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Mini Fridge Is Hot Outside: Is This Normal?

Your mini fridge is giving off heat? Don’t worry, it’s not having a meltdown—it’s most probably just doing its job!

Having a mini fridge is a real boon. For some, it’s the joy of a cold beverage right in their home office. For others, the convenience of snacks in their dorm room. But what if you reach for a refreshing soda and you notice that the outside of your mini fridge has gotten really, really hot?

“What on earth’s going on?” you may be thinking, pulling your hand back as if you just touched a hot cooktop. Don’t worry. Your mini fridge hasn’t gone bonkers, nor is it about to break down. The thing not everyone knows about mini fridges, and all fridges for that matter, is that they keep the inside cool by getting hot on the outside.

So, sit back, cool off, and let’s get to the bottom of why it’s actually normal for your mini fridge to get hot on the sides.

Why Your Mini Fridge Is Hot on the Sides

The hot sides of your mini fridge may seem surprising at first, but there’s a logical explanation behind this, and it all comes down to how refrigeration works.

When you plug in your mini fridge and it starts cooling your drinks and snacks, it’s doing more than just blowing cold air. In fact, it’s actively removing heat from the inside, and that heat has to go somewhere. And you guessed it; it’s going right to the sides.

Inside your mini fridge, a refrigerant—a special kind of fluid—travels through a series of coils. As it moves, it absorbs the heat from the inside of the fridge and then transports it to the outside coils, releasing the heat into the surrounding environment.

This process is why the sides of your mini fridge feel warm, or on very warm days hot, to the touch.

But, is this bad for your mini fridge, or for you?

Not necessarily.

It’s completely normal for the exterior of a mini fridge to get warm. It means that the little refrigerator is doing its job—shifting the heat from the inside to the outside.

With that being said, if your mini fridge feels too hot too often, it could be a sign that it’s working too hard, which could be due to several factors. It could be because it’s crammed full of stuff, there’s no airflow around it, or it’s placed in a hot room.

How to Help Your Mini Fridge Work Effectively

While a warm exterior is typical for a mini fridge, an excessively hot surface might be a sign that it’s working harder than it should be. Here are some simple and practical tips to ensure your mini fridge cools efficiently without turning into a mini stove.

Don’t Cram It Full: It’s tempting to stuff your mini fridge to the brim, especially when you’ve just returned from the grocery store. However, this can restrict airflow inside, making it harder for the fridge to cool everything evenly. This, in turn, forces the fridge to work overtime, leading to overheating. So, leave some space between items for air to circulate freely.

Maintain Proper Airflow Around the Fridge: Just as your mini fridge needs airflow inside, it also needs some breathing room outside. If you’ve tucked your fridge into a tight corner, or pushed it up against a wall or furniture, it could struggle to release heat effectively. Keep a few inches of clear space around all sides of your mini fridge to allow it to dissipate heat properly.

Keep It Out of Hot Rooms: If your mini fridge is in a room that gets quite hot—say, it’s next to a sunny window, or it’s in a room without a cooling fan or an air conditioner—it has to work harder to keep its contents cool. Consider relocating your fridge to a cooler spot in your home or dorm. An area away from direct sunlight or heat-producing appliances is best.

Remember, your mini fridge is like any other machine; it needs a bit of care and attention to work its best. By following these steps, you’ll ensure that your mini fridge stays cool inside without getting too hot on the outside. Plus, you’ll likely extend its lifespan and save on energy bills to boot.

The Different Types of Mini Fridges (And Why It Matters)

Mini fridges aren’t all made the same.

Different types of mini fridges use various methods to keep your goodies chilled, and this affects how they release heat. Here are the main types:

Compressor Fridges: Just like your big kitchen fridge, these mini versions use a compressor to circulate refrigerant. They’re usually the most effective at cooling, but they can also get the hottest on the outside. That’s normal, thanks to the heat-exchange process.

Absorption Fridges: These fridges are super quiet, but they aren’t as common or as cold as compressor fridges. They use heat—usually from a gas flame or an electric heating element—to circulate the refrigerant. So, they might feel warm on the outside, but usually not as warm as compressor fridges.

Thermoelectric Fridges: Now, these are the cool kids on the block. Thermoelectric fridges use an electric current to transfer heat from the inside to the outside. They’re super quiet and perfect for a small stash of snacks. But they also struggle in hot environments. And yes, they can also feel warm to the touch.

Each type has its perks and quirks. But regardless of the type, if your mini fridge is hot on the outside, it’s usually just doing its job of keeping the inside cold.

The Takeaway: Hot Fridge, Cold Drinks

So, there you have it!

The heat you’re feeling on the sides of your mini fridge isn’t cause for alarm—it’s actually a sign that the mini fridge is doing its job and keeping your drinks cold and your snacks fresh. But just like any other machine, your mini fridge needs some care to perform its best.

Remember not to cram it full, keep it in a cool place, and ensure it has enough space around it for proper ventilation. Taking these steps will help your fridge run more efficiently, saving you on energy bills and potentially extending its lifespan.

Regardless of the type of mini fridge you own—whether it’s a compressor fridge, an absorption fridge, or a thermoelectric one—each has its unique way of operating. So, don’t sweat it if your mini fridge feels a bit warm to the touch.

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.