resistant 300 series stainless steel (labeled with a number in the 300's, e.g. 303 or 304), rather than plastic-wrapped steel or grade 416 or 430 stainless.
  • Find a fridge that's energy efficient. Look for an outdoor model that's Energy-Star-rated and keep it in the shade away from the grill or the fireplace.
  • Since outdoor refrigerators are often compact and their handles low to the ground, parents of small children should shop for a fridge with a lock.
  • Appliances sold as "refreshment centers" or "wine coolers" are just refrigerators in disguise, frequently featuring glass doors and shelves designed to hold cans or bottles. As long as they meet the other requirements (weatherproof, rust-resistant, proper ventilation), they're good to go outdoors.


(Fridge images: SubZero, Liebherr)