Bar Fridges: Everything You Need To Know [Part One]

Bar Fridge Vs Mini-Fridge 

In thinking about what to include in your outdoor space, it’s most likely you’ve come across bar fridges or mini-fridges. We’ve had some questions about maintenance and style and if it would be beneficial to add one to your outdoor kitchen design. 

bar fridges This week is the beginning of our two-part series of answering all those questions and delving into the main topics of why, we think, bar fridges are pretty cool. This time we’re focusing on maintenance, operating the fridge and general questions we’ve been asked. For those of you more interested in appearance and design and how that affects the refrigerator's performance, make sure you check back next week for part two.

Noise levels

All fridges, big or small, are going to make noise. Most commercial under the counter 1, 2 and 3 door models run between 49 and 55 decibels, which when I googled for a comparison says it’s about the same level as a normal conversation. A small domestic fridge will run around 36 decibels, equivalent to a ‘whisper at a library’.

There are models we have worked with that are specifically designed to reduce noise for domestic use while still delivering commercial-style performance. No matter the model, you will be able to hear some level of it running. However, it can range from a gentle hum to the volume a polite person would use in your home. When thinking of purchasing a bar fridge, it's helpful to have in mind the level of noise you’re going to be comfortable with.

In my experience, we have a bar fridge just outside of our office [ perks of working for an outdoor kitchen company] and over us talking and phones ringing, I don’t even think I’d know what the fridge sounds like if asked.Poolside Entertaining, Mt Eliza

Power Consumption

Not just for the environment but also your bank account. A few factors can make your fridge have to work harder to keep its contents at the appropriate temperature.  Luckily, all fridges sold in Australia come with an energy star rating. The higher the star count, the better the energy consumption.

This lets you make a more informed decision right at a glance. Another factor you may have not considered is the ventilation of the unit. Fridges and freezers produce quite a bit of heat, not anything scary, just a natural build-up from operating. However, if you’ve squished a bar fridge into a small space with no room for the heat to escape, it warms up the fridge. This makes the unit work harder to keep its contents cold, which adds more warmth, continuing the cycle.

This also runs the risk of overheating the appliance, lowering the life expectancy and dramatically increasing your energy consumption. But all of this is easy to avoid, and with the proper installation by a specialist, it’s probably not even something you’ll have to think about. When speaking to your outdoor kitchen specialist, they should note which model you have and how it ventilates and make the tiny adjustments needed.

When I say tiny, that’s what I mean; most glass door fridges,  at least the ones I’ve seen, are designed to vent 100% from the front, so the gap around the unit can be as small as a few centimetres. Semi front venting and freestanding units will require additional ventilation. The amount of ventilation needed will vary depending on the model and manufacturer, but if you’re doing this yourself, 2 cm on either side and 3 cm at the top is the general rule of thumb.outdoor kitchens melbourne


Manual defrosts:

This is more focused on freezers than fridges, but occasionally, most brands need to be manually defrosted. However, some higher-end models have ‘frost-free technology and electric temperature controls you can manage yourself.


Practical, and it just looks nice. I’m referring to the interior light that typically turns on as the door is opened. At the same time, this can be considered more of a style preference; you can go as simple as a plain yellow light to LED lighting for both energy and visual appeal. The choice is yours.

Direct sunlight:

It’s recommended that your fridge be in a shaded area and not sitting wholly uncovered and exposed to the sun. Especially in Australia, it can get pretty hot. Just like when the fridge isn’t adequately ventilated, it will heat the unit and cause it to work doubly as hard. So save yourself from an excessive power bill and keep this in mind when thinking of where you’d like to put your fridge.


It’s entirely normal for a glass door fridge to condensate. The higher the humidity outside, the more likely condensation will form on the glass doors. This isn’t harmful, but if you want to protect your floors, you can wipe down the glass as the moisture builds up. There’s also the option of purchasing a unit with a heated door; this also reduces condensation if you’re looking for another option.

outdoor kitchens melbourne

General Operating 

  • A fridge works better when it’s complete. This is because it only needs to chill about 25% of the air volume of what it would typically have to relax if the fridge was empty. When operating a new fridge, fill it up with drinks of your choice and let it run for 24 hours without opening the door. This effectively runs it in and will then settle into its normal mode.

  • All fridges, big or small, should not be switched on for a minimum of two hours after relocation or transport. During movement, the oil and gas in the compressor run to the walls of the piping and ducting. Once you’ve placed the fridge upright and in its new position, gravity will take the oil and gas back to where it belongs. If you don’t do this and allow the fridge to “settle” back into place, it can result in compressor failure and an expensive repair.
  • If temperatures outside the fridge reach high levels [such as 30 degrees +], it will take the unit longer to chill. It’s simply because the refrigerator has to work harder to cool its contents to the desired temperature.

bar fridges White and Stainless in Thornbury

There aren’t many ways you can mess this up. Clean it now and then, don’t stick it in the sun and make sure it’s got some space to do its job. Too easy.


That’s it for this week. Let us know if you have any questions or comments on the points I've made in words, or find us on our social media. 

Make sure you check back in next week for part 2!

Download our  Outdoor Kitchen Design Guide