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The Ultimate Outdoor Refrigeration Appliances FAQ

Get the answers to all your outdoor refrigeration appliance frequently asked questions in my outdoor refrigeration appliances FAQ. Learn more with the Grilling Life Q&A.

Here at The Grilling Life, we think outdoor refrigeration is really cool.

A refrigeration appliance can take your backyard cooking setup to a whole new level and practically add a convenient second kitchen to your home. 

Outdoor refrigeration allows you to keep the party going outside without running out of ice or drinks, carrying things to and from your house, or worrying about hot weather. Plus, these appliances almost instantly boost the look and value of your yard, especially if you opt for models with high-end lighting or finishes.

If you’re considering adding outdoor refrigeration to your home, you likely have more than a few questions. After all, these appliances are a little more involved than just picking up a mini fridge from the store!

We created this FAQ guide to help answer all of your outdoor refrigeration questions, from the differences between types of appliances to how to install them, use them, and maintain them to ensure they’re always working as they should.

We’ll also cover some key features that you’ll want to keep in mind as you begin the shopping process, like integrated fridges and single or dual-zone wine coolers. 

Keep reading to learn all about outdoor refrigeration appliances and why they make a smart addition to your outdoor kitchen and backyard entertaining space!

In This Article, We’ll Explore:

Click a topic below to be taken directly to that section.

What Is the Difference Between a Refrigerator and Beverage Cooler?

Should I Buy an Outdoor Compact Refrigerator or a Beverage Cooler?

How Cold Do Outdoor Beverage Coolers Get?

Can I Put a Beverage Cooler on My Countertop?

Can I Store Wine in an Outdoor Beverage Refrigerator?

Can I Have an Outdoor Wine Cooler?

What Is the Difference Between a Single Zone & Dual Zone Wine Cooler?

Should I Get a Dual Zone Wine Cooler?

What Is Best for Outdoors, Thermoelectric or Compressor Wine Coolers?

What Temperature Should I Set My Outdoor Wine Cooler To?

How Noisy Are Outdoor Wine Coolers?

Do I Need to Clean My Outdoor Wine Cooler? How Do I Clean It & How Often?

Can I Install a Freestanding Wine Cooler Under My Counter?

Can I Use My Outdoor Wine Cooler to Store My Other Beverages?

Can My Outdoor Ice Maker Be Used as a Freezer?

Does an Outdoor Ice Maker Need a Drain?

Does My Outdoor Ice Maker Need a Drain Pump?

Do I Need a Plumber to Install My Outdoor Ice Maker?

What Types of Ice Do Outdoor Ice Makers Make?

Does My Outdoor Ice Maker Need a Water Filter?

What Is a Kegerator?

How Long Does Beer Last in an Outdoor Kegerator?

What Size Keg Can Fit In My Outdoor Kegerator?

What Temperature Should I Set an Outdoor Kegerator To?

Does an Outdoor Kegerator Need CO2?

How Long Does CO2 Last in an Outdoor Kegerator?

How Do I Clean My Outdoor Kegerator?

Should I Lock My Outdoor Refrigerator Appliances?

Where Is the Best Place to Shop for Outdoor Refrigerator Appliances?

Final Thoughts on Our Outdoor Refrigeration Appliances FAQ

What Is Outdoor Refrigeration?

Outdoor refrigeration refers to appliances that you can install in your outdoor kitchen to keep food, beverages, and ice cool and within arm’s reach when you’re cooking or entertaining.

What Is the Difference Between Outdoor & Indoor Refrigeration?

Outdoor refrigeration appliances aren’t just indoor appliances you use outside. Outdoor refrigeration is designed to handle the temperature fluctuations and inclement weather your indoor appliances can’t handle. They’re also designed to fit seamlessly into your outdoor kitchen.

Are Outdoor Refrigerators More Expensive?

Outdoor refrigerators will likely cost more than your standard refrigerator or mini fridge, but for a good reason.

Outdoor fridges must be weather- and rust-resistant with extra insulation to make sure everything inside stays cool. They also need more advanced compressors and UV protection to handle warmer weather, plus ventilation if you install them within an island or countertop.

