Which Outdoor Refrigeration Class is Right for You?

Perlick Outdoor Kitchen with Ice Maker, Beverage Center, and Wine Cooler

At some point while designing your outdoor space, you might’ve been tempted to just throw an old indoor refrigerator into the mix and leave it at that. We hope someone (maybe even us) stopped you from making that decision and explained why an indoor refrigeration appliance in an outdoor setting is a one-way ticket to spoiled food and sky-high power bills. That probably led you to the wide world of outdoor refrigerationfridges and freezers for extra food storage, kegerators and wine coolers to keep the parties going, ice makers to ensure everyone’s drink stays cold, and more. Of course, these new discoveries likely gave rise to a new, more difficult decision: Which outdoor refrigeration appliances should you pick?

To make your choice easier, we’ve split our selection of outdoor refrigeration products into 3 distinct classifications — Luxury, Premium, and Standard. Outdoor refrigeration is highly varied and designed for specific purposes, but we were able to apply these classes to every last product based on the differences in their quality, performance, and features. Once you’ve settled on the class that’s right for you, then you can begin digging into specific brands and products. Or, who knows, you just might fall in love with an outdoor beverage center or refrigerator over the course of this article.

Class Standard Premium Luxury
Quality
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Luxury Outdoor Refrigeration

  • Marvel Luxury Outdoor Refrigeration
    • Stainless steel exteriors provide protection from the elements for excellent longevity
    • Some units carry 6-year warranties on sealed systems to protect your investment
    • Argon-filled, glass-panel doors and colored LED internal lights are sure to wow guests
    • Quiet but powerful compressors with fan-forced cooling don’t distract from your space
    • Lowest range of operating temperatures available, with standard automatic defrost
    • Self-closing doors with locks keep children and critters out of your food and drinks
    • Digital control centers with low-temperature sensors and alarms put you in command
  • Quality

    These appliances meet the highest possible standard of construction and materials. All have stainless steel doors and bodies with metal interiors, usually aluminum that has been hammered or coated with vinyl, which is a great insulator. Aside from their durability, Luxury outdoor refrigeration appliances boast glass or stainless steel doors along with glass or wood shelving to give your space a stunning sense of grace. They’re also generally front-venting, a must for any built-in unit. Perlick appliances come with a 6-year warranty on sealed systems, while Marvel and Hestan offer 5 years of coverage.

  • Performance

    A simple outdoor rating isn’t enough for Luxury outdoor refrigeration — Perlick units can function in temperatures up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, with Marvel models not far behind at 115 degrees. Additionally, these appliances have the lowest operating temperatures (and coldest actual temperatures) thanks to powerful compressors and fan-forced cooling. But power doesn’t come at a price — in fact, Perlick’s reciprocating compressor actually saves money on your electricity bill by adjusting the compressor's speed rather than shutting it on and off.

  • Features

    While appliances in this class are prized for their quality and performance, they offer many desirable features as well. Self-closing doors, for instance, mean you never have to worry about losing temperature if you forget to shut your fridge or freezer. Locking doors serve a similar purpose, just geared toward keeping out children and wildfire curious why you love those bottles of wine so much. Colored LED interior lights can help set the vibe on your patio, automatic defrost ensures the unit never ices over, and panel-ready models let you choose from glass, stainless, or wood paneling as needed.

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Top Luxury Refrigeration Brands

Premium Outdoor Refrigeration

  • Premium Outdoor Refrigeration
    • Most models are outdoor-rated to hold steady temperatures in scorching weather
    • Stainless steel doors and exteriors enhance durability
    • Longer warranties than models in the Standard class give you confidence
    • Zero-clearance, undercounter units allow for easy installation in outdoor kitchens
    • Durable compressors with forced-air cooling systems won’t let you down
    • Additional features like glass doors, colored LEDs, and alarms improve usability
    • Attractive handles are the norm, and towel bar handles come standard
  • Quality

    Solidly constructed from stainless steel or a mix of stainless and other steels, Premium models are built to handle outdoor environments. Need more proof? Most units are outdoor-rated and carry longer warranties than those in the Standard class. The majority of doors on these appliances are stainless steel or glass, with shelving made from wood, wire, glass, or plastic. This class is notably home to zero-clearance, undercounter units with front-venting designs, meaning their BBQ island cutouts should be no bigger than the appliance itself.

  • Performance

    You can rest assured your beer will stay frosty and your food will stay mold-free in Premium outdoor refrigeration units. They maintain safe and ideal temperatures even in swelteringly hot environments, with some models capable of handling up to 100 degrees. To keep your cabinet at steady temperatures, these units rely on strong compressors and fan-forced air systems. Most have digital control centers, some possess low-temperature alarms to keep you notified, and a few are dual-zone models for storing contents at different temperatures.

  • Features

    Premium is the first class where fun and exciting features begin to appear, starting with aesthetically pleasing elements like LED lights to give your space some flair and glass doors that let guests gaze upon your selection of beer and wine. These appliances also have highly practical features like automatic defrost systems to keep your appliance running smoothly, not to mention low-temperature alarms to alert you when something is amiss. And locking doors are always useful, especially if you normally have children in your outdoor space.

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Top Premium Refrigeration Brands

Standard Outdoor Refrigeration

  • Inexpensive Outdoor Refrigeration
    • May not be outdoor-rated, meaning you can’t fully rely on them in the elements
    • Painted metal exteriors won’t hold up long outdoors, as reflected in limited warranties
    • Interiors are typically plastic, with wire or plastic shelving to hold your food and drinks
    • Some doors are wrapped in stainless steel and have recessed handles
    • Some models lack front venting and require clearance, making installation more difficult
    • Cold-plate refrigeration is cheaper upfront and uses less electricity than forced air
  • Quality

    The quality of Standard outdoor refrigeration units is limited by the quality of materials used in construction, like plastic interiors and painted metal exteriors that simply don’t last as long as stainless steel. Naturally, the warranties for models in this class are just as limited and short, while aesthetically pleasing glass doors are unavailable. These appliances will need to be replaced every few years, resulting in repeated costs that would equal or exceed the original investment in a more durable refrigeration solution.

  • Performance

    Standard units struggle to keep internal temperatures below 40 degrees in extremely hot environments, so they shouldn’t be used for food storage if the external temperature can rise above 90 degrees. Though the cold-plate refrigeration they use pulls less electricity than forced-air systems, these appliances take longer to cool and are more prone to icing over. And because they aren’t front-vented, Standard outdoor refrigeration units require additional space when built into an outdoor kitchen island.

  • Features

    If interesting and helpful features matter to you, this probably won’t be the class you settle on. But if you’re content with an outdoor refrigeration unit light on bells and whistles, you’ve come to the right place. The features among Standard appliances are generally limited to simple incandescent lighting rather than the colorful LED lights found in higher classifications. At best, you’ll spot an outdoor refrigeration model with locking doors to keep food and drinks secure in your patio or backyard.

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Top Standard Refrigeration Brands

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