How to Run a Refrigerator in a Hot Garage

Shop fridge. Beer fridge. Snack fridge. Whatever you call it, a refrigerator in the garage provides extra space and convenience. But most garages aren’t climate controlled, meaning sweltering summers pose a few problems for ideal operations. High temperatures add stress to the machine by forcing the motor to run constantly, especially if your garage exceeds 110 degrees. At best, energy bills will spike. At worst, the motor could burn out from overuse, leading to food spoilage.

Keep It Full

In a hot garage, the refrigerator will battle against the ambient temperature to keep your goodies cold. Help it out by keeping it well stocked. If you don’t need the whole refrigerator, consider filling space with gallons of water. They will remain cool and help the refrigerator maintain its temperature when the door is opened on a hot day. In an empty refrigerator, warm air rushes in and cold air rushes out every time the door opens. Water -- or anything else you keep in the fridge -- will leave less room for warm air, allowing the inside air to return to appropriate temperatures far faster when the door is closed.

Take Charge

Kitchens specifically wired for refrigerators are guaranteed to have proper hookups. Garages are not. Ensure the refrigerator is equipped with a 115 volt, 60 Hz, AC-only electric outlet. Without the correct type of electrical hookup, the refrigerator will not receive enough power. It might not be able to run its motor properly, leading to further strain on the condenser and inability to produce enough cold air. If you don't have the proper hookup or if you are unsure, consult an electrician to set up the proper wiring.

Cool It

GE recommends refrigerators be placed only in rooms where the temperature range stays between 60 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. In warmer conditions, the refrigerator will not stop running and risks burning out because of overuse. If your garage regularly exceeds 110 degrees, it's not the ideal location for a refrigerator. If you want to place a refrigerator in a very warm garage, consider ways to keep the temperature down. Insulation, supplemental air conditioning, fans and vents will help with cooling. Check all doors and windows for leaks and add weather stripping if necessary to keep heat out as much as possible. Cover windows to minimize heat from the sun. Remove or unplug any additional appliances not in use.

Be Careful What You Store

Even if you follow the proper precautions, placing a refrigerator in a room with extreme temperatures carries increased risk of operational failure. Thus garage refrigerators work well for storing extra beverages, pantry goods or other things that won’t perish if the machine can't handle the heat. Avoid storing highly perishable items during warmer months.


Some manufacturer warranties could be voided if the machine is placed in a garage at risk for extreme temperatures. Proving whether the temperature has remained in the acceptable range for repair claims is difficult, so if warranty coverage is a concern, ensure your machine doesn't have such a clause. Follow all manufacturer specifications for installation and clearance around the appliance.

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5 Quick Ways to Keep Your Fridge Running Like New

1. Check the door seals.

A loose seal allows cool air to seep out.This is not only an energy waster but it makes your fridge work a lot harder than necessary. First make sure the seals are free of food residue. (Clean them about twice a year, using a toothbrush and a solution of baking soda and water.) Then try the dollar-bill test: Close the bill in the door so that half is in and half is out. If it slips out easily, you may need to have the door seals checked by a pro.

2. Keep the coils clean.

When the condenser coils (see following page for more on parts) are covered with dust, the refrigerator can’t run efficiently. Twice a year, pull the machine from the wall to reveal the coils in back (or snap off the grille, if the coils are on the bottom front), unplug the refrigerator, and vacuum using the brush attachment.

3. Set the right temperature.

Keep the fridge between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezer at 0 degrees.

4. Fill it up (even if you never cook and only have takeout)

Refrigerators need “thermal mass” (a.k.a. lots of stuff) to maintain low temperatures. Cool foods and drinks help absorb warm air that streams in when you open the door. If you’re the eat-out type or your fridge is too big for your needs, store a few jugs of water in there.

5. Be prepared.

If your power goes out, keep the doors closed and use foods from the pantry. An unopened refrigerator will keep food safe for about four hours; a freezer will maintain its temperature for about 48 hours if full and 24 hours if half-full.