Can you leave a refrigerator unplugged for a year?

Leaving a refrigerator unplugged and unused for a long period of time like a year can be done, but there are some important factors to consider before doing so. The main concern is that moisture, mold, and mildew can build up inside the refrigerator when it is not running and being opened regularly. However, with some preparation and maintenance, it is possible to leave a refrigerator unplugged and preserve it in good condition for reuse later.

Quick Answers

Here are some quick answers to common questions about leaving a refrigerator unplugged for a year:

  • It’s possible but not recommended to leave a refrigerator unplugged for a full year due to moisture buildup.
  • To prepare it, clean and dry the interior, prop doors open, and place moisture-absorbing boxes inside.
  • Even with preparation, mold and mildew may still grow over time without power running.
  • Every few months, check on the unplugged fridge to monitor for moisture and odors.
  • Before reconnecting and using again, thoroughly clean and disinfect the interior.
  • If the refrigerator has been well maintained, it can likely be reused after a year unplugged.
  • But if moisture damage occurred, repairs or replacement may be needed.

Concerns with Leaving a Refrigerator Unplugged

When considering leaving a refrigerator unplugged for an extended time, the main concern is moisture accumulation, which can lead to mold and mildew growth inside the appliance. Here are the primary risks and problems that can occur:

  • Moisture buildup – When not running, the refrigerator is not able to undergo the automatic defrosting cycle to remove ice and condensation. This can lead to puddles and dampness inside.
  • Mold and mildew – Excess moisture provides the perfect breeding ground for mold, mildew, and bacteria over time.
  • Bad odors – As mold and bacteria spread, they release unpleasant odors that can linger in the refrigerator interior.
  • Component corrosion – Dampness can also cause rust and corrosion on metal components like shelves and the compressor.
  • Not cooling properly – If moisture damages parts like the seals, the refrigerator may not cool properly when put back into use.

Due to these risks of moisture damage and mold growth, it is generally not recommended to leave a refrigerator completely unplugged and unused for a full year. The lack of power, air circulation, and regular opening means limited ability to control humidity inside the unit over such a long period.

Preparing a Refrigerator for Long-Term Storage

If you do need to unplug a refrigerator for an extended time, like during a move or renovation, some preparation can help protect it and make it more likely the unit will still function when plugged back in. Here are some tips for properly storing a dormant refrigerator:

  • Remove all food and clean the interior with a bleach-based cleaner to disinfect and prevent odors.
  • Make sure the fridge and freezer are fully dry by leaving the doors propped open for several days after cleaning.
  • Place boxes of baking soda or odor-absorbing charcoal inside to help soak up ambient moisture.
  • Keep the doors propped open with rubber door stoppers to promote air circulation.
  • Turn off automatic ice makers and water lines to prevent leaks.
  • Unplug the refrigerator fully from power when not in regular use.
  • For longer storage, consider covering the fridge with moving blankets to insulate it.

Even with good preparation, running the refrigerator occasionally is ideal to allow the defrost cycle to clear out any ice buildup. If possible, try to plug in and operate stored fridges at least once every few months.

Maintenance During Long-Term Storage

During an extended shutdown, regular maintenance checks are also a good idea to monitor for any moisture issues or problems. Every 1-2 months, thoroughly examine the unplugged refrigerator:

  • Check for any water pooling in the bottom or ice accumulation.
  • Look for visible mold or mildew growth on interior surfaces.
  • Sniff for any bad odors from mold or spoilage.
  • Replenish baking soda or charcoal boxes if needed.
  • Rotate food packages or containers to redistribute moisture.
  • If signs of moisture, condensation, or odors, take steps to thoroughly dry out the refrigerator.

This regular monitoring can help catch any moisture issues early before major mold problems occur. If detected early, condensation buildup or ice on surfaces can simply be towel dried before restarting the fridge.

Is Mold Growth Inevitable Without Power?

Will mold definitely grow inside a turned-off refrigerator over the course of a year? Not necessarily, but the risk is quite high given enough time without power or circulation.

A lot depends on the specific refrigerator model, the humidity of the storage environment, and how well prepared and insulated the appliance is. If all food is removed, the doors stay propped open, and moisture absorbers are in place, growth may be minimal over 6-12 months.

However, there is no guarantee – with enough ambient humidity and no fan circulation, condensation and mildew can still occur over time. Any spills or food residue left inside also increase the chance for mold.

Checking a stored refrigerator every 1-2 months helps monitor for any signs of moisture or growth and allows for mold remediation if needed.

Bringing a Refrigerator Out of Long-Term Storage

After having a refrigerator unplugged for a prolonged period, either for a full year or multiple months, proper procedures should be followed when putting it back into service. Here are important tips for restarting a long-term stored refrigerator:

  • Air out – Leave doors open for several hours to ventilate before restarting.
  • Check for odors – If any mildew smell or contamination, deep clean the interior again.
  • Inspect components – Examine gaskets, lines, compressor, etc. for any corrosion.
  • Clean and sanitize – Wipe all surfaces with disinfectant and baking soda paste.
  • Fresh filter – Replace air filter if unit has one.
  • Restart and monitor – Plug-in, switch on, and monitor temperature for proper cooling.
  • Refill – Once fully cooled, reload with fresh food and supplies.

