How Long Does It Take a Refrigerator to Get Cold?
Author: Anne Cowart | Editor: Omar Alonso
Review & Research: Jen Worst & Chris Miller
If you just bought a new fridge or moved into a new home, you may wonder how long does it take a refrigerator to get cold once it is plugged back into power. The answer can vary significantly, especially when you factor in the cubic size, the brand, and its efficiency.
On average, it can take anywhere between four to 24 hours for your refrigerator to get cold enough to store food once you plug it in. The ideal temperature for a fridge should be at or below 40 °F (4 °C), helping to inhibit bacteria growth on food items and keeping them safe for consumption later.
This guide covers the many factors that can affect how long a fridge takes to get cold, how to measure your refrigerator’s temperature, and how to speed up the cooling process. This way, you will be better prepared if you have to move your fridge or set up a new appliance in your home.
Factors That Can Affect the Time It Takes a Fridge to Get Cold
To get a better idea of how long your fridge will take to get cold will depend on several factors. These factors include:
- Energy efficiency
- Maintenance & care
Of course, standard-sized and standard types of fridges will take longer than a smaller model to cool down completely. For example, an average mini fridge of 2.5 cubic feet will take approximately four hours to reach 37 °F (2.7 °C). Alternatively, a typical family-sized fridge can take between 12 and 24 hours to cool down.
Some manufacturers offer better refrigerator options than others in the market. When comparing older GE models that can take up to 24 hours to get cold enough to use, newer brands, like Samsung, can quickly cool down between two and four hours.
Of course, you can always refer to the owner’s manual for your refrigerator’s specifications on the recommended time it will take to cool down.
Several appliance brands such as Samsung offer refrigerators that are more energy efficient and have unique options to help boost the cooling process, known as the Power Cool function. Using this feature can reduce the time it takes for your fridge to reach its optimal temperature by blowing very cold air into the cavity.
You should always connect a refrigerator to the proper electrical outlet. If your appliance is not receiving the appropriate voltage it needs to operate correctly, it will not cool down as it should.
The space where your fridge operates can directly impact its function and increase the time it takes to cool down. In some cases, because they don't have the ability to raise temperatures, you can even find your refrigerator freezing food.
For example, if you live in a region with extremely high temperatures, your refrigerator will have to work harder to keep the inside cold because the air around it is warmer. On the other hand, an appliance in a garage or basement won't need as much time to get cold compared to a warm kitchen.
Maintenance & Care
Regular maintenance and care can affect how efficiently your fridge will run, especially when it needs to cool down after being unplugged. The coils on the back of the fridge and vents on the front bottom can collect dust and dirt. When this happens, it can hinder its cooling ability and take longer than usual for your refrigerator to get cold. This is only part of the reason you don't want to put a mini fridge on carpet.
An empty fridge will take longer to cool down than one with items inside because it has more space to tackle. However, the food inside a refrigerator should not be warm or hot; otherwise, it will slow down the cooling process. If you have cold or cool items to add before the fridge reaches its optimal temperature, you can put them inside earlier to help. How long does it take a fridge to get cold? The more items you have inside, the less air volume there is to be cooled.
When Can You Put Food in a Fridge After Being Turned Off?
Although it can sometimes take up to 24 hours for your refrigerator to reach its optimal temperature, you don’t have to wait that long to put the food inside. Make sure you learn the answer for the freezer too, because we've all accidentally left the freezer door open occassionally.
Many newer appliance models will cool down enough between three and five hours to place your food items inside. However, you should never place hot or warm items in your fridge, as doing this can raise the internal temperature of your appliance. Instead, allow your food to cool down to room temperature before placing it in your refrigerator.
However, if you had to move a fridge that shook around during transportation or while sitting on its side, you'll need to set it upright and leave it before plugging it in.
For example, if it jostled on the moving truck, allow at least a full hour for all the cooling liquids inside to settle before plugging in to get cold. Alternatively, if you or a moving company transported the fridge on its side, you should allocate approximately four hours to stand upright before plugging it in to operate.
How Long Does it Take a Refrigerator to Get Cold?
How long does it take a refrigerator to get cold? It will take somewhere between 4 to 24 hours for your refrigerator to reach 40 °F (4 °C) or lower, which is the safest temperature for your food that inhibits bacteria growth. The brand, model, and size of your fridge as well as how much food you have inside the fridge will effect how quickly it cools, including any energy-efficiency models.
How to Measure the Temperature in Your Refrigerator
You can measure your fridge temperature in different ways. So naturally, the easiest way to find the internal temperature is to buy a fridge thermometer and keep it inside to check the reading. Some models will sit easily on a shelf or in one of the drawers for easy reading.
However, if you cannot purchase a specialty thermometer, you can use a glass of water. Just put a glass of water inside your fridge near the back on the middle shelf and let it sit for 12 hours. Then, place a regular thermometer in the glass to read the temperature of the water. Most glass can be safely put in the freezer.
How to Speed Up the Cooling Process
There are ways you can help to speed up the cooling process if you want to use your fridge sooner, even after it has been unplugged. These tips and tricks can work with many sizes and models to help your fridge cool down quicker.
Some simple ways you can help a refrigerator get cold faster include:
- Leaving the doors closed
- Provide enough air circulation around the fridge
- Add ice inside
- Maintain a cooler room
- Ensure the coils and vents are dust-free
Let's look at each of these items in detail real quick, each of which effect how long it takes for a fridge to cool.
Leave the Doors Closed
Opening the doors will introduce warm air from the room into the fridge and allow colder air to escape. If you frequently open the door to check the temperature, it will take significantly longer to cool down completely.
Resist the urge and leave the doors closed, allowing your refrigerator to cool down efficiently. Leaving the doors open indefinitely by accident can lead to your refrigerator making clicking noises and ultimately malfunctioning from over-work.
Provide Enough Air Circulation Around the Fridge
Having enough air circulation around the back and sides of the fridge will help it run better and reach its optimal temperature faster. There should be a few inches on all sides of the appliance so that air can circulate and disperse any heat it emits from operating. Avoid installing the fridge as close to the wall as possible, so it can circulate air during operation.
Add Ice Inside
You can help speed up the cooling process by adding ice to the inside of your fridge. As the ice sits, it will cool the air around it and bring the temperature down faster. Just remember to have the ice in a bowl so it won’t make a mess inside as it melts.
Maintain a Cooler Room
If your refrigerator is in a cooler room, it will take less time to cool down. However, if you live in a warm climate, you can help by turning on an air conditioner in the kitchen to cool the environment around your fridge.
Ensure the Coils & Vents Are Dust-Free
You can help your refrigerator work more efficiently by keeping the coils and vents free of dust and dirt. Use a vacuum or brush to wipe away any debris that may be collecting in these areas to help your appliance cool down quicker.
That’s How Long it Takes a Refrigerator to Get Cold
When you need a refrigerator to get cold after moving it or purchasing a newer model or turning off vacation mode, it can take more time than older models. Alternatively, you can try the few tips and tricks above to help speed up this process if you want to use your fridge sooner than this.
On average, you should allocate between 12 and 24 hours for your fridge to reach its optimal temperature of 40 °F (4 °C) or below to keep your food cold and safe for storage. How long does it take a refrigerator to get cold? To be sure, plan for a full 24 hours in advance.