A common use of generators is to power refrigerators and freezers during a power outage. However, doing so is not always straightforward. Often there are questions as to what type of generator should be used, what size it should be, and how it should be hooked up. Let us discuss these points so you can determine which is best for your situation
1. Sizing the Generator for your Refrigerator:
First, you will need to find out how much power your refrigerator or freezer uses. Power requirements vary widely, and you will find that older appliances often can use double the amount of power that a newer energy-efficient model the same size uses. If the generator is not correctly sized, you either spend thousands more than you need to or even worse - buy something that will not work at all for you. First, let’s discuss what size generator you need. Often refrigerators will have a sticker inside the door with its power requirements. This is what the sticker looks like on mine:
What you are looking for is the number of amps (amperes) your appliance requires. This one is labeled at 6.5 amps. Assuming you are plugging the appliance into a standard 120-volt wall outlet, you will then need to multiply the 6.5 amps x 120 volts to get the average running watts, which in this case equals 780 watts. However, refrigerators and freezers also require an extra surge in power every time the compressor starts, which is often 2-3 times the average running watts. This means that the minimum size generator required for this appliance will be 1,560 watts.
2. Determining Generator Type:
Next, you will want to know what type of generator to use. Fuel types include gasoline, propane, natural gas, diesel, or battery, which includes solar power. To figure out which works best for you, you should consider what other equipment you will be powering, how often you expect it to be used, whether you are looking for a temporary or permanent installation, and if you plan to use it indoors or outdoors. Let’s weigh the pros and cons of each.
Gasoline is easy to use and obtain which makes this a popular choice for portable generators. Noise can be an issue, but there are inverter generators that regulate the speed of the engine. Depending upon the required load, these inverter generators can help lessen the noise.
Propane is also a popular choice for portable or installed generators. These are often preferable to gasoline as they are cleaner and often quieter. Inverter generators are available for propane as well, and duel fuel models are available that can run off of either gasoline or propane.
Natural gas is a great choice for permanent installations if natural gas is available. The benefits that they are quiet and clean. Their main limitation is that there needs to be a gas line installed into the building or home. These would commonly power more than just the refrigerator, usually would power other items such as lighting and air-conditioning.
Diesel is great for rural areas where gas lines are not installed. The diesel motors are very large and powerful, so they are commonly used to support larger loads such as an entire hospital building. They are also very noisy and not usually suitable for residential use and probably too large for only supporting a refrigerator.
Battery generators have the advantage of being the only type that can be installed indoors. They are easy to install and recharge with either solar or utility power using a standard wall outlet. The batteries need to be changed about every four years, which is an added cost to consider.
3. Generator Installation:
Installing Fuel Powered Generators:
Lastly, the installation of the generator needs to be discussed. For portable fuel-powered models that are serving temporary needs, the refrigerator can be simply plugged into an extension cord running to the outdoors through a window or door. A permanent installation or an application of critical nature, connecting the generator directly to the electrical panel is desired. Due to this a transfer switch will need to be installed by a licensed electrician. The generator will then power the wall outlet the refrigerator is plugged into.
Battery Powered Generator Installations:
For battery-powered generators that are usually installed indoors, the refrigerator can plug directly into the battery power supply. The battery power system can be installed right beside the appliance eliminating the need for extension cords and costly electrical work. If more than one refrigerator is needed to be powered the battery power system can be hardwired to multiple outlets and supply power to 2 or 3 appliances simultaneously. To find out more about these types of power generators, please view the Medi-Products Refrigerator Battery Backup Power Systems Page. Hardwire and mobile systems are available as well.