Can You Install an Indoor Fridge in an Outside Kitchen?

We don’t advise adding a fridge that’s designed for indoor use to your outdoor kitchen for one main reason: it won’t work outside a very specific temperature range.

Indoor fridges are meant to work in a pretty constant range of temperatures, and chances are, the outdoor temperatures where you live will fluctuate outside that range. When that happens, your fridge won’t function properly, and your food could spoil.

What Does ‘Outdoor Rated’ Mean for Outdoor Refrigerators?

When a fridge is “outdoor rated,” that means it’s gone through a series of tests to guarantee that it’s safe to use outside. To get that outdoor rating or UL label, Underwriters Laboratories must put that fridge through the paces to make sure it can withstand the elements, even working in temps above 100°F.

Freestanding vs Built-in Outdoor Refrigerators

Freestanding outdoor refrigerators are a bit like the one you already have in your kitchen — they stand on their own and often feature casters on the bottom, so they’re easier to move around. While you don’t need to worry too much about their ventilation requirements, they’ll need enough space around their backs, tops, and sides to keep things cool.

Built-in refrigerators, on the other hand, are meant to be integrated with your BBQ grill island, bar island, or outdoor kitchen counter. Because of this, they’re typically a little smaller than freestanding units and need to be front-vented, so heat can escape easily. Built-in models may also require special electric or drainage needs.

What Are My Outdoor Refrigerator Appliance Options?

You have a few different options when it comes to picking out refrigeration appliances for your outdoor kitchen. The most obvious are outdoor fridges and freezers, which operate like the ones in your home to keep food cold or frozen.

You can also opt for a beverage cooler, wine fridge, or a combination of the two, which are designed to keep your drinks at their optimal temperature. If you like having a lot of beverage options, you can also add a kegerator to your outdoor kitchen, which is a special fridge designed to hold and dispense kegs of beverages like beer, wine, or coffee.

What Are My Options for Outdoor Refrigerator Styles?

When it comes to how your outdoor refrigeration appliances look, you have quite a few options! You could opt for brushed stainless steel, which is resistant to corrosion and ensures your fridge will last for years.

If your budget is tighter, plastic materials won’t last as long as steel, but they will help save you money. A plastic body is also a great choice if you live somewhere humid, as it can help avoid condensation — just make sure crucial components like hinges and fasteners are made from steel so they’ll last longer.

You can also select a different material or color for the panel or door of your fridge — but more on that in a bit.

What Does ‘Energy Star Rated’ Mean? What Are the Ratings?

Energy Star ratings are environmental and energy efficiency standards backed by the Environmental Protection Agency. These ratings guarantee a product has a decreased energy footprint and produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions while still working great.

A product that has an Energy Star label is certified to meet those standards, but don’t be surprised if you have to look hard for an outdoor refrigerator that has one — because of how hard they need to work to manage temperature fluctuations, few outdoor products qualify.

What Does a ‘Food Safe’ Certified Outdoor Refrigerator Mean?

Food safe certifications come from NSF International, a safety standards company that gauges food safety in products. NSF-certified outdoor refrigerators have passed tests to ensure they can maintain temperatures below 40°F despite the weather outside and that they are made from food-safe materials. If you’re looking for a guarantee that an outdoor fridge is safe and works great, this is it.

What Does It Mean When a Fridge Is ‘Integrated’ or ‘Panel Ready’?

When a model of fridge is integrated or panel-ready, that means it comes without a stainless-steel door finish. This gives you the flexibility to choose whatever type of material you want for your door, including stainless steel, glass, and wood.

You’ll usually be able to swap panels out if you feel like giving your fridge a facelift unless you’re choosing glass. In that case, you must select glass when you purchase the fridge, so you can avoid completely replacing the door further down the line.

What Is the Difference Between Forced Air & Cold Plate Refrigerators?

A cold plate or static cooling refrigerator uses a cooling element to draw heat away from the appliance, while forced-air refrigeration cools the air and circulates it throughout. These days forced air is typically favored over cold plate technology because it’s more efficient.

