The Best Garage Refrigerators Are Built to Handle Extreme Temps
Modular shelving and sizable storage options are here, too.
Published Jun 29, 2022 11:34 PM
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We love that a garage refrigerator can expand your cold storage without sacrificing space (or style) in the kitchen. It’s not that statement French door moment, but that’s not the point. And you can’t just haul any old fridge out there. Why? Most standard options require the ambient temperature to be above a certain level, usually 40 degrees Fahrenheit, to work correctly. This makes sense—they’re meant to be used indoors, where the thermostat is kept at a comfortable setting. For example, if a fridge isn’t built for garage use and the temperature drops to 36 degrees, it will likely trigger the appliance to shut off.
Garage-ready refrigerators and freezers, however, are designed to work in non-climate-controlled environments. Specifically, they’re able to keep your fresh food refrigerated and your frozen food frozen in more extreme temperatures, often zero to 100 or even more degrees. We’ve selected a few of the best garage refrigerators for a variety of functions, including a portable beverage fridge and a very useful upright freezer.
- Best overall: Hisense Garage-Ready Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator
- Best value: GE Garage-Ready Refrigerator with Top Freezer
- Best for beverages: Newair Outdoor Beverage Refrigerator
- Best freezer-only: GE Garage-Ready Frost-Free Upright Freezer
Best Overall: Hisense Garage-Ready Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator
Freezer capacity: 5.1 cubic feet | Refrigerator capacity: 12.1 cubic feet | Estimated yearly electricity use: 543 kWh | LED lighting: yes
What we like:
- Full-width pantry drawer
- Narrow, 33-inch footprint
- 2-year warranty
- No ice maker
- Only 1 humidity-controlled crisper
Why we chose it: A sleek black metallic steel exterior looks right at home in a garage.
An all-black refrigerator may be a bit too severe in a kitchen, but it sure looks great in a garage. With three full-width adjustable glass shelves and one long deli drawer, the upper refrigerator is ideal for second-fridge-type storage—think: sheet cakes, party platters, and plenty of beverages. The shelving on the door can be moved around to accommodate even the tallest objects (plenty of space to chill a few extra bottles of wine). The bottom-style freezer makes storing bags of ice a breeze, and the upper drawer means your go-to favorites will be easily accessible.
Like most of the choices on this list, the refrigerator door can be adjusted to open from either side, and that slim, 33-inch width means it won’t take up too much space. If you’re not into the black finish, it also comes in white or fingerprint-resistant stainless steel.
Best Value: GE Garage-Ready Refrigerator with Top Freezer
Freezer capacity: 5.59 cubic feet | Refrigerator capacity: 13.51 cubic feet | Estimated yearly electricity use: 422 kWh | LED lighting: Yes
What we like:
- 6 gallon-size storage bins on the door fit larger items
- Comes standard with leveling legs
- 2 crisper drawers and a deli drawer
- Analog temperature controls
- Ice maker can be purchased as an add-on
Why we chose it: Highly adjustable modular storage, plus all the basics.
If you’re looking for a straightforward workhorse, this top-freezer model from GE checks all the boxes. With two humidity-controlled crisper drawers, a deli drawer, edge-to-edge adjustable glass shelving, and modular door storage that’s designed to fit gallon-size containers, we’re hard-pressed to find something that this fridge can’t fit. Additionally, the freezer shelf can be removed to store larger items (a Thanksgiving turkey, perhaps?).
Best for Beverages: Newair Outdoor Beverage Refrigerator
Freezer capacity: N/A | Refrigerator capacity: 3.2 cubic feet | Estimated yearly electricity use: 248.2 kWh | LED lighting: Yes
What we like:
- Security lock keeps contents safe
- Auto-close feature reduces energy use and keeps cans cold
- Can be built in or freestanding
- Fridge can be set down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit
- Door opens to the right; can’t be changed
Why we chose it: Keeps up to 90 cans cold, even in the warmest weather.
Being stocked for the party always feels good—and this fridge can keep all your drinks chilled down to 32 delightfully cold degrees, even in the dog days of summer. Made from corrosion- and rust-resistant stainless steel, the Newair is completely weatherproof (it can handle rain and sun) and can be used almost anywhere there’s an outlet. Removable casters mean this fridge can follow you if needed, and its five adjustable shelves, which slide out for easy access, can be configured to hold up to 90 twelve-ounce cans, as well as bottles of different sizes. We especially love the auto-lock feature, which means guests can’t accidentally thaw the fun by leaving the door open.
