Outdoor Refrigerator Buying Guide

7 Critical Features to Look For in an Outdoor Appliance

Outdoor kitchens demand a higher level of durability, reliability and performance from the appliances chosen for the strenuous job, and not all appliances rise to the call. You need a sentinel built to last, specifically designed to grapple with inclement weather and keep your food and beverages evenly cold without missing a beat – or straining your energy bill.

Here’s an expert guide of what to look for in an outdoor kitchen appliance and why quality matters just as much as its looks.

outdoor refrigerator buying guide
Outdoor Kitchen Featuring Marvel Outdoor Refrigerators


Is it certified for outdoor use?

Mother Nature is a fickle environment of fluctuating temperatures, intense UV exposure and ever-changing weather conditions. Therefore it is vital to confirm the appliance you’re buying is UL or CSA certified for outdoor use to endure elements like rain, corrosion, high humidity and temperatures. This makes all the difference between an outdoor refrigerator that lasts a few years and one that lasts for the long haul. And, most importantly, it protects you from risk of electrical shock from an indoor unit being improperly installed in an outdoor environment without the proper safety implements.

Marvel’s engineering director Jim Holland explains the distinction, “Marvel Outdoor appliances are tested against the rigorous demands of the UL 471 commercial product certification for power cord insulation, UV exposure and rain testing – the most difficult test to pass, but the most critical in regards to safety.”

Educated buyers can be assured that Marvel Outdoor models will perform even in high humidity environments and temperatures up to 115° F, in addition to its hard-earned certification for outdoor use. Each product is built with a durable stainless steel exterior to resist corrosion and commercial-grade power cord for safe performance in outdoor kitchens.

Buyer Tip: Look for outdoor-use disclaimers in warranty details to determine whether a model is truly intended for outdoor installation.


Will it keep my perishables evenly cold without temperature swings?

Not all cooling systems are created equal. Let’s explain the differences between the cooling technologies available on the market.

Cold Plate vs. Forced Air

A cold plate is a frigid surface located in the refrigerator storage compartment that statically cools via natural convection through contact with the air. The major drawback of this method is that contents may obstruct cool air flow and colder air falls, creating temperature stratification inside the unit, meaning your food and beverages will not be cooled as evenly or effectively as forced air technologies.

Forced air actively recirculates compartment air multiple times per cooling cycle, delivering more consistent cold air circulation throughout the cabinet. The best type of forced air cooling you can find is Marvel’s Dynamic Cooling Technology™, which offers the industry’s most precise temperature stability and rapid cooldown, in some cases even twice as fast as other outdoor refrigerator models.

Buyer Tip: Ask your dealer to explain the cooling technology of the models you’re considering and compare performance.


Will my utility bill go through the roof?

By nature of operating in often extreme outdoor conditions, efficiency becomes more difficult to maintain, nevertheless certain manufacturers have mastered the balance of cooling performance and energy consumption. For example, Marvel Outdoor Refrigerators cost on average less than $25 per year to operate, compared to their competitive counterparts that can cost upwards to 50% more to operate.

Buyer Tip: Reference product energy guides to compare annual energy costs among outdoor models of the same cubic feet capacity.


Will I have to service it often or replace it later?

Don’t let lower price models fool you – economy is best determined by longevity. Consider this math to compare models: amortize the total cost of an outdoor unit by its projected longevity and annual operating cost. If you need to service a lower quality unit more frequently – or worse yet, replace it – then you haven’t gained any savings overall. In fact, it can cost you more time, money and headaches.

Lower-priced refrigerators are often made from vinyl-cladded steel or a ferrous, stainless-steel look-alike susceptible to corrosion. Premium outdoor refrigerators are built to last longer than cheaper counterparts on account of durable construction and higher quality materials, refrigeration technology and parts. Be sure to also explore warranty coverage, too.

Buyer Tip: Invest for the long-term, and you’ll be glad you did.


Does it offer the volume and depth to store larger items?

Did you know that not all outdoor models are capable of storing an extra-large pizza box? Marvel models are unique in that they have 20% more depth than competing models, which means you can store extra-large platters and pizza boxes for entertaining large crowds.

Got your eyes on an outdoor kegerator? Marvel Outdoor Beer Dispensers are the only outdoor keg cooler that can fit a half barrel – and mobile models are available to take the party with you wherever you go.

Buyer Tip: Measure (or bring) the largest item you anticipate storing to confirm it fits inside the outdoor model you want. You might be surprised at how your eye can trick you into thinking there’s more space than there actually is.


Can it change with me as my storage needs change?

Think of the items you’ll want to store now, and also later. Inevitably, your storage needs will change over time, and you’ll need an outdoor refrigerator that adapts with you over time. Adjustable cantilever shelving is an important feature to customize the interior to your needs.

Certain outdoor kegerators, like Marvel Outdoor Beer Dispensers, feature stow-on-board shelves to convert the unit to a full refrigerator when you’re not storing kegs.

Buyer Tip: Have your dealer show you how to adapt the model to other storage configurations, so you can gauge its versatility.


Does the door lock?

Look for outdoor appliances with security locks to ensure the safety of curious children and also protect inside contents.

Buyer Tip: Some manufacturers like Marvel Refrigeration offer door locks as a standard feature rather than an extra option with added cost.

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