FAQ: What Size Generator Do I Need to Run a Refrigerator?
Are you looking for a generator, that will help you keep your fridge running during a blackout? That is a wise move as many people don’t realize that their food can go bad pretty quickly once the power supply is out.
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In this article we will give you an answer to the following question: What size generator do you need to run a refrigerator and freezer? You will discover the most common questions to ask before you buy a generator and safety & efficiency tips as well.
However, the answer to the question above depends highly on the type of fridge you are going to power:
- While modern appliances have much lower power consumption (around 300 – 400 watts), even while the compressor starts to kick in, the older types of fridges are going to need a bigger power supply (around 300 – 1,200 watts).
- Another aspect that will affect the required size of your generator is whether your fridge also comes with a freezer. In such a case it will require even more power (add 80 – 100 watts to those numbers mentioned above).
Keep in mind that typically, fridges will need at least 1.5x the running power to start the compressor motor. Therefore, you really need a generator that is capable of providing at least that amount of energy.
Also, size is not the only aspect you need to consider while choosing your generator.
Does your fridge come with a smart control panel and various sensors? Then your fridge will probably have microprocessors build in it. In such a case, you need to choose an inverter generator as the regular one usually has a high total harmonic distortion (THD) that could damage or even destroy those microprocessors.
As you can see, choosing the correct generator to keep your fridge working is not as simple as it may seem.
That is why we have created the following table with rough power consumption estimates of different types of refrigerators so that you can make a better decision.
How many watts
|Type of Fridge||Running Watts||Additional Starting Watts||Inverter Needed|
|Mini Fridge||85 - 100 W||127 - 150 W||Usually no|
|Smart Fridge||250 - 500 W||375 - 750 W||Yes|
|Under-Counter Refrigerator||90 - 140 W||120 - 210 W||Usually No|
|Modern Fridge (2001-2020)||100 - 400 W||150 - 600 W||Yes|
|Side-by-Side Fridge||792 W||1,188 W||Yes|
|Refrigerator Showcase||210 W||315 W||Usually No|
|Old Type of Fridge (1993-2000)||200 - 800 W||300 - 1,200 W||Usually No|
|Mini Glass Refrigerator||140 W||210 W||Usually No|
|Mini Freezer||35 - 50 W||52 - 75 W||Usually No|
|Deep Freezer (Chest)||350 - 500 W||525 - 750 W||Usually No|
|Counter-Top Fridge||160 W||240 W||Usually No|
*Just keep in mind that these numbers are rough estimates. To get better estimates, check out the name tag on your electric appliance. To learn the most accurate numbers, get a plug-in power meter.
As you can see, the average fridge power consumption is usually anywhere between 100-400 watts. For most residential homes, 200 will be more than enough – with 180 watts being enough for fairly large fridges. A refrigerator and freezer will, of course, require a bit more energy – with a 240-liter combo requiring closer to 300-400.
The key thing to keep in mind with a fridge is that this is something that runs around the clock. This means you can’t afford to have any interruptions in your power supply.
Questions to Ask
To get a more accurate idea on what size and type of generator to choose to power your fridge, you should answer the following questions first:
- Is your refrigerator older or newer? Earlier models consume more power than the modern fridges. Also, if you buy an electric appliance, its power consumption can gradually rise as it gets older.
- How big is the total capacity of your fridge? If you have a smaller fridge, then it will require less power to run properly. On the contrary, if you have a large fridge full of groceries and food, the power consumption will be higher.
- Does it have a built-in freezer? If your fridge comes with a freezer, then it will require more power to run, as compared to the refrigerator only.
- Does it have an ice maker & dispenser? Any extra functions and features your fridge offers usually come at a price of higher power consumption.
- Does your refrigerator come with smart control panel and various sensors? If the answer is yes, then you will definitely need to get an inverter generator, as typical portable generators have a high total harmonic distortion that will damage microprocessors in your appliance.
- How many amps does your refrigerator need? Usually, each generator has several types of outlets and they provide either 15 or 20 Amps.
