Solar Powered Mini Fridge: High Efficiency, Low Power

solar powered mini-fridge


When I first started utilizing solar energy and thinking about going off grid, appliances were one of my first major considerations. I took the time to think about what appliances are essential for my day-to-day life and how much solar power I would need to use them. With respect to cold storage, a solar powered mini fridge is a great space-saving solution and is excellent at reducing your energy draw as you puzzle out your homestead’s solar needs with the goal of reducing your footprint.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

As a homesteader and tiny house dweller, I’ve been living in and building tiny homes for over a decade. At first, I wasn’t sure a solar powered mini fridge would have enough space for my essential needs, but I quickly realized with small habit changes, this size not only suits me perfectly, but it also saves energy at the same time.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Can You Power A Solar Powered Mini Fridge On Your Homestead?

Can You Power A Solar Powered Mini Fridge On Your Homestead

Yes, you can power a solar powered mini fridge whether you are fully off grid or choose to go partial solar on your homestead. I live off grid and operate my entire home just from the power of the sun! I’ve found that it’s possible to run a solar mini fridge, as well as many other appliances, with an array, or group, of connected solar panels. These solar panels, situated on your roof or in a sunny part of your yard with no obstructions, can generate the energy necessary for powering your homestead life.

What Is A Solar Powered Mini Fridge

The type of mini fridge I’m talking about is sometimes called a dorm fridge or bar fridge, and the solar-powered element just means it’s powered with solar energy fed into your home’s energy infrastructure.

What Is A Solar Powered Mini FridgeThese refrigerators can vary in size, from a cube measuring about 2 feet on either side, to up to 3 or 4 feet tall. The most important considerations are how much energy your solar-powered mini fridge requires and how many solar panels you’ll need for its operation.

When you calculate the number of solar panels you need, you’ll take a look at all of your energy needs for your homestead, with your solar powered mini fridge as just one part of the sum of your solar needs.

How Many Watts Does A Solar Powered Mini Fridge Use?

The energy usage of a solar powered mini fridge depends on a couple of factors: the size of the appliance, and the specific appliance’s energy efficiency rating. In general, the energy draw range for a mini fridge is 60-90 watts of energy per day.

However, These other factors can affect the energy use

  • How often you open and close the refrigerator
  • The internal temperature of your house
  • The climate you’re in, or the outside temperature
  • Whether there is a freezer component or if it’s just a refrigerator
  • How full your mini fridge is (a fuller mini fridge will run more efficiently)

100 watt solar panel

How To Power A Solar Powered Mini Fridge Off Grid

How To Power A Solar Powered Mini Fridge Off Grid

Once you have your solar energy infrastructure in place, powering an off grid mini fridge with solar energy is simple. Before you even start, it’s a good idea to take inventory of your energy use and the amount of energy your appliances take to power by solar. Cutting back on the overall energy that you consume is a great way to ensure success, and that’s where a solar powered mini fridge can make a big difference.

Since solar panels generate DC power and most household appliances run on AC power, your solar array will use a power inverter to connect to a breaker in your home, which will feed energy to all your appliances.

solar panel components

solar powered refrigerator electrical diagram
solar power for tiny houses

How Many Solar Panels Does It Take to Run A Solar Mini Fridge?

Successfully running your household, and a mini refrigerator, on solar power depends on a few different variables. The first thing to consider is the wattage of the solar panel. For example, I have used 100-watt panels to power a simplistic camping setup, and this was sufficient.

solar panel setup for a mini fridgeTo meet the needs of a home, you may want to invest in more high-wattage panels, which can capture and deliver more energy. At the end of the day, the number of panels you need will depend on whether you go fully or partially off grid. Even if you go fully off grid, many people choose to invest in a generator and fuel as a backup in times of storms or if there is any issue with the solar array, for example if a lightning strike causes malfunctions.

Most commonly available solar panels today can produce 300-400 watts, or approximately 1 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day, or 30 kWh per month. This means that you’ll easily be able to run your solar mini fridge from a portion of one panel’s output.

How Many Volts Does It Take To Power A Solar Mini Fridge?

Most solar powered mini fridges run on the common 100-120-volt power draw, with a standard three-pronged plug connecting it to your home’s power infrastructure. I checked the label on the inside of the door of my mini fridge to find the volts and amps required for my particular model, and you can do the same.

