How Many Amps Does a Refrigerator Use? (Here´s How to Find Energy Usage)

How Many Amps Does a Refrigerator Use

How many amps a refrigerator uses determines how you can configure your electrical installations and how much additional load you can place on some electrical breaker.

It makes no difference whether it’s a household electrical installation, industrial, or a motorhome.

Overloading an electric circuit at best will cause a breaker to flip, or some of the devices to blow a fuse.

But, it can also lead to shorting a circuit, which can lead to numerous other problems, like fires and damaged electrical installations, but also damage to electrical appliances.

How many amps does a refrigerator use? According to the US department of energy, the majority of refrigerators will need between 15 and 20 amps and around 700 watts of energy.

However, this value will depend on the voltage of the refrigerator, the location of your home’s fridge, the age, the usage, the number of cubic feet the fridge uses and the temperature setpoint.

How Many Amps Does Refrigerator Use?

The exact amperage of any refrigerator depends primarily on its size. Bigger refrigerators can cool more, but for that, they need bigger compressors.

And the compressor is the part of the refrigerator that consumes the most power. Besides the compressor, another consumer of the electricity in a fridge is the light bulb.

But it is usually a standard 40W bulb, so it doesn’t add to variation.

The majority of modern household fridges are rated inside the range between 3 and 6 amps, but depending on the actual size and how power-hungry is the compressor, the extreme range is between 1 and 15 amps.

In case that you know the wattage of a refrigerator, it is very easy to calculate its amperage. All you need is to divide the amperage with the voltage they are supplied with.

For example, a 480 watts fridge will use 4 amps on 120 volts current.

Read also: Can a 100 Watt Solar Panel Run a Refrigerator? (Easy Explained)

But knowing the wattage of your refrigerator can be very tricky.

Here are some examples:

  • An 18 cu ft refrigerator use will use around 6 to 7 amps.
  • A small freezer will use around 1 amp.
  • A beverage cooler will use around 6 to 12 amps.
  • A small wine fridge will use around 20 amps circuit breaker.

Manufacturers rarely state it in documentation, and always boast figures of annual power consumption which can be misleading because of the nature of the refrigerator cycle.

When they actually state the wattage, it is more often the startup wattage which is determined by the locked rotor amperage of the compressor, which is much higher than the current the fridge will use continuously most of the time.

How Many Watts Does It Take To Run a Refrigerator >>Check out the video below:

How Many Amps Does a Refrigerator Use On Startup

Start up amps vs running amps, some appliances require extra power to start up. On average standard refrigerators will use around 15 amps on startup.

Refrigerator Starting Watts

According to expert’s refrigerators have a starting wattage of around 800 to 1200 watt-hours/day, and a running wattage of around 150-watt hours/day.

How Many Amps Does a Mini Fridge Use

On average mini refrigerators will need around 2 amps to run and consume between 80 to 100 watts per hour when running.

Refrigerator Full Load Amps – Amperage Draw Chart (Appliances)

Ratings of commonly used household appliances.

In the following table you can see how much amperage the most common devices consume during operation:

EquipmentAmperage DrawHow long will the 200ah battery last? (Hours)
Toaster8-10 Amps20
Coffee Maker5-8 Amps22
Television HD, Digital1.5-4 Amps40
Refrigerator5-8 Amps22
Space Heater (1600 watts)7-13 Amps15
Water Heater (6-gallon, heating)8-13 Amps14
Satellite Receiver/Game Console0.5-0.8 Amps170
Vacuum (Hand-Held)2-6 Amps40
Hair Dryer (High)7-13 Amps15
Frying Pan (Cooking – High)7-12 Amps17
RV Converter (charging)1-8 Amps25
RV Air Conditioner (Running)13-16 Amps12
Furnace Fan7-9 Amps16
Microwave Oven (Standard)7-13 Amps15
Washer/Dryer14-16 Amps12

Refrigerator Cycles

Refrigerators, in the simplest terms, work by sucking out heat from their inside. They do this because of the nature of the special liquids and gasses used inside of them.

These liquids boil at very low temperatures, way below freezing point, and this allows that their state is changed by manipulating their pressure.

Part of a fridge that is doing this is the compressor, and its sole role is to increase the pressure of the coolant and thus turn it into the liquid.

The coolant then flows through the cooling elements where is exposed to temperatures above its boiling point and it draws thermal energy from the environment and turns into gas.

