How Many Watts Does A Refrigerator Use? (For Generator Sizing)

Who cares how many watts does a refrigerator use? Homeowners who want to adequately size a generator do. During a power outage, the only thing that can run a refrigerator is a generator. The key here is to have an adequately sized generator for a refrigerator; that’s why we will look at how many watts different refrigerants use.

We have all sizes of generators; from the smaller 500W to bigger 1000W, 1500W, 2000W, 3000W, and all the way to those big 10kW+ generators. Which one would run your refrigerator smoothly? Let’s figure this out.

Now, it is vital that we understand that there are 2 types of refrigerator wattages (especially important for generator sizing):

  1. Running Wattage. This is how much power a refrigerator needs to run smoothly. As we will see, standard refrigerators run on about 100 watts to 200 watts. Do note: A 200W generator will not be able to run a standard fridge.
  2. Starting Wattage. This is the wattage that a fridge needs to start up and to turn on the compressor. It’s a wattage spark that lasts for less than 1 second but it’s imperative that a generator can produce that spark. We usually take that starting wattage is 4 times higher than running wattage (just to be sure). That means that a standard fridge will have 400 watts to 800 watts start-up wattage. That means that we will need an 800W generator to run a standard 200W running wattage fridge because it has to produce that 800W start-up power spark.
refrigerant wattage and generator sizing
Cooling coils inside the refrigerator. These are cooled by a refrigerant that has to be compressed by a compressor; the compressor is a part of the refrigerant that requires that big power spark to turn on.

The most common mistake people who buy a generator for a fridge make is undersizing a generator. That’s simply because it comes more natural for us to check that running wattage. Not in the case of a refrigerator, however; here we definitely have to look at starting wattage.

There are many types of refrigerators. Let’s look at how many watts you will need to run them:

Refrigerator Types And Wattages

Here is a full chart for rough wattages of different types of fridges:

Refrigerator: Running Watts: Starting Watts:
Small Mini Fridge 50 watts 200 watts
Standard Mini Fridge 75 watts 300 watts
Big Mini Fridge 100 watts 400 watts
Small Energy Star Fridge 132 watts 528 watts
Standard Energy Star Fridge 192 watts 768 watts
Big Energy Star Fridge 250 watts 1,000 watts
Small Fridge 400 watts 1,200 watts
Standard Fridge 700 watts 2,900 watts
Big Side-By-Side Fridge 1,000 watts 4,000 watts
Biggest Fridge 1,500 watts 6,000 watts

The first thing you should do is to figure out how many watts your fridge runs on. The specs label, stuck to the side of the fridge, will have this info. Here is an example for an LG standard-sized refrigerator by the US Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

You can see that the “Defrosting Input” is rated at 190W. That is the running wattage. The starting wattage – for generation sizing – is thus 4x higher; 760W.

As you can see from the chart, all Energy Star rated refrigrantors have a starting wattage of 1,000 watts of below. That means that a simple 1,000W generator will do the job well.

If, however, you have one of those bigger fridges that are not particularly energy efficient (without the Energy Star label), a 3,000W generator is a safer choice.

We hope this adequately addresses how many watt generator you need to run a refrigerator during a power outage.

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