Best Freezer-Only Option: GE Garage-Ready Frost-Free Upright Freezer
Freezer capacity: 21.3 cubic feet | Refrigerator capacity: N/A | Estimated yearly electricity use: 495 kWh | LED lighting: Yes
What we like:
- Power-outage safety feature keeps food frozen for up to 48 hours without electricity
- 3 clear slide-out drawers keep things organized
- Door alarm sounds if temperature starts to rise
- 4 glass shelves, 2 of which are removable/adjustable
Why we chose it: All the storage of a chest freezer, but so much easier to organize.
A chest freezer is great to have, but we’d be lying if we said we never forgot about ice cream at the bottom. That’s the beauty of this 76-inch-tall freestanding upright freezer—it’s so easy to see all the contents at once. In-door storage, three clear drawers (one is full width!), and four shelves (two are stationary; the other two are adjustable/removable) all but guarantee buried freezer food will be a thing of the past. This model features GE’s “Power Outage Promise,” which keeps food cold for up to 48 hours in the event that the electricity goes out, as well as a key lock and door alarm.
How We Chose These Products
Unlike our homes, garage temps aren’t usually controlled by a thermostat, so a fridge-freezer needs to be designed to keep contents chilled in all sorts of weather, from hot to cold. To that end, all of these models come garage-ready, meaning they can operate consistently in extreme temperatures. Since garage fridges are meant to be a second cold-storage space, we prioritized those that can easily accommodate large items and have highly adjustable shelving. Brand reputation, warranties, and footprint were also important considerations.
Our Shopping Checklist
“Garage fridges and freezers are designed to take the extreme temperatures and humidity that give standard units problems. Those with a large family or just in the need of extra space should opt for a special fridge for the garage when space allows,” explains Albert Fouerti, ceo of Appliances Connection. “There aren’t many special features with this item, it’s essentially a regular fridge with a refrigeration compartment and freezer compartment.”
Like kitchen refrigerators, garage fridges come in a variety of styles, with side-by-side, top freezer, and bottom freezer being the three main ones. We recommend saving the side-by-side model for indoor use only and opting for a top- or bottom-freezer style so you can take advantage of edge-to-edge shelves for wider items (think: elaborate cheese plates and canapé trays).
Size and Capacity
As a rule of thumb, 19- to 22 cubic feet stores enough food to feed a family of four. But since this is meant to be extra storage, most will find at least 17 cubic feet to be plenty. Refrigerators and freezers require at least 1 inch of clearance on all sides for ventilation, so make sure to keep that in mind when measuring. And here’s one big plus to installing a fridge in the garage: no worries about it not being able to fit through the front door!
New refrigerators come with an EnergyGuide label, issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which lets shoppers understand an appliance’s energy usage. These labels are bright yellow and include an estimated yearly energy use, estimated yearly energy cost, and how the latter compares with similar models. Luckily, most refrigerators are certified by the Energy Star program these days (all of these selections certainly are), which means they’re about 9 percent more efficient than those that simply meet the federal minimum energy efficiency rating.
Q: But really, do I need a special fridge for the garage?
Yes. Most fridges and freezers (and fridge-freezer combos) are made to operate indoors, in a controlled climate, and don’t work well (if at all) when the ambient temperature falls below a certain point. Garage-ready fridges, as they’re called, are built to withstand a wider range of weather and temps. To note: Some refrigerator manufacturers do sell after-market kits to make an indoor fridge suitable for use in a garage.
Q: Do refrigerators work in cold garages?
They sure do. Refrigerators rated for garage use don’t need to be in a climate-controlled home to work properly—they’re built to function in all sorts of temperatures.
Q: How much does it cost to run a refrigerator in the garage?
It shouldn’t cost much more to run a refrigerator in a garage than it does to run in your house, but check the FTC’s EnergyGuide label (see above) for energy use and cost estimates. “You should always site this when shopping for the fridge,” adds Fouerti.
Q: Should I unplug my garage refrigerator in the winter?
No—garage-ready refrigerators are designed to regulate temperature all year round and will automatically turn on and off to remain at the desired temperature.
The Last Word
Garage-ready refrigerators come in a variety of shapes, styles, and sizes. The most important thing when purchasing for garage use is to make sure the appliance is rated for such, otherwise it won’t function correctly in very warm or very cold temperatures. The black steel finish and reasonable size of the Hisense Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator, as well as its generous two-year warranty, make it our overall pick for best garage fridge, though those who want more storage space or are looking to prioritize budget over style might prefer one of our other selections.
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