From there, it’s a matter of math to calculate the watts. Once you determine the number of watts needed to run your mini fridge per day, multiply that by 30 to get the average monthly total. For example, on a mini fridge that uses 60 watts of power per day, you’ll need 1,800 kWh of power per month, which usually will be just a portion of one solar panel’s output.

Being mindful about your habits will help decrease the power required, like trying to minimize how many times you open and close the mini fridge. Every time you do this, it takes energy to cool the mini fridge back down.

There are some primary factors that can impact the power draw of a mini fridge. For example, each time a solar powered mini fridge needs to click on to regulate its temperature, it will require a surge of power. Additionally, when you’re setting up your mini fridge for the first time, it will require about three times the average energy draw to cool to the proper temperature at the initial setup.

Creating A Solar Array To Power A Solar Mini Fridge

Creating A Solar Array To Power A Solar Mini Fridge

To create a solar array to power your solar mini fridge and other appliances, you’ll need to take some basic logistics into account, along with the technical details.

off grid solar panel setupFirst, consider your climate. Where I live in North Carolina, there’s no time of year that a solar installation is out of the question, but think about your local weather patterns and whether you want to install in heavy rain or snow. Consider whether you are prepared to maintain the panels throughout the year — for example, cleaning them off during a snowstorm or periodically removing dirt and dust in dry weather — so they can keep generating the energy you need to run your household.

I chose to install the solar panels myself, resulting in significant cost savings. If you plan to do the installation, you’ll first want to check the local regulations to be sure you have any required permits. Some municipalities have restrictions in place and do not allow the installation of solar panels by anyone other than professional electricians.

What Equipment Do I Need For A Solar Powered Mini Fridge?

Many of the tools I used to install my solar panels are ones that the average homesteader will already have on hand: a caulking gun, electric drill, wire cutter, and screwdriver. However, you’ll also need specialized tools and equipment for the installation, like racks and monitoring equipment.

A simple off-grid power setup will include the number of solar panels that you’ve predetermined you’ll need to power your home and an inverter, which allows the energy to be used by the appliances. Assuming you’ll also want to use batteries to bank the generated energy so you can use it when the sun is not shining, you’ll also need a charge controller, which helps to feed the energy into the batteries in a way that prevents overload.

200 watt solar panel

What Types Of Solar Powered Mini Fridges Are There?

What Types Of Solar Powered Mini Fridges Are There

There are dozens of options when it comes to selecting a solar powered mini fridge for your home. It’s an efficient addition to any size home, either standalone or part of a homestead farm due to its compact dimensions, it usually maxes out around 3 feet tall. It’s also possible to fit a mini fridge in spaces that a full-size fridge would not fit. This is something to consider if you’re building your own home because you can choose the best place to situate the bar fridge in your kitchen — even hiding it using creative kitchen storage strategies. Personally, I love the way my solar powered mini fridge doesn’t dominate my kitchen layout.

What Features To Look For In A Solar Powered Mini Fridge

Ultimately, the solar mini fridge features you look for will depend on your preferences. Do you want your mini fridge to be on the cool side? Or really cold? You’ll need to decide whether you want just a mini fridge, or a mini fridge with a freezer.

There’s something for everyone out there: mini fridges with a discrete refrigerator and freezer on top, fridges with a small, enclosed freezer compartment in the main refrigerator space — the right size to store an ice pack or two — and mini fridges with no freezer at all.

battery powered refridgerator
It’s up to you to decide how important the ability to freeze is. I know that, after a long day of working my land, I like a few ice cubes in my water bottle. However, your needs may vary — if you keep goats and need to store their milk, having more room for refrigeration, instead of a freezer, would make sense.

How To Choose The Right Model Mini Solar Fridge

When considering solar powered mini fridges, choose the right one for your cooling needs. Think about what you really need to keep cool — meats, cheeses, milks — and how much space you require. Put these items in a box and measure each side with a ruler to calculate the volume needed to store them. Multiply this cubic footage by the maximum amount of each item you’d be storing at any given time and this process will help you understand the capacity you’ll require.

Is A Mini Fridge Worth The Investment?

