The outlet height is concerning if you need to install an outlet for your new refrigerator. So, what is the ideal height of the refrigerator’s outlet? Let’s find out.
The standard height of an outlet for a refrigerator should be approximately 48 inches from the ground level. A higher outlet will make reaching and unplugging the appliances easier when needed. NEC has also not mentioned any particular code for this, as it varies as per the appliance.
Several factors determine the height of the refrigerator outlet off the ground. This guide will explore the factors to consider, the building codes, and how to adjust and install the outlet heights based on the fridge model.
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Introduction to refrigerator outlets and heights
A refrigerator outlet is needed when you buy a new refrigerator to plug in the cord and run the refrigerator.
Most refrigerator outlets are rated at 120V, but some need 240V outlets.
Check the electrical needs of your refrigerator before buying the outlet.
You should install an outlet where you can easily access it, like near the fridge.
As for the height, it should be 46 inches off the floor.
But it can be higher or shorter based on your fridge size.
There is no mandated code for the height of the refrigerator outlet because a fridge often is located between the wall end on one side and a base cabinet on the other.
In most scenarios, the outlet is installed at the same height as the refrigerator.
Ensure your outlet is properly grounded to prevent electrical shocks, short circuits, and fire hazards.
Installing GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets would be best.
They trip off whenever they sense danger, protecting your appliance from damage and serious electrical accidents.
The importance of proper outlet placement
Proper placement and height of the outlet for any electrical appliance are very important.
You must follow the National Electric Code or NEC regulations when installing an electrical wire.
But the NEC does not strictly talk about the outlet height for the appliances.
It only regulates the distance between the outlet and the countertops.
However, you must not install them wherever you want.
In some areas, the local codes restrict outlet heights and clearances.
The reasons below will explain the importance of proper outlet placement and height:
- It is important to place outlets rightly by following the local building codes. Otherwise, you may end up with penalties.
- The right place of the outlet is important for safety. Wrong placements can lead to risks of shocks and fire, high outlets lead to tripping hazards, and high outlets are difficult to plug and unplug.
- Proper outlet placement is important for convenience and accessibility, especially for disabled people. Install outlets at the right height and locations to reach quickly without extra bending or stretching.
- Outlets located in a proper place and height will increase the functionality of your appliance/s. You can easily access and plug in the appliance to use it whenever needed.
- It would be best to have outlets near the appliance, so the wire does not have to be too long. Long wires can increase resistance and overheat.
- Lastly, the right placement of the outlets increases the aesthetics of your house. Installing outlets randomly at any place can be an eyesore. It would be best to have outlets hidden or install them where they can blend with your interior design.
Factors to consider when determining the outlet height
The professionals make an educated selection for the outlet heights of the refrigerators.
But their choices are based on a few factors explained below:
You cannot place your refrigerator outlet anywhere in your house.
It should be where you can access it without disturbing the other appliances’ outlets.
So, first, you should consider the other rooms and their outlets.
Please do not place the refrigerator’s outlet where other appliances and furniture can block it.
Find a new location for the outlet and the refrigerator somewhere without any obstruction.
The outlet should be placed where even the electricians can reach for inspection, repair, and replacement.
The location of the refrigerator’s power cord will also determine the outlet height.
Some cords are at the refrigerator’s bottom, and some are in the middle. If the outlet is far up, but the cord is low, it will have to stretch to reach it.
The outlet should be at a height where the cord can reach it for plugging.
Kitchen counter height
The refrigerator outlet should be at a height proximate to the kitchen counter.
In most cases, the height of the outlet should be at the counter’s level or slightly above the counter.
Mine is right at the counter’s level.
If unsure about the outlet height, ask the manufacturers for the right height.
They can guide and help you with the right outlet height.
Following their instructions can help with the proper installation and functionality of the appliance.
The location of the refrigerator’s outlet should match the NEC guideline. If not the NEC, then it must match your local code.
So, before you confirm the outlet height for your refrigerator, consider factors like the NEC’s suggestion about the outlet’s distance from the countertop.
If the refrigerator is in the kitchen, the NEC recommends that the outlet mounting be 18 inches above the countertop surface and the 4-inch countertop’s backsplash.
Building codes and regulations for outlet heights
Most regions do not have any codes for the standard outlet heights.
The NEC explains a lot of things about the outlets in different rooms that affect the refrigerator outlet height:
American Disabilities Act, or ADA
The ADA is made to consider the physical needs of disabled people.
So, it does not want the contractors to place the outlets where people face difficulty reaching the plug outlet.
The act does not, however, specify the outlet heights.
The ADA wants the outlets to be 19 inches (maximum) above the floor.
But usually, a minimum of 15 inches above the floor is fine according to the act.
