What Temperature should a Fridge Freezer be?

Fridge freezers need to be kept at an operating temperature that helps preserve food for as long as possible — not only to keep it tasting good but to prevent it spoiling early too.

This guide will outline everything you need to know about maintaining your fridge or freezer unit, how to diagnose and fix potential problems, and understanding why temperatures are so vital for appliances.


What’s the ideal fridge temperature?

The ideal temperature for the inside of a fridge is anywhere between 1.7°C to 3.3°C — or around 40°F. This is cold enough to keep food safe and restrict bacteria growth for the longest time possible.

Any colder and products begin to freeze, and the quality of the products is affected. Any higher and you edge closer to the danger zone, where bacteria can thrive and food spoils incredibly quickly.

To achieve the ideal temperature, it’s important to keep on top of the temperature to not only keep food fresh but save energy too. Almost all fridges come with a dial inside to change the temperature — usually numbered 1-5. If your fridge is always full, you need additional cooling power, so the dial should always be between 3-5. If you typically don’t fill your fridge, you can usually turn it down to 2-3 as there’s better circulation around the interior with less items inside.


What’s the ideal freezer temperature?

The ideal temperature for a freezer is around 0°F (-18°C) to -4°F (-20°C) — this prevents the growth of many harmful bacteria. However, it’s important to remember that the harsh temperatures don’t kill bacteria, they only prevent them from multiplying — think of it like a pause button that stops bacteria spoiling your food.


How to check the temperature of a fridge or freezer?

If you suspect that your fridge or freezer is too hot or cold, you’ll need to measure internal temperature to make sure there isn’t a problem and that your food is being kept cool and safe to eat.

To measure the internal temperature of your fridge or freezer, you should:

  • Place a thermometer in a submersible liquid — water can be used for fridges but because of the low temperatures in freezers, vegetable oil is required.
  • Place the glass containing the thermometer as close to the middle of the fridge as possible — for example, the middle of the middle shelf — to make sure the thermometer can pick up as accurate temperature readings as possible.
  • Allow 24 hours to reach accurate temperature measurement.


Fixing common fridge and freezer issues

Ice or frost build-up inside the freezer

Large build-ups of ice and frost in the fridge or freezer could indicate a faulty thermostat, defrost heater or timer. Simply turn the settings down to a 1 or 2, wait an hour, and see if the ice has melted. Because modern fridges and freezers are designed to combat ice build-ups automatically, if this doesn’t work, you may need to consult a professional to examine the delicate components to get everything working smoothly.

Older units may need to be defrosted every now and then. To make sure it’s defrosted properly, here’s a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Avoid chipping away at any ice — Blunt or sharp edges can damage the plastic and the delicate components in the unit — leading to more expensive repair costs in the long term. To avoid damage, use a spatula to gently remove chunks of ice as it’s thawing out.
  • Be sure to empty the freezer before hand — Frozen goods can slow the thawing process, so it’s better to empty the unit and leave doors open to allow the inside to warm up faster.
  • Make sure to turn off the power – Not only is it a potential electrical hazard — mixing thawing ice and electricity — but having the unit on will only slow the defrosting process, so be sure to switch any units off at the mains.


Leaking water

Leaking water can be caused by many things including a faulty drain pan seal.

A good way to confirm this is if goods are sufficiently chilled or frozen, but is still leaking water, then it’s likely the drain pan seal. You can check this by:

  • Disconnecting the freezer unit from the mains
  • Examine the drain line for any leaks or visual deformation that might help you determine the source of the problem.
  • Disconnect the line and use hot water or a drain snake to clear the pipe of any debris or ice — it may be that the unit is running unusually cold, and the drain pan is frozen over.
  • Examine the seal. It might not be the pipe itself but a loose seal — these are quick and easy to replace.


Insufficient cooling

There are many reasons why your fridge or freezer isn’t cooling to a low enough temperature to keep your goods fresh — some with more simple solutions than others.

Some of the simple reasons include:

  1. Faulty plug socket or wall outlet — If there’s a fault in the socket or wiring, it can to the power supply cutting in and out — meaning the unit takes longer to reach the required temperature.
  2. Thermostat settings need adjusting — Sometimes the problem lies in the setup and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with the appliance. Make sure you’ve ruled out the thermostat as a possible problem by making sure the temperature is set low enough.
  3. Not enough clearance behind the appliance — In order to cool air, the appliance needs room to draw in cool air and expel the hot air. To prevent the hot air recycling back into the system, units can’t be placed too close to the wall.
  4. Blocked vents — Similarly to not having enough clearance, dirty and grime can clog up the vents that usher in cool air into the unit — making the appliance work harder to cool its contents. A quick clean can open these vents and let the appliance breath more efficiently.

If an appliance is still not getting down to the correct temperatures, then it might a problem with the internal mechanisms and compressors. Rather than fiddling with parts yourself and risk further damaging your appliance, call in a professional who will have all the parts and know-how to get your fridge up and running again.


How to keep your fridge or freezer running smoothly

To make sure your fridge or freezer is as efficient is possible, here’s a few maintenance tips to help your keep your food fresher for longer.

  • Vacuum and wipe down your gaskets and vents — Appliances need a fresh supply of cool air, so it’s important to wipe away any dirt and debris that might obstruct air intake.
  • Separate your appliances — A large concentration of fridges or freezers in one place mean they’re both at risk of recycling each other’s hot air making them inefficient.
  • Make sure there’s enough room behind the appliances — In the same vain as keeping them separate, allow your appliances to breath by keeping them away from walls.
  • Monitor temperatures — It’s vital to check the temperatures of your fridge or freezer at least once a week — if the temperatures off, you might have a problem that needs fixing.
  • Don’t overfill your appliances — To help your device stay as efficient as possible, you shouldn’t fill your fridge or freezer more than 3 quarters full. This lets air circulate and makes it easier for the unit to chill your goods.



Does it matter if your fridge is too cold?

If your fridge is too cold, it usually indicates an underlying problem with the machine that needs to be addressed.

Apart from your chilled food possibly being frozen due to the change in temperature, a sub-zero fridge may indicate a mechanical issue like a build-up of frost or a cracked seal that causes your fridge produce excessive amounts of cold air.


What temperature should your fridge be to save energy?

The ideal temperature of a fridge should be between 0°C and 5°C. Unfortunately, there isn’t a temperature you can select that saves energy.

To save energy, you just need to make sure your fridge is running as efficiently as possible. For example, giving your machine ample space behind to draw in cool air, repairing any broken seals or mechanical issues hamper efficiency and removing any frost build-ups.


What’s the coldest spot in the fridge?

Because hot air rises and cold air falls, the coolest part of the fridge is the bottom shelf.

It’s because of this that meat and vegetable drawers are typically kept at the bottom — as these are the items likely to perish most quickly. Keeping them there buys you that extra bit of time should the fridge malfunction.


How do I know if my fridge is cold enough?

If you have recently changed the temperature on the dial, be aware that it can take 24 hours for any temperature changes to happen.

To make sure your fridge is at the right temperature, simply submerge a thermometer in a body of water — in a cup or bowl, for example — and record the temperature after 24 hours.


Can a room be too cold for a fridge?

Yes, the ambient temperature can affect the performance of a fridge.

The compression operation can decrease with a drop in external temperature. Although this usually not a problem for older models that can run outside, newer models will attempt to save energy which can cause the internal temperature to increase.


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