Following these steps allows a refrigerator to be brought back into service safely after storage. However, even with a thorough restart, issues like leaks, strange noises, or elevated temperature may indicate maintenance repairs are needed after such a long inactive period. Calling an appliance repair technician can ensure all systems are working properly after extended storage without power.

Signs of Problems After Refrigerator Storage

How can you tell if a refrigerator is still functional after being unplugged for many months? Signs that repairs or replacement may be needed include:

  • Visible mold or mildew inside
  • Strong musty or sour odors
  • Door gaskets feel cracked or damaged
  • Ice buildup on vents or freezer wall
  • Difficulty maintaining set temperatures
  • Unusual noises from compressor or fans
  • Standing water or drips on floor
  • Rust spots on interior metal

If a refrigerator starts exhibiting these warning signs after being switched back on, it likely suffered some degree of moisture damage during storage. The issues may be repairable, but a refrigerator with extensive mold contamination or component corrosion after a year in storage may need replacement.

Is Refrigerator Reuse Safe After a Year?

Can a refrigerator be safely used again for food storage after sitting unused and unpowered for 12 months? Here are some key factors in determining if reuse is appropriate:

  • Preparation – Was the unit properly emptied, cleaned, and aired out before storage?
  • Maintenance – Were regular humidity checks done during the shutdown period?
  • Mold signs – Does inspection show any interior mold, mildew or damage?
  • Cleaning – Has the refrigerator been fully sanitized and deodorized before restarting?
  • Function – Does it start up fine and hold set temperatures after being plugged back in?

If proper storage preparations were done, no significant moisture issues are found, and the unit functions normally when restarted, reuse is likely fine even after 12 months without power. However, any detected mold contamination or damage from the long inactive period would make the refrigerator unsafe and require replacement.

Tips for Refrigerator Storage Beyond a Year

Storing a refrigerator or freezer for periods beyond a year introduces further complications. Here are some tips to support functionality for over 12 months of storage:

  • Store in a very dry, low humidity environment if possible.
  • Use heavy insulating coverings like foam pads or blankets.
  • Place more desiccant boxes or moisture absorbers inside.
  • Check on unit very frequently – at least every 1-2 months.
  • Periodically air out and restart refrigerator if able.
  • Disconnect and drain water lines.
  • Have repair technician examine before reconnecting.

With very careful preparation and maintenance, some refrigerators can avoid significant issues when left unplugged for longer terms over 12 months. But the risk of irreversible moisture damage rises over time without power. Beyond 1-2 years, reuse becomes very questionable and replacement likely safer.

Costs of Refrigerator Repairs After Storage

If moisture damage or other problems are found after unplugging a refrigerator for an extended period, repairs by an appliance service company may be required to get it functioning properly again. Here are some typical costs for refrigerator repairs following long-term storage:

Repair Issue Average Repair Cost
Replace failed compressor $200 – $350
Fix refrigerant leak $150 – $300
Replace corroded condenser coils $300 – $500
Replace evaporator unit $350 – $450
Replace thermostat $200 – $250
Replace control board $250 – $400
Deodorize and disinfect spoiled fridge $50 – $150

With an older refrigerator or lengthy downtime, the repair costs may start approaching the price of a new replacement unit. Calling in an appliance technician for an inspection provides the best estimate of whether costly repairs are worthwhile or if the refrigerator needs to be replaced after major storage issues.

Alternatives to Unplugging Refrigerator for a Year

Given the risks of long-term storage, are there other options besides leaving your refrigerator unplugged and idle for a full year? Here are some alternatives worth considering:

  • Use a storage facility – Rent a self-storage unit with power to keep refrigerator plugged in.
  • Provide occasional access – Arrange access to property to plug in fridge 1-2 times per month.
  • Run an extension cord – Use a heavy duty cord to reach another power source.
  • Store with a friend – See if anyone can provide garage or basement space for the fridge.
  • Sell or donate – Get rid of fridge and replace with new one later.
  • Buy dry ice – Use regular dry ice replenishment to keep unit at low temperatures.

Depending on your situation, there may be other reasonable options to avoid completely powering off the refrigerator for a full year. This can greatly reduce chances of irreversible damage being done during the extended downtime.


Leaving a refrigerator or freezer switched off and unpowered for a full year brings serious risk of moisture accumulation and mold growth inside the unit. While not recommended, with very careful preparation and maintenance, some fridges may survive a year downtime without significant issues.

The keys are starting with a fully cleaned and dried interior, propping doors open for air flow, using moisture absorbers, and checking regularly for any condensation or ice buildup. Following restart procedures and watching for any functional issues can identify problems needing repair.

But even the best preparation may not fully prevent humidity related damage over 12 months without power. For long or uncertain time periods, refrigerators are best left connected to electricity if possible, or alternative storage plans made. Otherwise the full year of inactivity can ultimately compromise the safe reuse or operation of the appliance.

Leave a Comment