retro fridge yellow ready to be powered

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.

I have great news for you! Our team here at Generatorist has helped over 430,000 visitors find information about generators and we will help you as well.

In a hurry? Here is our quick summary: If you choose at least a 2000 starting watts inverter generator (Yamaha EF2000iSv2, WEN 56200i, or Generac GP2200i), you should be able to power any medium-sized modern refrigerator with a freezer easily.

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? Moreover, you will discover the most common questions to ask before you buy a generator and safety & efficiency tips as well.

The answer depends on the type of fridge you want 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 – 3x the running power to start the compressor motor. Therefore, you need a generator that is capable of providing at least that amount of energy. 

Getting a 2000 surge watts generator should be more than enough to power any refrigerator and freezer.

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 built into 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.

Fridge Wattage Chart

Type of Fridge Running Watts Additional Starting Watts Inverter Needed
Mini Fridge 85 - 100 W 127 - 150 W Usually no
minifridge-icon-200x200
Smart Fridge 250 - 500 W 375 - 750 W Yes
smart-fridge-200x200
Under-Counter Refrigerator 90 - 140 W 120 - 210 W Usually No
under-counter-refridgerator-200x200
Modern Fridge (2001-2020) 100 - 400 W 150 - 600 W Yes
modern fridge 200x200
Side-by-Side Fridge 792 W 1,188 W Yes
side by side fridge
Refrigerator Showcase 210 W 315 W Usually No
showcase refridgerator
Old Type of Fridge (1993-2000) 200 - 800 W 300 - 1,200 W Usually No
old fridge
Mini Glass Refrigerator 140 W 210 W Usually No
glass fridge
Mini Freezer 35 - 50 W 52 - 75 W Usually No
mini-freezer-200x200
Deep Freezer (Chest) 350 - 500 W 525 - 750 W Usually No
deep freezer
Counter-Top Fridge 160 W 240 W Usually No
counter-top refrigerator

*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.

How many watts to run a refrigerator on a generator?

There are two numbers in the table above you should focus on. Each refrigerator requires a certain number of starting watts and running watts. Let me explain the difference:

Running watts – The first, smaller number, refers to rated (running) watts – the amount of power your refrigerator requires over longer periods.

Starting watts – The second, larger number, refers to the surge (or starting) watts – the maximum power your refrigerator needs over a short period.

The average power consumption of a fridge 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.

One thing to note is that refrigerators and freezers require extra power for starting, which is often 1.5 – 3 times the average running watts. If you choose a 2000 starting watts inverter generator (Yamaha EF2000iSv2WEN 56200i or Generac GP2200i), you will be able to power any medium-sized refrigerator with a freezer easily.

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. To discover power needs for other appliances, feel free to visit our popular guide here: List of Electric Appliances & Their Wattage Usage

Questions to Ask

Before getting a generator for your fridge

To get a more accurate idea of 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 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 a smart control panel and various sensors? If the answer is yes, then you will 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 an 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 when choosing the best generator to run a fridge.

Looking for a 2000 watt generator?

Types of generators

To choose for powering your fridge

How does this translate to the different types of generators 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).

Typical Generators

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.

Some of the top rated generators in this category:

If you have some free time and want to learn about features to look for in a generator, we have a great guide that will help you with choosing the best generator for your household here and a guide that is aimed at helping contractors here.

Inverter Generators

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.

Some of the top rated inverter generators in this category:

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 photovoltaic

In short, the arrangement of electrons on the solar panel is such that the light from the sun excites them and causes 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 can 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.

Some of the top rated solar generators in this category:

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 – 3x the running power to start the compressor motor – so you need a generator that is capable of providing at least that amount of energy.

Scott from GeneratorGrid did a test where he tried to power his fridge with the most popular solar generators, check it out here: Solar Generators That Can Power My Refrigerator

Can you damage

Your refrigerator?

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 you must 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.

To discover more tips on running your refrigerator safely on a generator, check out this article written by an off-grid expert Sean Jennings: Is It Safe To Run a Refrigerator On a Generator?

Safety & efficiency tips

To keep in mind when powering your fridge

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 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 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.

Also, always read the instruction manual for your generator and follow every safety recommendation that is written there.

Users on Reddit are sharing some interesting tips as well:

“What the people I know did after Hurricane Maria was to turn off the generator during the night. Since no one is opening it, it should be cold enough. Then also run it for longer times during the morning and before turning it off for the night, (this is if fuel or the generator is an issue)…” Continue reading this comment on Reddit.

“I do not unplug unless I’m running a big power draw elsewhere. For reference we run our main fridge freezer and three chest freezers on a 2000ui, AT ONCE. You can’t have them start at once but they can all run at once.

I just delay/stagger plugging them in and have never had an issue. That plus lights and a computer is fine. I’ll unplug a fridge or freezer to run the TV if needed. I run from 7-9am until around 11PM at night then turn it off and start again in the morning around 7-9am….” Continue reading this comment on Reddit.

“On to other matters: a typical refrigerator or freezer only needs to run once every three hours or so to keep the internal temperature at a suitable level. Not opening the fridge/freezer unnecessarily helps out, as does providing extra insulation with blankets.

With that said, running a generator for hours on end just to keep a fridge/freezer cold is very wasteful of fuel. It’s verging on just plain stupid if temperatures outside are at/below freezing…” Continue reading this comment on Reddit.

Conclusion

Summing it all up

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 several reasons, an inverter generator will typically offer many benefits over other options.

Here is our quick summary: If you choose at least a 2000 starting watts inverter unit (Yamaha EF2000iSv2WEN 56200i or Generac GP2200i), you should be able to power any medium-sized modern refrigerator with a freezer safely.

Keep an eye on the startup demands of the fridge, and practice safety at all times! Please remember, don’t run your generator in the house & watch out for CO poisoning. 

From 2005 to 2017, in the United States, 1061 people died from the use of engine-driven tools and 880 of those deaths were caused by generators. Better be safe than sorry!

Read next on Generatorist:

About Generatorist

Matthew Gerther

Founder, Generator enthusiast

Our aim here at the Generatorist is to become the No. 1 resource for all things related to generators & your power needs. We have helped over 430,000 visitors with our tips, articles and reviews and we will help you as well.

Our work has been featured in many publications around the world – Yahoo.com, Telegram.com, PaylessPower.com, TopTenReviews.com, TechRepublic.com, ThePrepared.com, Renogy.com or ADT Solar. Generators are our passion, and we strive to provide the most reliable & most comprehensive information out there.

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1 thought on “FAQ: What Size Generator Do I Need to Run a Refrigerator?”

  1. What an informative well-done sight to learn the ins and outs of using a generator. I appreciate your knowledge. We live in Ohio, a tornado touched down in Dayton a year ago. Our power company reassures us in many ways they use drones to look over the power lines and they are fortifying respective junctions for reliability. We have severe storms here, but on average we miss getting the brunt end of a nasty weather pattern. Why should we spend good money on getting a generator(s) it could be a potential waste of money because we would never use our equipment like someone in Houston or Louisianna? We have an EcoFlow Delta 1300 and a Champion Dual Fuel 3100 generator. I am considering a plan to purchase a coupler to run parallel to a twin Champion generator. The concerns listed is my wife’s thinking. Relatedly, would you recommend a 30 amp transfer switch?

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