Read also: How Long Will an RV Refrigerator Run On Propane? RV Fridge Power Usage

But this cycling of the coolant is not happening continuously. Refrigerators cycle their compressor on and of. This you can notice just by listening.

Sometimes you will hear it gently buzzing for a certain period of time, while at other times it just sits silently.

This happens because the compressor generates heat and needs to take a break from time to time to cool itself.

This on cycle time differs between specific fridges, even when it comes to different models of the same manufacturer it can be widely different.

Older refrigerators used to have 30 to 40 minutes on cycles with 6 to 9 hours of off cycle.

But newer ones have on cycles whose time varies between 4 and 8 hours, with off cycles usually being just 30 minutes.

Because the refrigerator is not consuming power continually, knowing its expected annual power consumption will not allow you to precisely calculate its amperage unless you know exactly how and when it comes on.

Another problem with these cycles is that they are dependent on both conditions of the environment where the fridge is, how often the fridge is opened, and the temperature of things placed in it.

This is the reason why you will often see on the stickers on the fridge’s compressor two amperage ratings, a rated current and LRA or locked rotor amperage.

Read also: Should I Leave My RV Refrigerator On All the Time?

Rated Current

The rated current is the maximum amperage at which the fridge’s compressor will operate continuously.

In other words, this is the amperage for the most part of the on-cycle on the maximum load. In the real world, your fridge will draw this amperage when it is cranked all the way to its maximum setting, otherwise, it will draw lower amperage.

Under normal conditions, the fridge compressor will not exceed this value, but in case that is supplied by a considerably lower voltage than it is rated for, it can happen.

In that case components of the compressor’s electric motor can fail.

Locked Rotor Amperage

When a compressor is starting up at the beginning of the cycle, it is experiencing certain internal resistance, both electromagnetic and mechanical from the inertia of coolant it needs to move.

This is overcome by increasing the amperage for the first couple of seconds of the cycle.

This higher amperage is called a startup, locked rotor amperage, and sometimes a surge current.

Depending on the particular fridge, this current is around 2 to 3 times the rated current, but for some older fridges, it can be even 5 times.

So, the rule of thumb of precaution is to consider it as possibly being as much as 6 times the rated power.

What Type Of Circuit Breaker Do I Need For Refrigerator?

When deciding what type of circuit breaker you need to run a refrigerator from the best practice is to use a breaker that is rated 3 to 4 times the fridge’s rated current.

To leave some headroom for situations when the voltage in your electric installation drops.

All fridges tolerate a certain variance of voltage they are supplied with, so as long as this variance is not more than a 10% drop or spike from the nominal level, it will function properly.

So, for the majority of household fridges, it is either a 15 or 20 amps breaker.

In case that you wish to use more appliances on the same circuit breaker, you should be mindful of their amperage.

Many appliances can draw upwards of 15 amps, which makes them problematic if run on the same circuit as a fridge.

What Voltage Does A Fridge Use

Fridges come in different shapes and sizes, and with different uses, and this determines what voltage they are rated for.

Most of the household fridges in America are nominally rated for 120 volts, but this allows for 10% swings, and some older fridges are actually rated for 115 volts.

This mismatched rating presents no issues in homes.

Refrigerators intended for use in RVs and campers are usually using gas-electric absorption systems for cooling.

But they still need electric power for running light, and various controllers inside them. For that they as a standard use 12 volts of power.

Some rare even use the same freon systems, like house fridges, and they are commonly powered by 12 or 24 volts.

On the market, you can also find numerous small capacity portable fridges, that are intended to be run from the car lighter 12 volts socket.

They are also the main reason why you will find these sockets not just on the central console of your vehicle, but also in its trunk.

Read also: Does RV Refrigerator Work Better on Gas or Electric? [Gas vs DC Fridge]

Determining how many amps your fridge draws can be a tricky proposition due to the inconsistent practice of stating it between manufacturers.

All fridges have two amps ratings, the lower one at which your fridge runs continuously under the maximum load, but also the startup amperage at which its compressor starts the cooling cycle.

This second rating is always several times higher.

On average a household refrigerator when running the cooling cycle will draw between 3 and 6 amps, depending on the exact make and model.

How to Calculate Amps Drawn by an Appliance

To calculate the amps drawn by an appliance just check the video below:


Mike Gilmour

Hi, I'm Mike, co-founder, and editor of RV and Playa. My passion is traveling (with my RV) and enjoying the day at the beach (Playa)! Well, I originally created this blog as a way to share what I've learned by experimenting with the RV lifestyle, and I want to help others develop in life through new skills and opportunities.

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