One of the first questions people ask when they see a solar generator is, “Can I use that to run my refrigerator?”.
A solar generator such as the Ecoflow Delta Max is capable of running a full-size refrigerator. As long as the generator is rated for the wattage your fridge requires and has enough energy storage, it should be able to power it for at least a few hours.
This article will give some examples of which solar generators can run a full-size refrigerator. I’ll also cover what you need to know about using a solar generator to power a refrigerator, including some limitations you need to be aware of.
Disclaimer: I received many of the products discussed in this video for free to do reviews on them on Youtube. I am also a member of various affiliate programs and will earn a commission from orders placed through the links in the article.
How Much Power Does A Refrigerator Need?
Running a refrigerator presents challenges to a solar generator. It is one of the most power-hungry devices in your home, right behind central air conditioning, clothes dryers, and electric ovens. Since they use a compressor on startup, many will require what is called “startup watts”. Startup watts can be around 3 times the number of watts needed after the device is up and running.
Many refrigerators use around 200-300 watts while running and up to 1200-1300 starting watts. To determine how many watts your refrigerator uses, simply multiply the volts and amps listed on your appliance’s label. The number that you get is what you can expect your running watts to be. Multiply this number by 3 to get an approximation of what your starting watts will be.
While it’s always a good idea to understand the math behind such things, you may be better off using a device such as a Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor to determine how much power your device uses. Although I don’t have a Kill A Watt, my Ecoflow Delta has a display that shows me how much power is being used at any given time. Because of this, I know that my side-by-side refrigerator uses a little over 1,500 watts on startup, and then settles into the 200-watt range a few moments later.
How Long Will a Solar Generator Power a Refrigerator?
Knowing how much power your refrigerator uses on startup and while running will help you get an idea of how long a particular solar generator will be able to keep it running. Since my fridge uses around 200 watts while running, I can estimate that a 1,600 Wh solar generator will be able to power it for a little less than 8 hours. I divided the solar generator’s watt-hour capacity by the refrigerator running wattage to determine this.
Although a refrigerator doesn’t run constantly, it is still likely that a 1,600-watt solar generator wouldn’t last the full 8 hours. The main reason is that startup wattage will use up quite a bit of power. Also, power does tend to fluctuate slightly, meaning that it will be using slightly above 200 watts much of the time.
Which Solar Generators Can Run a Refrigerator?
From what we’ve seen above, you’ll need a large solar generator to power a refrigerator. First, your solar generator must be able to handle the wattage needed to power your fridge. A good rule of thumb is that you will need a solar generator that is capable of providing at least 2,000 starting watts.
Your solar generator will also need a large capacity. You’ll usually see this listed as watt-hours or kilowatt-hours. It’s pretty easy go between the two since 1 kilowatt-hour is equal to 1000 watt-hours. (6 kWh is equal to 6,000 Wh) I see 1,300 watt-hours (1.3 kW) as the minimum capacity acceptable for powering a refrigerator. This will give you enough power to keep a fridge running for at least a few hours, which is how long most power outages last.
Larger solar generators with a greater capacity will be able to power a refrigerator for a much longer period of time than those with less energy storage. Below are some examples of devices that should be able to power your refrigerator.
The Ecoflow Delta is the first solar generator that I ever used to power my refrigerator. Since it can handle up to 3,300 surge watts and 1,800 running watts, it should have no problem getting the refrigerator started. It was also able to power my washing machine through an entire load.
The Ecoflow Delta has a 1,260 Wh capacity, which means that it should be able to run a refrigerator for at least a few hours. It should last through most “run-of-the-mill” outages caused by minor issues. I plug it in soon after the power goes out so I won’t have to mess with my gas generator unless I need to.
One very nice feature of the Ecoflow Delta is that you can recharge it from a gas generator in just over an hour and a half. This means that if you have both, you can use them to tag team to reduce the amount of fuel you’ll need.
Ecoflow Delta Max
The next step up from the Delta is the Ecoflow Delta Max. It’s very similar to the Delta but with the ability to handle up to 2,400 running watts and 5,000 surge watts. This means that like the Delta, it should have no problem getting a refrigerator up and running.
The Delta Max also has a larger capacity and can be purchased with a capacity of either 2,000 Wh or 1,600 Wh, which will give you greater runtime. Even with the additional storage capacity, it can still be fully recharged from 0% to 80% in just 65 minutes. The Delta Max’s capacity can be expanded up to 6kWh using Ecoflow’s smart batteries and is compatible with their smart generator as well.
Alternatives to Running a Full-Size Refrigerator
Although an appropriately-sized solar generator can run a full-size refrigerator, it isn’t the best appliance to use during a long-term disaster situation. Fridges require a lot of power and run many times throughout the day. This can be a challenge for a portable solar generator to keep up with.
Small Box Freezers
One good alternative to a refrigerator that many people already own is a small box freezer. Box freezers tend to run less throughout the day than a refrigerator. If it’s full, the contents of a box freezer will help keep the inside cool, meaning that the freezer will need to do less work. Box freezers also tend to require less starting and running watts than a refrigerator.
All of this means that a solar generator will be able to power a box freezer much longer than it would be able to power a refrigerator. If you know that a power outage is likely to last for a while, you can move your most expensive food items, such as meat, to your box freezer. You may lose some other items in your fridge, but you won’t lose as much high-value food. I, personally would have no problem sacrificing my leftovers and condiments to save the venison in my box freezer.
Portable Fridge Freezers
Portable fridge freezers are another good alternative to a full-size refrigerator. I think of them as electric coolers since they are about the same size but use 12-volt power instead of ice to keep things cool.
The biggest advantage that a portable refrigerator or freezer has over a larger traditional refrigerator is that they require very little power to operate. For example, the Setpower FC20 only uses 45 watts. This means that you will be able to run it around a day using the Ecoflow Delta, Delta Max, or similar solar generator.
Another advantage that low power usage gives you is that you could use a portable refrigerator while the solar generator is recharging using solar panels. Providing pass through power may not be the best thing for your generator, but it can be done.
Portable refrigerator freezers, as the name suggests, can also be easily taken with you if you need to bug out. This would allow you to save at least some of your food or important medications that require refrigeration.