What Is the Ideal Outdoor Refrigerator Temperature?

The universally recommended temperature for a refrigerator is 37°-40°F, but try to err on the lower side of that range to be sure your fridge never goes above 40°F.

Do Outdoor Refrigerators Need a Drain to Collect Moisture?

Not if they’re working correctly. Most outdoor refrigerator models have a small drain hole where condensation can drain out into a small pan, which sits just above the compressor. Usually, the heat coming from the compressor will be enough to evaporate the water.

If you notice excess condensation or water in your fridge or cabinet, the drain hole is likely blocked, or there may be an issue with your compressor.

Is It Ok for an Outdoor Fridge to Get Wet When Outside?

In most cases, a properly weatherproofed and outdoor-rated fridge will be fine with a normal amount of rain or snow. If you’re expecting more (think a huge blizzard or hurricane), take everything out of the fridge, unplug it, and cover it or bring it inside to protect its electrical components.

Will My Outdoor Refrigerator Work in Cold or Freezing Temperatures?

Most outdoor refrigerators will be able to work in cold temperatures — to a point. If the temp falls below the interior temperature of the fridge (usually around 40 °F) the compressor inside of the fridge may not work properly.

If you live somewhere where it gets cold, and you’re serious about continuing to cook outside throughout the winter, look for a refrigerator unit that comes with a heating element. These models are rare, but they’ll give you insurance that your fridge will keep working even if it’s warmer inside than the air is outside.

Should I Use a Cover on My Outdoor Refrigerator?

If your refrigerator is well-constructed, there should be no need to keep it covered outside of truly inclement weather. In some cases, using a cover could actually lead to moisture accumulating on the outside of the fridge and causing rust.

How Do You Winterize an Outdoor Fridge?

The first step in winterizing your outdoor refrigerator is to take all of the food out, turn it off, and unplug it. Then clean the inside of the unit and take the opportunity to clean and shine the outside, remove the vent grates, and vacuum out any debris that’s gotten inside over the summer.

If you get snow or harsh rainstorms during the winter, consider bringing your fridge inside or storing it under a cover or overhang for the winter. You’ll also want to leave the door open a crack so air can circulate through and help prevent mildew or mold.

How Do I Clean an Outdoor Refrigerator?

To clean your outdoor refrigerator, first, make sure it’s unplugged and empty. Clean any removable parts and the interior of the unit with a food-safe cleaner to clear up any odors and spills. Next, give the outside a good clean with a stainless-steel cleaner.

Once you finish cleaning, take a look at the space below your fridge, and the drain pan and compressor if your model has them, to make sure there’s no debris like leaves or dirt there. Then plug it back in, wait for it to cool back down, and you’re ready to go!

How Do You Maintain an Outdoor Refrigerator?

The good news about outdoor refrigerators is that they’re designed to be durable and put up with the elements. But putting a bit of maintenance in can help make your investment last even longer!

Be sure to unplug and winterize your outdoor fridge if you live in an area where it gets cold and take care in keeping it clean and free from food spills, debris, mildew, and other unpleasant things.

I See Moisture on the Inside Rear Wall of My Outdoor Fridge

If you see moisture on the rear wall of your outdoor fridge, that’s a sign that it isn’t sealing properly. Check how your fridge is set up and see if it seals completely when you close the door.

Why Is There Water on the Shelves & Floor of My Outdoor Fridge?

Water on the shelves and floor of your fridge could mean the drainage hole is blocked. This is typically an easy fix — just clear the blockage with a cotton swab, and the water should clear up.

There’s a Weird Smell Coming From My Outdoor Fridge, What Can It Be?

A funky odor may mean a piece of food or some sauce has made its way into the compressor through the evaporation tray and drain and started to rot. The smell could also be caused by food, beverages, or condiments that spilled onto the shelves.

If you smell something weird and see condensation on the rear panel of the fridge, there’s also a chance that moisture is attracting bacteria and causing it to stink.

In any of these cases, unplug your fridge and give it a thorough clean to see if that takes care of the odor.

Why Is My Outdoor Refrigerator Making a Buzzing Noise?

