So you have a new fridge--it's in your home, all set up, and you're ready to fill it with all your favorite foods. But when is it safe to do so? You wouldn't want to fill it up only to find that your food has spoiled because your fridge isn't cold enough yet.
Let's talk about how long it takes for a fridge to reach proper coolness and how you can know when it's safe to store your goods.
How Long Does it Take for a New Fridge to Cool?
In terms of a new refrigerator's cooling time, most fridges are fully cooled within 24 hours. However, mini fridges will be ready quicker due to their small size. They should be fully cooled within 4 hours or so. (1)
As the table illustrates below, the cooling time for similar fridges can have vastly different cooling times. Don't be intimidated by the large range.
Some companies played it safe and put 24 hours, while others took the time to actually figure out how long it takes (closer to 4-8 hours).
Place a glass of cold water in your fridge and place a thermometer in it. Once it reaches 35-40°F, you should be clear to fill it with food.
How Can I Determine My Fridge's Cooling Time?
When wondering how long your fridge will take to reach the proper temperature, you should always refer to the manual that comes with the refrigerator. Companies make their fridges differently, so you can't count on a singular unit of measure to know when the fridge will be fully cooled.
Many variables factor into refrigeration cooling, including outside ambient temp, indoor temp, and climate class (2), among others.
Thus, if you buy your new fridge in the peak of the summer, it will most likely take longer to fully cool down rather than if you buy it in the dead of winter. The climate you live in affects the fridge's temperature as well.
Subsequently, you should always consider such determinants when figuring out your fridge's cooling time. If you want to stay on the safe side, follow the general rule of 24 hours.
If you want, you can put a thermometer in your fridge to ensure it's at a good temperature, i.e. 40° F. (3)
How to Speed Up the Cooling Process
The goal is to make the fridge colder. Two measures in particular will help you attain your goal quicker.
- Make sure the area around the fridge is cool.
If it's hot outside, maybe try keeping the A/C on (if you have it). You want the environment around the fridge to be as cool as possible, or at least as cool as you can physically handle. (Please don't get frostbite trying to speed up your fridge's cooling process.)
- Try not to open the doors to your fridge while it's cooling.
Each time you open the doors, you let the cold air out. It's kinda like when you go to the grocery store and open one of the freezer doors; you feel a rush of cold air escape from the freezer. The freezer becomes that much less cold each time someone opens the doors.
If we apply the same principle to your new fridge, each time you open it, you're that much farther away from it being cool! So resist the temptation to open it as much as you can. Maybe focus on pantry meals for the day!
Pro Tip: Buy some ice and put it in the freezer or fridge. This will definitely speed up the process!
In the end, though you may want to expedite the cooling time, it's best for health reasons to wait until the fridge is at a food safe temperature before you utilize the appliance.
What Variables Determine Cooling Speed?
1. Ambient Temperature
The temperature around the fridge, as we've talked about, will affect how quickly your fridge cools. The warmer the air is around the fridge, the slower the fridge will cool. The colder, the quicker. Thus, summer isn't the ideal time to get a new fridge unless you have A/C.
2. Fridge Capacity
The bigger the fridge, the longer it will take to cool. More surface area means more time until each nook and cranny is filled with cool air. Smaller fridges, like mini fridges, will be ready much quicker than full-sized ones.
3. Fridge Insulation
Depending on how insulated the fridge is, the cooling time may be longer or shorter. Fridge insulation allows for more efficient, prolonged cooling. Thus, the better insulation your fridge has, the quicker it should cool down. (4)
If your fridge is in, say, a garage, then it will take on the temperature of the outdoors more quickly. This could be good or bad for cooling, depending on the weather. If it's winter or a cooler day, you're in luck. If it's summer, especially in a warmer climate, you may want to wait longer to use your fridge to allow for proper cooling. (5)
When is it Safe to Put Food in the Fridge?
How Long Does it Take a Fridge to get Cold after a Power Outage?
Obviously it's not ideal when your power goes out. However, in the case that it does and you're worried about your food in the fridge and/or freezer, follow these guidelines to ensure you don't get sick whilst trying to salvage your food.
When the power goes out...
According to the FDA (7)
1. An unopened refrigerator will stay cold for around 4 hours.
2. A freezer will keep cold for a full 48 hours if it is full and unopened. If it's only half full, it will last about 24 hours.
When the power comes back on...
Check the temperature of the freezer. (8)
1. If the freezer is 40°F or below, the food is safe to eat.
2. If you're unsure of the temperature, check each item in the fridge to scope out the situation and ensure food safety. If packages still have ice on them, they're most likely fine.
Most importantly, use your own judgement to determine which items are still safe to eat and which ones should be tossed.
How Long Should I Wait Before Plugging in a New Fridge?
Once your fridge is set in place, wait 3 hours before plugging it in. (9) Once the 3 hours have passed, plug it in and allow it to cool before use.
Having a new fridge is exciting! Whether it's brand new or new to you, it's always nice to have a functioning food-cooling contraption.
And now that you know the cooling times, temperatures, and variables surrounding a fridge's cooling, you can feel ready and prepared to set up your new appliance! Happy refrigerating!