How many amps does a refrigerator use?


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A refrigerator is an essential electrical appliance in every kitchen today. It is difficult to imagine a modern kitchen without a refrigerator. It is a boon of science that helps increase the shelf-life of cooked food, raw ingredients, beverages and so on. While we preserve food items and keep them fresh by storing them at regulated temperatures in a refrigerator, it also helps us in enjoying cold food and beverages. As modern kitchens have several other appliances and gadgets like dishwashers, toasters, coffee makers etc. that run on electricity, a common question is about the amperage (amps) of the refrigerator. How many amps does a refrigerator use? Well, while there are some standards like electrical codes, there are multiple factors as well on which the amperage of an average household refrigerator depends. Let us look at these to understand in detail as to how many amps does a refrigerator use?

Meaning of ‘amps’

Before understanding how many amps does a refrigerator use, let us try to understand ‘amps’. Simply stated, amps refer to the amperage of an electrical appliance. It is a technical term to measure the flow of electricity. In the context of a refrigerator, it would refer to the amount of electricity required to operate the compressor of the refrigerator. More technically, amps refer to the number of electrons that pass-through any point in a given time. Higher the amps, thicker the wire required for the appliance for power supply. Amperage rates the electrical appliances by defining the amount of electrical current drawn from the mains supply for normal running of that appliance. Controlling amperage protects the circuits and wires from short-circuit and overheating.

How many amps does a refrigerator use?

We measure amperage by dividing wattage by voltage. The voltage output for electrical power supply in the US is 120 volts. However, in places outside the US like Europe and Africa the power supply is at 240 volts. So, the amps in these places is the half of what it is in the US.

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So how many amps does a refrigerator use? In the US, a refrigerator typically uses about 6-7 amps. But the start-up surge much more. It is almost triple. So, it is 15-20 amps that an average household refrigerator uses. The reason is that in its firing-up phase the compressor needs to work heavily to bring down the temperature in the freezer and storage compartments.

Such surge is not limited to the switching on phase. It also takes place whenever the compressor needs to work again to maintain the temperature. The average amperage for a running refrigerator reduces as the compressor is not operating all the time.

The manufacturer’s sticker on the appliance will mention how many amps does a refrigerator use to run the refrigerator, along with other information like wattage.

The amperage requirements for portable refrigerators are different. In these cases, how many amps does a refrigerator use? Portable refrigerators are chargeable fridges used for camping, long road trips etc. Depending on the mode of operation such as freeze only or cold only, these refrigerators run between 1 and 4 amps. The amperage usually peaks at 5 amps depending on the external temperature.

Factors on which amperage depends

The amperage depends foremost on the size of the compressor. The larger is the compressor, more amps needed to run the refrigerator. Also, to further answer as to how many amps does a refrigerator use, other factors to consider are age, size and make of the refrigerator. The location in the world will also be a factor as output voltage determines the amps.

Does the compressor always run?

The compressor, once started, runs to cool down the refrigerator compartment. After reaching the optimal set temperature, the compressor needs to maintain it. How many amps does a refrigerator use?

After the initial start-up surge of 15-20 amps, the refrigerator normally needs about 6-7 amps to maintain the temperature. However, situations do come up that lead to ‘surge’ as the compressor need to work heavily again. The door left open for long is a good example of such a situation. This leads to increase in the temperature within the refrigerator. Similar is the case when the doors are opened frequently. The temperature rises because warm air flows in.

There are many other causes of surge in amperage:

  1. Refrigerator kept near a source of heat or in direct sunlight lead to increase in the ambient temperature. This results in more running of the compressor to cool the compartments.
  2. Empty refrigerators (less than 75% filled) cause warm air to rush in as soon as the doors open. This results in a major ‘start-up’ cooling to begin once again.
  3. Overstuffed refrigerators lead to overworked compressors. Free air circulation within the refrigerator lets things cool down properly. Very less space within the refrigerator blocks air circulation to happen freely.
  4. Refrigerator kept in a cramped space does not allow the heat produced by it to escape, resulting in the increase of ambient temperature. Ideally, leaving about six inches of space around the refrigerator is good.
  5. Extremely hot things kept in the refrigerator also lead to increase in the internal temperature. The result is that compressor will have to work more to bring the cooling effect. It is better to allow the food items to cool for sometime naturally, before storing them in the refrigerator.

Filling of portable refrigerators should be done well in advance. Plugging it in main power supply and running it before using for trips etc. helps in better amperage.

Circuit for the refrigerator

After understanding how many amps does a refrigerator use, we can now talk about the circuit for plugging it in. The circuit should be able to manage the rush-in amperage of the refrigerator. A dedicated power outlet with 15-20 amps is ideal for the refrigerator. This outlet should have only the refrigerator plugged in.

Depending upon the appliances in use, a refrigerator uses the second highest amount of electricity in a household, the highest being the air conditioner. Roughly 10 percent of electricity in the household is used by the refrigerator. A dedicated circuit will help prevent overloading.

Higher amperage for the refrigerator also means that thicker wires are required. Thin wires may heat causing fire hazard. Electrical codes determine circuit breaker and wire size based on amps.

In conclusion, to answer the question how many amps does a refrigerator use, a number of factors need to be kept in mind. The amperage will be determined by the voltage at which electrical power is supplied. So the location or the country is an important thing to be considered. While 15-20 amps are required for the initial start-up, the refrigerator is run at 6-7 amps in the US. However, there are reasons like doors kept open for long, overstuffed compartments etc. that lead to intermittent surges as well. Each refrigerator uses different amount of amperage as it also depends on the size of the compressor and the size, age, make etc. of the refrigerator itself. The amperage will be half in countries of Europe, for example, where the electricity is supplied at 240 volts.

Having this understanding of the concept of amps as well the amperage requirements of the refrigerator, will certainly help you in ensuring proper installation and upkeep of this important appliance in your kitchen.

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