- Are you going to run other appliances at the same time? Initially, people buy their generators only to run their fridge to avoid food spoilage. What they don’t realize is the fact, that they will also need to power other appliances at the same time. That is why we recommend counting with extra 20-30% bigger power supply. However, if you know that you will need to power just a fridge, then you can get a generator that covers total starting watts +10% just to be sure.
As you can see, there are a lot of factors that come to play while choosing the best generator to run a fridge.
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Types of generators
How does this translate to the different types of generator that we know of? We are going to take a look at typical generators with combustion systems (gasoline, diesel, propane and inverter) as well as alternative, more “green”, options (solar & wind power generator).
A typical portable generator – a gas generator, for example – will provide anywhere up to 10,000 watts. This is more than enough power to keep a refrigerator running.
If you have a backup generator – a generator specifically designed to power a home or a business in the event of a power outage – that will often be able to deliver as much as 15,000 watts. Again, this is more than sufficient to power a fridge.
- Things get a little more difficult if you are running an inverter generator. These are more efficient generators capable of providing a quieter and less fuel-hungry operation.
They provide around 1,000 – 4,000 watts of energy – which again should handle most fridges just fine. These are all forms of gas generators.
Solar & Wind Generators
Another option is to use some kind of solar generator. These convert energy from the sun into a usable current via a process called solar voltaic. In short, the arrangement of electrons on the solar panel is such that the light from the sun is able to excite them and cause them to move in a way that generates a usable current.
You can even run a fridge on a wind turbine in theory! These can be purchased for businesses or the home, and work by powering a turbine via the kinetic energy provided by wind.
So can these power a fridge? Well, a solar voltaic generator will often provide around 80 Watts to 100 Watts of power (higher for an active panel that is able to follow the movement of the sun) whereas a wind turbine can provide a little more. While it’s possible to power a mini-fridge from these, this is far from an optimal solution.
Something to consider when using any type of generator is that the startup requirements for a fridge are higher than the running requirements. Typically, they will need 1.5x the running power to start the compressor motor – so you really need a generator that is capable of providing at least that amount of energy.
Can you damage
The sheer amount of power is not the only factor to consider when choosing a generator for a fridge. For example, you also need to think about whether the generator can damage the refrigerator due to the nature of the energy produced.
The answer is no… with caveats.
If you are going to power a standard fridge, then it should be just fine running on a typical diesel or gasoline generator. However, if you are trying to run a “smart fridge” with programmable elements, then it is important that you consider using an inverter generator.
These provide a smoother and cleaner sine wave when they produce AC power, which in turn is better suited to microcontrollers. If you use the block wave that can come from a regular generator, then you might risk damaging the computer circuitry that controls things like timers and smart-home integrations.
Safety & efficiency tips
If you’re planning on running your fridge on a generator, then you should consider a few things:
- You can find out precisely how much wattage the fridge needs to run by looking at the nameplate or in the instruction manual. If you can only find the voltage and amperage, you can multiply the voltage by the amperage to get the watts (voltage x amperage = watts).
- Fridges often need an extra jolt of energy in order to start. This is used to start the compressor motor. Multiply the standard running wattage by 1.5 to get this number.
- Interruptions to your power supply should be minimal. When switching between sources, don’t allow the fridge to stand for long. One way to get around this is to use a standard battery converter in order to run the fridge from a car battery while you refuel your generator. Another tip is simply to avoid letting your fuel run out entirely.
- Make sure that you have enough power outlets for both your fridge and any other appliances plugged into the unit.
- Keep an eye on your usage throughout the day.
- Give the generator a moment to boot up before swapping the power supply.
- Make sure that you place the generator on a flat surface.
- Keep your generator up to 10 feet away from the home and any overhanging canopies.
- Invest in an enclosure for your generator to keep it out of harm’s way, as well as keeping it dry and less of an eyesore.
- Note that inverter generators are more energy efficient when running fewer appliances and also quieter.
- Never refuel your generator while running! Also you need to let it cool down before you can refuel it.
There are many ways to power a fridge without relying on your main power supply. These include using standard generators, inverter generators, and more. That said, for a number of reasons, an inverter generator will typically offer many benefits over other options.
Keep an eye on the startup demands of the fridge, and practice safety at all times!
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