Buzzing sounds most frequently occur when your fridge isn’t on a level surface. To test this out, push gently on each corner of the fridge. If the buzzing stops when you push on a specific corner, adjust your fridge’s feet to level the unit out.

What Type of Outdoor Refrigerator Is Best for an Outdoor Bar?

If you plan on storing food along with your beverages, your best bet will be a standard outdoor refrigerator since it can keep drinks chilly and food safe to eat. If you’re only interested in keeping drinks cold, a beverage cooler will work great in your outdoor bar.

What Is the Difference Between a Refrigerator and Beverage Cooler?

The primary difference between a refrigerator and a beverage cooler is their temperature range.

A refrigerator will be able to chill your drinks while keeping food below that 40°F safe point. A beverage cooler, on the other hand, will chill your drinks down, but not keep food that requires refrigeration at a safe enough temperature to eat.

To sum it up: outdoor refrigerator for food and drinks, beverage cooler for drinks only.

Should I Buy an Outdoor Compact Refrigerator or a Beverage Cooler?

As we mentioned above, if you plan on storing any type of food in your outdoor kitchen that requires refrigeration for food safety reasons, opt for a refrigerator since it reaches a low enough temperature to keep things safe to eat.

Beyond that, there are a few other factors that come into play. Beverage coolers are designed specifically to hold cans of beverages, so you’ll be able to maximize your storage space there vs. if you were using a compact refrigerator to only store drinks.

There’s also the topic of look and feel. Beverage coolers often come with a clear glass door, which can fit in and give a high-end look to just about any outdoor kitchen. If you have a specific look in mind, though, you’ll likely find more options for colors and finishes with a compact fridge.

How Cold Do Outdoor Beverage Coolers Get?

Beverage coolers typically cool drinks down to 40°-45°F, perfect for keeping soda, beer, and canned cocktails frosty and refreshing.

Can I Put a Beverage Cooler on My Countertop?

You can! Just look for a model that’s marketed as counter-depth, so you’ll know it’ll fit. They’re typically smaller than built-in or freestanding models, but they’ll work just as well and fit in perfectly on your outdoor kitchen counter or bar.

Can I Store Wine in an Outdoor Beverage Refrigerator?

If you’re a true wine aficionado, you’ll probably want to opt for a dedicated outdoor wine cooler (if that’s you, jump to the next question), but if you just want to have a few bottles chilled and ready to go a beverage refrigerator will work fine!

Can I Have an Outdoor Wine Cooler?

Yes, just be sure to look for an outdoor-rated cooler — don’t just put a regular indoor cooler outside and hope for the best. You can find both freestanding and built-in wine coolers depending on your kitchen layout.

Wherever you install yours, try to keep it in the shade to keep the sun’s rays from hitting (and spoiling) your favorite wine.

What Is the Difference Between a Single Zone & Dual Zone Wine Cooler?

A single zone wine cooler will be the same temperature throughout the entire unit, while a dual zone cooler has two separate sections and allows you to set two different temperatures.

Should I Get a Dual Zone Wine Cooler?

A dual-zone wine cooler is a great option if you’re a big wine fan. If you want to keep a large collection of wines that have different ideal drinking temperatures, want long-term and short-term chilling options, and want a way to bring wine from a storage temperature to a drinking temperature, a dual zone cooler will be a wise investment.

Just want to have a few bottles on hand for when people come over, without worrying too much about them? Then a single zone cooler will do just fine.

What Is Best for Outdoors, Thermoelectric or Compressor Wine Coolers?

If your wine cooler will be kept outside, compressor units will be your only option since thermoelectric models require a controlled climate to operate properly (aka, not outdoors). Compressor units are more powerful but also make more noise and vibrations, so they’ll be right at home outside.

What Temperature Should I Set My Outdoor Wine Cooler To?

That depends on what type of wine you’re chilling! If you have champagne, a sparkling wine, or dessert wine, 40°F will be perfect. Sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio do best between 45°F and 48°F, while Chardonnay and Chablis are best at 48°-52°F.

