How cold should your fridge or freezer be?

What Temperature Should a Fridge Be?

Have you ever wondered if your fridge is cold enough? Or the opposite, taken something out and noticed itís looking a little frosty? We all rely on fridge freezers to keep our food fresh and chilled. And a refrigerator thatís set to the correct temperature will do its job better, and ensure food stays fresh for longer.

But just how cold should they be? And Ė a question thatís puzzled most of us at some point Ė if your fridge has a numbered dial, which way should you turn it? Read on for the answers to these questions and more.

In this article, we'll discuss:

Fridge Freezer

What is the ideal fridge temperature?

The ideal fridge temperature is between 37įF (3įC) and 40įF (5įC). This will keep the fridgeís energy usage to a minimum and, more importantly, help food stay fresh and safe to eat.

Keeping food chilled helps to slow down the growth of harmful bacteria. If the temperature of the fridge is just right (3-5įC), your food will stay fresher for longer; if the temperature of your fridge is too high, bacteria and microorganisms can grow at an increased rate - potentially causing all kinds of nasty bugs.

What is the coldest setting on a fridge?

Confused by the numbers on your fridge's temperature dial? The numbers relate to how much power the fridge is using. So the rule is always the same: the higher the number, the colder the fridge. Setting the dial to 5 will make the fridge coldest it can be.

Which number should my fridge be on?

Because every fridge is different, one fridgeís number 5 setting might be colder than anotherís. Instead, you need to know the temperature inside the fridge. To keep food cold and fresh but not frozen, it should be set somewhere between 3-5įC (37-40įF).

Some fridges have a temperature reading, but most have a numbered dial. This usually goes from 1 to 5, with 5 being the coldest. To make sure your fridge is at the right temperature, turn it to 5, the coldest setting, first, then check the temperature (we'll tell you the best way to do this below). If that's too cold, adjust the dial bit by bit until you reach the ideal. Tip: any adjustments to the temperature of your fridge will take 24 hours to take effect.

What temperature should a freezer be?

To work effectively, your freezer temperature should be 0į F (-18į C).

The FSA advises that freezing food acts like a Ďpause buttoní, delaying chemical reactions within the food and stopping any bacteria from growing or producing toxins. If the freezer isnít cold enough, the food will go off.

Measuring your refrigerator's temperature

Unless your fridge has a reliable digital temperature display, youíll need to check its internal temperature to work out if it's in the correct range. The same goes for freezers. Below, weíve outlined the best way to get an accurate reading of each.

How to check a fridge's temperature

Youíll need a thermometer and a glass of water. Pop the thermometer into the glass and leave it on the middle shelf of the fridge for 12 hours, or overnight. The fridge will cool the water to give you an accurate reading of the internal temperature. Be sure to check the temperature the first time you open the fridge door, as you wonít get an accurate measurement if too much cold air escapes.

How to check a freezer's temperature

Checking the temperature in your freezer is simple:

  1. Place your thermometer in between bags of frozen vegetables
  2. Leave it undisturbed for 8 hours, or overnight
  3. Check the temperature reading

Inside the fridge

Is your refrigerator not working properly?

While fridges have a longer lifespan than many other home appliances, a fridge thatís old and inefficient will cost more to run. Look out for these signs that your fridge isnít working as well as it could, and might be nearing the end of its useful life:

  • Food is going off before it reaches its expiry date, or doesnít feel cold when you take it out of the fridge. This tells you the fridge is struggling to stay cold, perhaps due to a fault with the thermostat or motor, or a build up of dirt or dust on the condenser coils.
  • Frost is building up on the back or side of the fridge. This may be a sign the fridge is working too hard to maintain the temperature and could indicate a fault with the seal.
  • Condensation is appearing on the outside of the fridge. This is a sign the fridge is having to work too hard, possibly due to a problem with the door seal.
  • The fridge isnít cold, or perhaps it even feels warm. This probably means the motor fan is broken.
  • Itís started making strange noises. All fridges have a gentle, continuous hum, but if youíre hearing knocks, clatters and bangs it could be any number of faulty parts.

