How Often (And How Long) Should I Run My Generator to Keep My Refrigerator Cold?

When our power cuts out, our refrigerator is probably one appliance we would want to keep running the most. Therefore, you may think that you need to keep your refrigerator and freezer running at all times and this may factor into what size home generator you need.

But this isn’t strictly true. If you lose power for half an hour, the food in your refrigerator won’t spoil. It all depends on circumstance, but you may only need to keep your fridge running intermittently to keep your food cool. 

How Often (And How Long) Should I Run My Generator to Keep My Refrigerator Cold?

This is good to know as it means you don’t have to fork out for a huge generator, you won’t need to keep your generator constantly running, and you’ll use less fuel.

Below we’ll look at how much power is needed to run a refrigerator, how long your generator will need to run to keep it cool, and how to conserve power usage for your fridge.

How Much Power Do You Need To Run A Refrigerator?

Depending on the size, age, and model a standard fridge will use around 1200 starting Watts and 200 running Watts. The exact power usage can be calculated via the following equation: Power (watts) = volts x amps.

Information on volts and amps can be found on the manufacturer’s sticker on your refrigerator. This should give you the running Watts.

To start their compressing motor, refrigerators also need an extra jolt of power. This is usually 2-3 times the running Watts, but to be on the safe side, assume instead that it will be up to 6 times the running power.

However, depending on the conditions and environment your refrigerator is operating in, your refrigerator may need to draw on extra power when it’s running For example, if the refrigerator is in a warm room with the door left open the compressor will start working to keep what’s inside cool.

So when you’re trying to calculate how big the generator in your home will need to be, allow for variables such as this.

Should Your Refrigerator Always Be Running?

If you have the fuel capacity and your generator is able to, then you can keep your fridge constantly running.

However, most portable generators are not designed for 24/7 use.

For example, you’ll need to turn your generator off to refuel it and perform maintenance checks. Your generator will need a rest every once in a while to reduce maintenance checks and to make sure it lasts longer.

When your generator is constantly on it will eat a lot of fuel. During a short-term power outage this isn’t a problem, but in very extreme cases your power may be out for quite some time and it’s hard to determine how long you will need to keep your generator running in these circumstances. 

Constantly running a generator isn’t good for security either. Even quiet models can create enough noise to catch the attention of anybody passing by who may want to steal it.

How Long Should You Run Your Generator To Keep Your Refrigerator Cold?

Let’s answer this question by addressing some basic principles. 

  • Less power is used to maintain the temperature of a cold refrigerator than is used to cool it down. 
  • When the power is turned off for too long you’ll end up using more energy and refueling to restore the fridge to its optimum temperature. 
  • Constantly switching your fridge on and off may mean you use more fuel than keeping it on constantly due to how much power fridges use when starting up.

First thing’s first, you need to know how long your fridge keeps food cool during a power outage. You can find this out with a wireless thermometer that allows you to check the temperature inside of your fridge without opening the door.

Turn the power off and check how long it takes for the temperature to increase. If the door is left closed an average fridge will keep food cold for around four hours.

You can turn the power back on once the internal temperature has increased. Now you can take out the food or drinks you’ll need. You can then time how long it takes for the fridge to return to its stable level.

Try running power to your fridge for an hour before turning it off again. This allows the food inside to become cool and lets you open the fridge a few times to take items out and put items in.

This gives you a ratio of 1:4. Therefore, you should run your generator for an hour to keep your refrigerator cool for four hours.

However, a few factors can affect how quickly the temperature in a fridge changes and how much power is needed to cool it down. The age of your refrigerator can have an impact, as newer models tend to use less power and keep food cold more efficiently.

This is the same for fridges kept in good condition - how effective the door seals are is particularly important.

Other factors include how hot or cold the room is where the fridge is stored, and how many items are in there.

Conserving Refrigerator Power Use

Generally, the less heat that escapes, the less power your refrigerator needs to stay cool. This may seem like common sense, but it’s crucial to remember during a power outage.

Let’s take a look at a couple of more tips to power your fridge more efficiently. 

Keep your refrigerator in a cool room. This is crucial if you live in a hot environment and your air conditioning won’t be running during a power outage. Unless it's prone to flooding, a cold basement is the best place to store a fridge.

Make sure your fridge isn’t next to a heat source like an oven or a dishwasher. 

Remember to always keep your fridge door closed. In a power outage, make sure to only use the fridge when the generator is running.

The more items there are in your fridge the easier it is to keep cool. If you don’t have a lot of food in there, load up on containers of water.

Make sure the condenser coils on the back of the fridge are clean and replace the rubber seal around the door if you need to.

I'm an environment and energy blogger who teaches outdoor and energy enthusiasts how to be better informed when it comes to purchasing or maintaining a generator, solar panel system, or anything else related to your energy needs.