For sparkling red wines, opt for 50°-54°F. Beaujolais and pinot noir are best served between 60°F and 64°F, while cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and shiraz have a desired temperature of 64°-66°F.

How Noisy Are Outdoor Wine Coolers?

Wine coolers typically run quieter than most other outdoor refrigeration appliances. Compressor units, which are the kind you can safely use outdoors, do tend to make some noise, but it’s not enough to ruin your party.

Do I Need to Clean My Outdoor Wine Cooler? How Do I Clean It & How Often?

Like any other appliance, your wine cooler will need a good cleaning now and then. But unless you spill or break a bottle inside of the fridge, once a year or so will be just fine.

To clean your outdoor wine cooler, first, make sure it’s unplugged and empty. Clean any removable parts and the interior of the unit with a food-safe cleaner to clear up any odors and spills. Next, give the outside a good clean with a stainless-steel cleaner.

Can I Install a Freestanding Wine Cooler Under My Counter?

That depends on your model. Some freestanding wine coolers will work find under the counter, but certain models might not be able to properly vent out heat and evaporate condensation. Choose your model wisely, look for a front-venting unit if possible, and follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and ventilation.

Can I Use My Outdoor Wine Cooler to Store My Other Beverages?

You technically could; just be aware that they might not get as cold as you’d like. Wine coolers are designed to chill wine to its ideal temperature, which is often warmer than what you’d prefer for a beer or soda. If you do want to use your wine cooler for both wine and other beverages, opt for a dual zone cooler.

Can My Outdoor Ice Maker Be Used as a Freezer?

You’d think this would work, but it’s not a great idea. While you may assume that everything in your ice maker is frozen, that’s not actually the case! The body of the ice maker isn’t actually chilled, allowing older ice to melt and be made into new ice.

To make a long story short, you might be fine tossing a few drinks into your ice maker in a pinch, but don’t try it with food or anything that gives off an odor. Just invest in a quality outdoor freezer instead!

Does an Outdoor Ice Maker Need a Drain?

As we mentioned above, ice makers themselves don’t actually have a cooler system. That allows older ice to evaporate or melt down and be transformed into new ice. Most of the water from melting ice within the ice maker is reused, but not all of it can be, which is why a drain is necessary.

Does My Outdoor Ice Maker Need a Drain Pump?

That depends. If the water only needs to travel straight down to reach a drain, you don’t need a pump. If it needs to head in any other direction, a drain pump will be necessary.

Do I Need a Plumber to Install My Outdoor Ice Maker?

Outdoor ice makers can be tricky to install correctly. To make sure everything is set up right (and that your warranty doesn’t get voided), we advise hiring a professional plumber to install it.

What Types of Ice Do Outdoor Ice Makers Make?

Outdoor ice makers can make nugget ice, a soft ice without a uniform shape that’s often found in fast food restaurants (hence its other name, Sonic Ice®). You can also find ice makers that make crescent ice, the kind that’s often found in home freezer ice makers, and gourmet ice, which has a distinct thimble shape and a clear look.

Some high-end ice makers will also be able to make cube ice, a completely clear, smooth cube that has more mass for efficiently chilling drinks.

Does My Outdoor Ice Maker Need a Water Filter?

Yes, a filter is essential to making sure your ice is clear and free from impurities or outside flavors. You’ll want to occasionally check this filter and replace it if it’s looking dirty or worn down. As with most maintenance duties, check your user manual to figure out the type of replacement you’ll need.

What Is a Kegerator?

A kegerator is an appliance that is designed to chill and dispense a keg of beer or other carbonated beverages. They’re great for keeping beverages fresh and cold and saving you money by buying beverages in bulk.

How Long Does Beer Last in an Outdoor Kegerator?

That depends on the type of beer you’re storing. If your beer is non-pasteurized, kept at 40°-50°F, and pressured by carbon dioxide, you can expect it to keep between 45 and 60 days. Pasteurized beer can last even longer, from 90 to 120 days.

What Size Keg Can Fit In My Outdoor Kegerator?

The majority of the kegerators on the market will fit one full keg, two pony or slim quarter kegs, or up to four torpedo kegs. If you’re looking at a countertop kegerator, those models will fit mini-kegs.