In my experience, I’d say that a mini fridge is well worth the investment. It’s an efficient way to keep food, drinks, and even wellness tools like medicines and ice packs handy and safe from spoiling, allowing you to stock up on the items you don’t produce on your land.

Plus, a mini fridge will represent a smaller investment than a full-size fridge, keep a small kitchen from feeling cluttered and save you on energy costs, whether you go fully solar or are partially paying for utilities. Pay a little more upfront to purchase a highly efficient model because it will require less energy from your solar panels. This will save you money in the long run and could also reduce your initial solar start-up costs if you don’t need as many panels.

off grid solar cooking

FAQs About A Solar Powered Mini Fridge

Frequently Asked Questions About A Solar Powered Mini Fridge

Do you need a power inverter?

Yes, a power inverter is a necessary component of a home solar array. It turns the energy from the sun into usable power for your home.

Do you need a generator for powering a mini fridge?

As long as you choose a moderate-sized mini fridge and install sufficient solar panels, you will be able to keep your mini fridge powered with solar energy.

portable solar generatorHowever, I do recommend having a generator for times when the weather limits solar energy creation or in the event that your solar grid goes down. You won’t want to lose everything in your mini fridge, so having a backup plan is smart.

While you might opt to install batteries to bank extra solar energy, I like to have a fuel-powered backup generator to ensure the continuous operation of appliances in an emergency. There are different variables to consider when you’re deciding which solar generator is best for you.

What other appliance considerations should I keep in mind?

You can more easily go off grid if you carefully choose all your appliances. For example, instead of choosing separate washer and dryer units, think about an all-in-one washer-dryer combo that takes up minimal space and washes and dries a load of laundry in one continuous cycle. Running a washer and dryer at the same time might tax your grid, but, by using only one function at a time, you can spread out the energy needed.

Space Constraints With A Solar Powered Mini Fridge

Space Constraints With A Solar Powered Mini Fridge

A solar mini fridge will offer less storage space overall, but I’ve found that a smaller appliance will bring you peace in the financial and energy savings it provides and the ability to support off-grid life.

fresh eggs can last 3 months when refrigeratedWhile foods like meat and dairy need refrigeration, many folks put things in the mini fridge that don’t really need to be there. One example is eggs. When you’re eating your own fresh eggs from your own farm every day, they’re fine on the counter. I’ve also seen people keeping things like coffee or tomatoes in the mini refrigerator when there’s no benefit. Minimizing what goes in your fridge helps you minimize the size of the mini fridge you buy, which means you’ll require less power.

Instead of primarily using a mini fridge or freezer to store food for future use, shift to more canning and dehydrating. If you can save the bounty of a garden at peak season in a pantry or cellar, you won’t need to use a mini fridge as much. I was surprised to learn how many different types of food could be dehydrated!

Freshly laid eggs remain usable for up to two weeks on the counter, or three months when refrigerated.

When you’re looking to go off grid, remember that efficiency is key. Question the habits you’ve gotten used to and ask yourself if there’s a better way. There are some misconceptions about life off the grid, but remember your priorities and your overall goals when planning a self-sufficient life, and stay focused on those. You’ll likely find that a solar powered mini fridge will be quite sufficient for your food cooling needs.

guide to dehydrating food

 Your Turn!

  • Is a mini fridge enough storage for you?
  • What foods do you commonly freeze? If there aren’t a lot, can you get by with just a refrigerator?
  1. Thank you Ryan for your easily understandable description of a transition to solar-power. I’m still curious if there is actually a solar powered mini fridge or will any mini fridge work in a solar powered tiny home? I am currently living in a tiny house on wheels and still plugged into the grid and wanting to be off grid. The mini fridge/freezer has worked just fine for me. I’m wondering what my next step would be to move into solar power…

  2. is the draw on the fridge over the month supposed to read 1.8 Kwh instead of 1,800 Kwh?

  3. You don’t mention any 12 or 24 volt DC supply refrigerators. Are there any of those that might be more power efficient then the ones running on 110 Vac power from the inverter? I believe I heard that running directly off the DC current from the battery bank and charge controller was more efficient for such things as small appliances, TV and radio receivers, LED lighting, and such. Any thoughts on that concept?

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