The height does not apply to other houses.
If you want to follow the code rules, the height should be between 15 and 19 inches.
The National Electric Code, or NEC
The NEC does not strictly mention the refrigerator’s outlet height.
But it suggests the distance between the given point of the room and the outlet to exceed 6 feet.
Based on the discussions between the electricians and contractors, the regulations imply that the outlets should be lower than 66 inches.
The NEC also suggests the outlets in the kitchen to be within 24 inches of the countertops.
It affects the refrigerator outlet height.
If you have an outlet above the countertop, the distance between the counter and the outlet should be within 24 inches.
According to the Protocol Reviews, the outlet’s height should be 48 inches off the floor, which the California Building Code also accepts.
But soon, the Protocol Reviews discovered that a lot of time gets saved by leaning conventional 22 ounces of framing hammer against the wall.
The tool length should equal the distance between the floor and the fridge’s outlet. The outlet should be just above the hammer.
Recommended heights for refrigerator outlets
There are no fixed outlet heights for refrigerators.
Several factors determine the height.
Some recommended outlet heights for a refrigerator include:
- The average refrigerator’s outlet height should be 48 inches off the floor. It applies to all refrigerators.
- According to the NEC, the outlet should not exceed 66 inches off the floor.
- According to the ADA, the outlet height should not be lower than 15 inches and higher than 19 inches off the floor.
- For small refrigerators, the outlet height should be 34 to 36 inches above the floor.
- The outlet height should be 42 to 48 inches above the ground for mid-size or big refrigerators.
How to measure and install a refrigerator outlet?
Before installing the outlet, you must measure your refrigerator and plan the outlet’s height.
For example, if the refrigerator’s height is 48 inches, the outlet should be 66 inches off the ground.
If your house has a disabled person/s, install it between 15 and 19 inches off the ground.
Outlet installation is mainly left to the hands of the electrician because it includes several complicated steps.
Besides, you need to wire the circuit breaker and then the outlet.
If you have experience and want to do it yourself, below is a detailed guide for outlet installation:
- Flathead screwdriver
- Philips screwdriver
- Voltage tester or multimeter
- Cable clamp
- A circuit breaker of the fridge, 20-amp, most probably
- Utility knife
- Wire stripper
- Keyhole saw
- Romex 12-2
- Electrical tape
- Needle-nose and wire-cutting pliers
- An outlet box
- Cover plate
- A helper for fast installation
A step-by-step guide
- Turn off the main breaker.
- Remove the panel’s cover and pull it out to check the panel with a voltage tester or multimeter to verify that no power exists.
- Install a dedicated circuit breaker for your refrigerator on either side of the panel by following the instruction manual.
- Remove the access plug from the panel, tap its edges with a hammer and screwdriver to start it, and use combination pliers. Move it back and forth until it is free.
- Install the cable clamp in the plug hole and tighten it clockwise with a clamp nut with a screwdriver and hammer.
- Trace the outlet box outline on the wall at the chosen location with a pencil. If you have already measured the refrigerator and outlet height, cut the pattern with a knife or keyhole saw.
- Mark the floor joists and walls where you will drill the hole for the electrical wire. Drill holes through the wall and floor joists on the marks.
- Extend a fish line wire puller in the box hole from the main panel and retrieve the line. Attach a romex 12-2 to the fish line with the electrical tape.
- Pull the cable from the box hole to the main breaker and disconnect it from the line.
- Pull the cable’s end through the clamp into the panel and cut the sheathing to expose the black wire and reach the new circuit.
- Strip ¾th of insulation from white and black wire. Expose the white and ground wires enough to reach the neutral or ground bus bars.
- Connect the neutral and ground wire to the neutral/ground bar and tighten the screws.
- Connect the black wire to the breaker following the manual.
- Secure the romex cable with a clamp and ensure that the clamp strap is over the sheathing. Tighten the screws with a screwdriver.
- Put the panel covers back and tighten the screws properly.
- Cut the romex cable at the wall box hole and leave 6 inches outside the hole.
- Insert the romex end through the hole in the new fridge outlet box and secure the box inside the wall. The steel boxes have internal cable clamps, and the plastic boxes have pliable locking tabs.
- Cut 4 inches of the romex sheathing at the end and strip ¾th of the insulation from the black and white wires.
- Bend open the loop ends in each wire with a needle-nose plier.
- Attach the black hot wire to the brass terminal, the white neutral wire to the silver terminal, and the bare copper wire to the terminal ground screw.
- Keep the open loop ends to the right and tighten the terminal screws with a screwdriver.
- Push the outlet in the box and tighten the upper and lower bracket screw.