Some models also come with shelves to store bottles and cans, but that space can take up the area you have to store a keg and cut down on your size options.

What Temperature Should I Set an Outdoor Kegerator To?

If you’re using your kegerator for beer, you’ll want to keep it at 40°-50°F, so it stays fresh. Wine has a slightly higher ideal serving temperature depending on the type, so you’ll want to set your kegerator to 45°-65°F.

Does an Outdoor Kegerator Need CO2?

If you’re opting for a beer kegerator, CO2 is essential. Without it, your beer won’t stay carbonated or come through the tap properly, and even start to skunk within 12 hours. If you’re using your kegerator for other beverages, like wine or cold brew coffee, you’ll need nitrogen instead of CO2 to keep them from becoming carbonated.

How Long Does CO2 Last in an Outdoor Kegerator?

How long your CO2 lasts depends entirely on how much you use it, but in general, CO2 should last long enough for you to empty a full keg.

How Do I Clean My Outdoor Kegerator?

As with other outdoor appliances, unplug and empty your kegerator. Then clean the interior and any removable parts with an odor-killing, food-safe cleaner. Wipe down the outside with a damp cloth or stainless steel cleaner, if needed.

Inspect the area around your kegerator for any contamination or debris, then plug it back in and prepare to party.

Should I Lock My Outdoor Refrigerator Appliances?

Since your outdoor refrigerator appliances are out in the open, it’s a good idea to lock them when they’re not in use to avoid people accessing the fridge and taking things when you don’t want them to.

Locks are especially important if you’re storing alcohol in your outdoor kitchen to keep it out of the hands of minors and protect your favorite bottles, so they’re safe and available for your next get-together.

Where Is the Best Place to Shop for Outdoor Refrigerator Appliances?

Like just about everything, there is a great variety of outdoor refrigerator appliances available online! We’re fans of BBQGuys Outdoor Refrigerator Appliances since ordering is simple, and they’re incredibly knowledgeable about all things outdoor cooking. They have a wide selection of awesome refrigerator appliances for backyards. They even have agents on standby to answer all your questions.

Final Thoughts on Our Outdoor Refrigeration Appliances FAQ

We hope this FAQ guide has helped answer your questions about outdoor refrigeration appliances and proves why they’re a truly cool addition to your outdoor kitchen.

Whether you’re interested in a convenient way to store food and grilling ingredients, store fine wines, create an unlimited supply of ice, or have ice cold beer dispensed at the pull of a tap, there’s a refrigeration appliance that fits every outdoor kitchen and entertaining style.

Outdoor refrigeration essentially creates a second cooking space in your home, one that has all of the convenient features of your indoor kitchen plus the ability to transform it into a truly entertaining paradise.

If you like to cook for and entertain large groups of people, we really can’t overstate the convenience that outdoor refrigeration appliances like fridges, ice makers, and kegerators can bring to your cooking setup.

You’ll be able to spend more time with your guests and enjoy the outdoors, instead of running in and out of your house hauling ingredients and getting drinks for people. It doesn’t get much better than that!

If you still have questions about outdoor refrigeration that we didn’t answer, or you’d like to learn more about your outdoor refrigeration options, let us know! You can comment below this post or send us an email, and we’ll do what we can to find you an answer. You might even see your question added to this FAQ guide!

Next Steps:

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Now It’s Your Turn

I want to hear from you:

Have you ever purchased outdoor refrigerator appliances before?

Have you used any tips on buying outdoor refrigerator appliances or have any feedback to share?

What features do you typically like to see in outdoor fridges?

Are you going to be purchasing a new grill in the future? Do you plan on looking at a Pellet Grill, Smoker, Built-In Gas Grill, or Charcoal Model?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.

If you still have questions, please feel free to send me a message.

Cheers,

Pat G.

Disclosure – At The Grilling Life, I am committed to researching and writing thoughtful, informative and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your outdoor cooking needs.  If you like what I do, you can support me through my chosen links, which earn me a commission.  This allows me to continue sharing with you my love for all things barbecue.  Your support is truly appreciated.