How to properly store your fridge when it’s not being used.

  • Date Published: 14 May 2024
  • Bushman Fridges

It’s quite common for portable fridges and caravan fridges to have periods of time when they are not being used. Sometimes a few days, a few weeks, maybe months or even years! So you might be wondering, what is the best way to store your fridge depending on how long it’s out of action? Well let’s find out.

But first, there are two things you really need to know before you turn your fridge off, even if it is just for a few days.

  1. Cut power to the fridge circuit! It is really important to cut power to your fridge entirely when your fridge is not in use. Either simply unplug your fridge, turn off the switch to the fridge circuit, or pull the fuse out of the fridge circuit. This is the only safe way to store your fridge.
  2. Defrost! Whenever you turn your fridge off, it is imperative that you get all the moisture out of the fridge before it goes into storage. The simplest way to do this is to unplug the fridge from the power source and let any moisture, frost or ice melt and run down into the bottom of the fridge naturally. Be sure to put a towel in the bottom of the fridge first, to absorb any water that runs down. Depending on how hot it is, and how much frost has built up over time, defrosting usually only takes 10 or 20 minutes. Once all the ice and water has accumulated in the bottom of the fridge, dry the rest of the fridge cabinet out with another towel.

Important! – Never scrape ice off your fridge. Let is melt naturally and fall away. Scraping ice off your fridge can damage your cooling system.

Short term fridge storage

If you use your fridge most weekends or a couple of times a month, then it’s only going to be out of action for a few days or maybe a couple of weeks at time. In this scenario you actually have a couple of options.

First up, you can simply leave your fridge running. Maybe turn it down to the lowest (warmest) setting and let it purr away. As the fridge is not in use, and you are not opening and closing the door, it will use a smaller amount of power to usual. Just let it set and forget.

Your second option is to switch the fridge off and defrost. We always recommend leaving the door slightly ajar, even if just for a few days, to stop any moisture building up and to keep fresh outside air flowing in and out of the fridge cabinet. If you keep your portable fridge in a 4×4 canopy or in the back of a 4wd, you can just leave it in place.

Medium term fridge storage

What about storing your 12V fridge for a few weeks or a month or two? You can handle this in a couple of different ways. And it might depend on what type of fridge you have and where it is located.

If you have a portable fridge, you might consider using it as a drink’s fridge on your outside deck or patio, or a extra cold storage in the kitchen or laundry.. This is a popular option.

For a caravan or installed fridge, it’s not so easy to move! Consider either keeping the fridge running on a low setting (see above) or turning it off and getting it ready for longer term storage (see below)

Long term fridge storage

When you are not using your 12V fridge for a long time, let’s say 6 months or more, the most important thing is to store it well so that next time you go to use it, it fires straight up and is ready to go. And really there is only one proper way to do this!

Defrost! Yes, every time you store your fridge, a defrost is the first job at hand. Once that is out of the way, you want to move your fridge somewhere cool and dry. If it is fixed into a caravan, RV or canopy, just makes sure that area is kept cool and dry and there is some natural outside air flow. Do not store a portable fridge in a dark, damp shed! Once you have found a good possie, wedge something in the door to keep it open.

Do I need to run my fridge when it is not in use?

This is a super popular question. The answer is yes! But only if the fridge is going to be turned off for more than 2 or 3 months at a time. Think about your fridge compressor, it’s a bit like a mini car engine. What would happen to your car if you left it for 6 months without starting it? Besides the battery possibly being flat, the inside of the engine components can become stuck and possibly even a tiny bit corroded. Once you get it started it will run, but it’s probably not quite as good as it issued to be. And the longer you leave it, the worse it gets, Well your fridge compressor is the same. The best way to handle this is to turn your fridge on for a few days, once every 3 months or so. Just to keep everything moving an happy.

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