Fixing common refrigerator temperature issues

Some fridge issues may be simple to solve, while others will need replacement parts... or an entirely new fridge. Take a look at our troubleshooting tips below.

Problem: Build up of ice

Fix: Check whether the defrost drain has become blocked. This is usually found on the back wall of the fridge or freezer, above the slope from the floor to the back. Try draining the hole from the inside using warm water, then using something long and thin to remove the blockage.

If that doesnít work, try pulling the fridge away from the wall to find the defrost drain hose. This should have a rubber valve to help prevent blockages. Wash the valve with hot soapy water and then reinstall.

Problem: Freezer isnít cold enough

Fix: Check whether the back wall of the freezer is cold. If it is, see if you can hear the evaporator fan running or feel air coming from the vents. If you canít, itís probably a fault with the freezer evaporator fan. If air is still flowing and you can hear the fan running, check the condenser coils, which release heat from inside the fridge into the room, and clean away any dirt or dust.

Problem: Fridge cycling on and off too often

Fix: First, check the temperature of the fridge to make sure it doesnít need adjusting. Then check the condenser coils. To do this, unplug your fridge and remove the grill at the back, then use a cloth or small vacuum to remove the built-up dust and debris. If neither of these solve the problem, it could be time to call in a repair technician.

Problem: Fresh food compartment is getting warm

Fix: Cold air from the freezer unit flows into the fresh food section of your fridge. So if this is getting warm, itís probably an airflow problem. Again, check whether you can hear the evaporator fan running or feel air blowing from the freezer vents. If not, the evaporator fan may need a new motor. If they seem fine, the diffuser duct may be clogged with ice, preventing air from passing through the system. This is often caused by leaving the door open for too long.

Problem: sheet of ice on the freezer compartment floor

Fix: Similar to icy build up in fridges, this could be caused by a blocked defrost drain. Itís usually an easy fix Ė remove your food, unplug the fridge, and allow it to defrost. Before plugging back in, you could also carefully remove the back wall of the freezer compartment to check for blockages in the hole at the base of the evaporator coils.

Problem: Food in the fridge is freezing

Fix: Check the thermostat by turning it from the lowest to the highest setting and listening for a click. If you donít hear one, itís likely a fault with the thermostat, which may need replacing.

Hopefully these tips are useful, but itís always worth contacting a refrigerator repair specialist if you donít feel confident diagnosing the problem or these fixes donít work.

Keeping your refrigerator in good working order

Follow our 10 simple maintenance tips and your fridge should last you for years.

1. Set it at the right temperature

Between 37įF and 40įF for a fridge, 0į F for a freezer.

2. Donít leave the door open for long

It means the fridge has to work harder to cool things down again.

3. Check the door seal

Give it a wipe and check for cracks and warps. If the fridge leaks cold air even with the door shut it will be consuming a lot more energy.

4. Donít put hot food in the fridge

Let it cool down first or youíll raise the temperature inside the fridge, making the compressor work harder.

5. Keep food and leftovers covered

Uncovered food releases moisture and forces your fridge to work harder to keep things dry.

6. Donít block the vents inside the fridge

There should be a gap between the vents and food in the fridge.

7. Defrost the freezer compartment regularly

A build up of ice wastes energy.

8. Donít put the fridge too close to wallsÖ

Make sure thereís at least a one inch gap between the fridge and the wall.

9. ÖOr other appliances

If your kitchen is roomy enough, put your fridge as far away from the heat of the oven and dishwasher as possible.

10. Clean the condenser coils

Unplug the fridge, move it away from the wall and remove the screws to access the condenser coils, then use a cloth or vacuum to remove stuck-on dirt and dust.

Need a new refrigerator?

If the time has come to buy a new fridge or freezer, itís a good opportunity to choose a more efficient model, or perhaps a bigger capacity for a growing family.

Depending on what youíre looking for, take a look at our fridge buying guide, freezer buying guide or fridge freezer buying guide for some handy pointers to narrow down your search. Or you can see our full ranges by clicking on the links below. And donít forget weíre always happy to help if youíre having trouble deciding Ė just get in touch.


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