- Install the outlet cover plate and tighten the screw with a screwdriver.
- Restore the power to test the refrigerator outlet.
Since the process is long and complicated, hire a professional to wire the outlet and the circuit.
Common issues with improper outlet heights
Installing a refrigerator outlet at an improper height can cause several problems:
- Accessibility is a common problem with incorrect outlet height. Suppose the outlet is too high or low, or there are obstructions around the outlet. You will have difficulty plugging and unplugging the refrigerator cord in that case. It is a problem mostly with physically disabled persons.
- The cord may have to stretch too much if the cord is too high from the refrigerator. Too much stretching can affect the appliance’s functionality, tear the cord, and lead to electrical accidents.
- If your refrigerator’s outlet is too low, you face tripping hazards, especially in places with serious foot traffic.
Adjusting the outlet height to accommodate different refrigerator sizes
To adjust the outlet height according to the refrigerator size, you should keep a few things in mind:
- If you have already chosen an outlet for your refrigerator, measure its height off the floor with a measuring tape.
- Now, measure the height of your new refrigerator to adjust it to the outlet.
- Check that the cord of the refrigerator can easily access the outlet.
- If the outlet is inaccessible or difficult to access, choose a new place to install the outlet for your fridge.
- Based on your kitchen’s layout, you may have to move the outlet to another place to adjust to the new refrigerator.
- Install the outlet box if you have chosen a separate outlet location to accommodate the refrigerator’s height. Follow the codes and consult an electrician before installing.
- Once you have confirmed the place, run the wire to the outlet and test it with a voltage tester to ensure it works well.
Retrofitting older homes for modern refrigerator outlets
Recently, refrigerator models and their wirings have changed a lot.
Refrigerators have improved in technology and become smarter than the older ones.
You must upgrade and retrofit your old house to run such a refrigerator.
The process is complicated. That is why people prefer it to be done by a professional.
The following steps can guide you, but you must call a professional to check.
- Find a new location for your refrigerator, and ensure that the location is near the kitchen.
- Plan the wire path with the help of an electrician. The planning should begin from the electrical panel to the new outlet location. Consider the distance of the wiring, wire sizes, and obstacles that may come in between.
- Remember that the longer the wire, the higher the resistance. So, choose copper wire over other wire materials.
- Install the circuit and the outlet for your modern refrigerator. I have already shared a detailed guide previously in the article.
- Consult an electrician for the wiring so that the electrical demands of the modern refrigerator are met at all costs.
- Install the outlet box at the new location. Ensure that the refrigerator’s height meets the local code rules and regulations for modern fridges.
- Run the wire from the panel to the outlet and test it with a voltage tester or a multimeter to check its functioning.
Hiring a professional for outlet installation and adjustment
Regardless of your experience, hiring a licensed electrical engineer to wire and adjust the outlet is always the best option.
He will guide you with the rules and regulations of the local code, help to make the wiring so that the refrigerator’s electrical needs are met, and install the outlet at the proper height and location without any issues.
An electrician will use proper facts, direction, and ideal tools and supplies. As a result, the work will be done faster and flawlessly.
A licensed electrician will follow all the local codes and rules to install your outlet.
They are more familiar with the codes than you and do things as per the NEC, ADA, and local codes.
Professionals always provide quality work at the right time due to their high-quality skills and tools.
Besides all these, licensed electricians can help you with offers and insurance.
They can offer low charges and insurance to cover electrical accidents and damages while installing or adjusting the outlet.
So, do not hesitate to hire an electrician for outlet installation and adjustment.
In the NEC and ADA rules and regulations, you will receive detailed information about the maximum and minimum height of the refrigerator outlet.
The average outlet height for a refrigerator should be 46 to 48 inches off the ground.
The maximum height, according to NEC, is 66 inches off the ground.
According to the ADA, the height of the outlet must be within 15 to 19 inches for easy access.
While deciding the height of your refrigerator’s outlet, you must consider factors like accessibility, safety, appliance functionality, cord length, and the refrigerator size.
If you have already decided on the refrigerator outlet, but it doesn’t accommodate the refrigerator size, adjust the outlet height by choosing a different location.
If your house is old and you have a new modern refrigerator, retrofit your house to install the modern refrigerator.
Always hire an electrician for the best suggestions.
What is the average size of a refrigerator?
The standard refrigerator sizes are 30-36 inches wide, 67-70 inches high, and 29-35 inches deep. For such fridges, the average outlet height off the ground should be 46-48 inches.
Can I install an outlet at a spot different from the standard height?
You can install an outlet at a height different from the standard height. It should not be higher than 66 inches. However, keeping the standard height is recommended because accessing the outlet can be difficult.
Reference: Refrigerator Wikipedia