What Refrigerator Type and Size Should You Get for Your Tiny House?

By Angela Grayer

It goes without saying that every little space matters in a tiny house. The limited square footage means you have to be cautious of every appliance you bring in.

Having opted for the tiny lifestyle, you’re probably not big on huge appliances anyway.

In any kitchen, big or small, a refrigerator is a must-have. But what may be considered an average refrigerator in a normal house may end up being too big for your small space.

The choice of refrigerator should be made in the house design stage, otherwise you might have to move some things around later.

But what refrigerator should you get for your tiny house?

You will need to consider two things here, the type and the size.

Read: Is a Micro Apartment the Same as a Studio Apartment?

Type of refrigerators for your tiny house

When you are considering the type of fridge to buy, you’ll find two options: propane and electric.

1. Propane refrigerator

propane refrigerator for a tiny house
A propane refrigerator

Most people don’t even know propane refrigerators exist.

In a tiny house, particularly one that is off-grid or constantly on the move, the benefits of having a propane refrigerator, or any propane appliance for that matter, are obvious right away.

As long as you are not hooked up to the electricity grid, you need to consume as little power as possible because most of your options are either too expensive, or not feasible.

A fridge is one of the biggest consumers of electricity in the house. Cutting it off completely will save you a lot.

The main disadvantage in propane refrigerators is that they are expensive to buy than electric ones, sometimes way more expensive. In fact, a propane fridge may cost double or triple the price of an equivalent sized electric fridge.

However, this cost may be offset by the reduced utility bill. Propane appliances are cheaper to run than electric.

Are propane refrigerators safe?

Yes, they are. Refrigerators are compact appliances that hold well if not disturbed often. Very rarely is there ever a propane leak, and if it happens, the propane vapor is not toxic anyway.

However, if exposed to a significant amount, call 911.

2. Electric refrigerator

This one needs no introduction. It is the type everyone is familiar with. The one in almost every American home.

While in a normal home the choice of which refrigerator to buy is not particularly important, it gains oversized importance in a tiny house.

Not all refrigerators are created equal. With your limited power resources, especially if you are living off-grid relying or solar, or using a generator or batteries to power your house, you need appliances that consume as little power as possible.

Generally, the more energy efficient an appliance is, the more you will pay for it.

Just to show you why this matters, some very efficient models will consume under 1 kWh per day, which translates to about 10 cents in the US. Some others will go through that in a couple of hours.


Size of refrigerator for your tiny house

A small, dorm-sized refrigerator maybe what comes to mind when you think of a tiny house. But with good design, you can very well fit a full-sized refrigerator in your small kitchen.

Your family’s eating habits will be the determining factor. Some people love cooking in bulk to reduce their daily work log, but others simply love their food prepared fresh every day, with little to no left-overs. You may also be ‘take-out people’, or just love eating out.

For one person or a couple, a 4 – 5 cubic feet fridge should be quite enough.

Larger families may need 7 – 12 cubic feet.

Whatever size you choose, try and integrate it into your furniture fixings as much as possible.

For example, this tiny house in Hawaii has it tucked neatly under the stairs, which also double as storage.

Tiny House refrigerator ideas


Noise of the refrigerator in a tiny house

Noise is not something you generally don’t think about when buying a refrigerator. However, it is quite important in a tiny house.

The humming noise can become intolerable in a small space. This usually comes from the compressor and the condenser fan.

Things to consider when looking for a fridge is where these components are located in the appliance, how often they get automatically activated and how long they stay activate.


Refrigerator alternatives for a tiny house

For whatever reason, having a refrigerator in your tiny house may not be an option. That does not however mean you have to drink your beer cold.

Here are 2 alternatives:

Ice cooler

This would be ideal if your tiny house is more of a getaway camp. It won’t take up a lot of space in your camper, and is also portable for when you want to take it outside.

You have a million options for an ice cooler, ranging from those that cost 10 bucks to a Yeti.

A good one can give you juice for up to 5 days.

Thermoelectric Cooler

Unlike a regular cooler, these ones do not rely on ice. They are plugged into a DC outlet instead, which can be from a portable battery.

These ones a bit pricier than regular coolers, but still cheaper than a regular fridge.

Read: Are Tiny Houses Environmentally Friendly?