Getting a new refrigerator can be incredibly exciting. Especially when it’s an upgrade over your old refrigerator!
There’s just one problem though…it’s hard to know how long it takes for your refrigerator to be cold enough.
So how long does it take for your refrigerator to get to food preserving temperature?
There are a lot of things that can contribute to cooling time, including the type of refrigerator you have, its size, and even the temperature of your home.
In most cases your refrigerator should be cooled off and ready to refrigerate your food within 24 hours. Some refrigerators will reach their ideal temperature in as little as 3 hours after being plugged in, but not all of them.
Food safety is incredibly important and your refrigerator is a huge part of how you keep your family safe from food borne illness, so let’s dive in and talk about the details.
In this guide you’ll learn:
- Which factors impact refrigerator cooling
- How changes in setup can affect your refrigerator’s performance
- And Much More!
What's in this Guide?
How Long Should You Let Your Fridge Run When You First Get It?
In most cases your refrigerator will come with an owner’s manual that explains initial setup of the refrigerator and the steps you can take to help your refrigerator cool off faster.
Of course, there are a lot of factors involved so everyone’s refrigerator setup will be a little different.
One thing you need to remember is that your refrigerator’s coolant system is only designed to work when it’s kept upright.
If you have to turn your refrigerator on its side at any point during transit you need to let it sit upright and unplugged for a while to let the coolant settle back where it’s supposed to be.
In general, the rule is that you should let your refrigerator sit for one day for every hour that it was turned on its side. That does mean that you might need to let your refrigerator sit for a few days before you get started, especially if you don’t know how it was shipped to you.
However, once you’re ready to plug in your refrigerator there are a few steps you should take to make sure it’s ready:
- Wash the insides (dust and harsh cleaners may be present inside)
- Make sure all vents are clear, not covered in protective plastic
- Make sure all the drawers work and all the shelves are properly assembled (it’s a lot easier to get replacement parts if you ask for them right away instead of months after receiving a fridge that was damaged during shipping).
- Make sure the refrigerator fits where you want it (measuring is great, but it’s more common than you’d think for appliances not to fit when it arrives)
- Double-check that you have a dedicated outlet available for your refrigerator.
- Turn off the water supply before removing your old refrigerator and installing the new one.
Not sure how to disconnect or connect a your waterline? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!
Once you’re ready to plug your refrigerator in, and you’ve done all the cleaning and preparation, check to see what temperature your refrigerator is set to. Having the right temperature is critical for food safety.
After you’ve plugged in your refrigerator the motor should turn on relatively quickly to start cooling the main area inside. It will also cool the freezer if your refrigerator has one.
As long as the motor is running and doesn’t sound like it’s stressed and working too hard, you can let it work on it’s own. Check it every hour or so until the fridge gets close to temperature.
Some people will partially fill their new refrigerator with already cold food to help lower the temperature. Iced water will also work.
It’s important to make sure you aren’t trying to cool your refrigerator with anything that’s temperature sensitive like meats, milk and dairy products, or anything made with seafood.
Even if the food starts cold when you put it in your new refrigerator there’s just no guarantee that it will get cold enough fast enough to prevent harmful bacteria from getting in your food.
Reasons Your Refrigerator Might Not Be Cooling
There are a few reasons a new refrigerator might not cool off when you plug it in.
A lot of these will need to be diagnosed and fixed by a professional, and you may want to use your fridge warranty to get a replacement for some problems.
I’ve included a list of possible problems below, to help you troubleshoot and figure out when it’s time to call a professional:
- Blocked air vents
- Dirty door gasket
- Bad seal around the door
- Too much warm food inside the fridge
- Hot weather
- Too much humidity
- Damaged compressor
- Not letting your fridge sit long enough before starting
If you suspect that you have any of these problems, first check the air and cooling vents inside the fridge. Feel around the door to see if there are any noticeable cold air leaks.
In summertime you may need to kick your AC on higher to help your refrigerator get caught up. Otherwise, try letting your new refrigerator run overnight and see if it reaches temperature when it’s colder outside.
Unfortunately humidity is harder to control, and a damaged component will probably mean contacting the manufacturer to get new parts or a new fridge.
How Long Does It Take for Freezers to Freeze
Usually your freezer will cool off in about the same time it takes for your refrigerator to cool. That’s because your refrigerator is designed to concentrate the cold in the freezer. The freezer will cool faster, and stay cold longer.
Your freezer may even cool off faster than your refrigerator if it’s a bottom-freezer model. That’s because cold air is heavier than hot air and tends to sink toward the low point of any area.
However, freezers have all the same rules as refrigerators. They need time to set up if they have been turned on their side.
Just like refrigerators it takes some time for freezers to cool down, and you may see more temperature fluctuations than average in the first 24 hours.
The good news is that freezers are often easier to manually cool down than refrigerators because you can put frozen vegetables and other hardy foods into your freezer to help with the cooling process.
Be careful though, don’t start your ice maker until you’re sure the freezer is below freezing. Otherwise you’ll probably wind up with a layer of ice in the bottom of the freezer, or a giant puddle all around the refrigerator when it starts leaking.
How to Tell If Your Refrigerator Has Cooled Off?
Usually you’ll be able to tell if your refrigerator has cooled off just by opening the door and seeing if the inside of the refrigerator is cold.
That’s not enough to know if your refrigerator has gotten cold enough though. Instead of just feeling for cold, pay attention to how the fridge motor is running. If the motor is off more than it’s on, chances are your refrigerator is at or near the right temperature.
Some newer models of refrigerator do have internal thermometers that you can read on the door or near one of the inner shelves. However, it’s a good idea to test those thermometers with a second thermometer to make sure its temperature reading is accurate.
Built-in refrigerators can be off by several degrees, especially when they are first set up, so having a second thermometer can give you greater confidence that you’ve got an accurate reading.
My Final Thoughts on Refrigerator Cooling
Keeping your refrigerator cold enough is more important than many people think. It’s not just a challenge during natural disasters, it can be a real problem with older refrigerators and any time you get a new appliance.
The good news is that once your refrigerator has cooled off and is at good refrigeration temperature, it’ll stay there without too much work.
It’s also common to notice that your utility bill is a little higher the first month you own a new refrigerator. Most of that cost is from the extra electricity to cool your refrigerator for the first time.
Ongoing operation costs are usually lower than the first month.
I’ve talked a lot about the possible problems with a new refrigerator in this article, but I want to take a moment to wrap up on a different note. Having a new refrigerator can make life a lot easier, and can give you more room to store food and experiment with new condiments and ingredients.
So, congratulations on your new fridge!