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How Long Does It Take For A Refrigerator To Get Cold?

by Kyle Klaver February 22, 2022

How Long Does It Take For A Refrigerator To Get Cold

Certain variables go into getting your refrigerator cold. Once the door is closed and the light goes out, you should be able to rely on your refrigerator to look after your food and groceries at an ideal temperature.

When you return to the fridge, you can expect a refreshingly cold air to hit you, that is when you know that your refrigerator is working properly. 

Our food and groceries are perishable so having a cold refrigerator is vital to ensuring that these items remain in the best condition.

Keeping them free of bacteria as well as mold relies on a low temperature and is best to reduce food waste. Learning how long it takes for a refrigerator to get cold and how it does it is useful knowledge. 

How Does A Refrigerator Get Cold?

The mechanism that a refrigerator uses involves a cooling unit that works rather like a heat pump. The cooling unit will draw away heat from a certain area to leave it somewhere else. What is left behind is cold air that should be ideal for keeping your food and groceries fresh.

That moment when you first open the refrigerator, it should be coldest at the bottom and warmest closer to the top. That is usually why fruit and vegetables are more likely to be stored at the bottom in a crisper drawer. 

This is rudimentary physics whereby the cold air is pushed down while the warmer air is pulled up. That is the basic mechanism of the fridge, for it to get cold enough to look after your food, it needs to draw heat away. 

The Variables In A Refrigerator

How quickly a refrigerator gets cold truly depends on several factors. These can include the size, brand, weight, and design of the refrigerator as well as how full it is with your food and groceries.

While a lot of manufacturers can claim to have the best cooling capability, this difference between brands may only amount to a few minutes. 

Room Temperature

Believe it or not, the room temperature of the room where the refrigerator is kept will affect how long it takes to get cold. The user manual should even tell you what an ideal room temperature should be for the refrigerator’s optimal performance. 

If the refrigerator is kept in a warm room, such as an outdoor kitchen or garage during summer, it can burn out. This is when the refrigerator is battling to keep the heat down inside when the outside temperature is so high. 

The refrigerator will overrun as it works even harder than it should to keep cool. You may want to invest in some appliances to lower the room temperature such as vents, air conditioning systems, or fans. Keeping the refrigerator away from direct sunlight can also help.


Though some manufacturers have figured this out, generally the bigger the fridge, the longer it should take to get cold. That is because there is more air to cool down in a large fridge which may require more time for the cooling unit to do the job. 

To compare, a mini-fridge may only take about four hours to get cold whereas a large full-sized refrigerator can take a full 24 hours.

Stocked Or Empty

Another factor for the cooling unit is how stocked the refrigerator is. If you are cooling the refrigerator for the first time then it is advisable to leave it empty to reach its optimum temperature. 

However, a fully-stocked refrigerator can get cold and run better than an empty one as there is less space for warm air to run into. With less warm air, the cooling unit should find it easier to reach and maintain the cold temperature. 

Opening Frequency

We have all been tempted to open the refrigerator door to cool down on a hot day. A lot of people can take a while to decide what they want to bring out of the refrigerator too while leaving the door open.

The more often you open the refrigerator door, the more cool air leaves. If you do want your refrigerator to get cold quickly then keep the door closed and do not let warm air in.

The Minimum Time For The Refrigerator To Get Cold

As a general rule, you should expect a refrigerator to take at least three hours to significantly cool down. With that in mind, it is ideal to give your refrigerator as much time as possible to get the temperature down to an optimum cool temperature. 

There are several ways that you can quicken the time it takes for your refrigerator to get cold. Simply keeping the refrigerator door closed can make a whole lot of difference to keeping warm air out which, if let in, would increase the cooling time. 

If you are performing maintenance on your refrigerator then you should be looking after the coils. If they get covered with a buildup of dirt or even get clogged then this will delay the cooling time as well. Maintenance should be done every six months so you should be prepared to empty your refrigerator once in a while.

The airflow that surrounds your refrigerator is also important. The appliance should be kept at least an inch away from the wall. Those coils at the back also need a bit more space so ensure there is a two-inch gap between the refrigerator and the wall. 

Even something as simple as ensuring that the appliance is plugged into its dedicated electric outlet can make a difference. If it is using a power strip then that may mean less power gets to the appliance. 

Also, the voltage on the electrical outlet has to match that of the refrigerator’s rating plate. If it fails to do so then, not only will your refrigerator fail to cool down ideally but, it will also be a fire hazard.

One simple tip is to leave a bag of ice in the fridge while it is cooling for the first time or after a power outage. This is best done right at the start of the cooling process and you should let the ice melt down for a few hours. 

It is best not to check the bag regularly as you will be letting the warm air in. Once that ideal temperature has been reached, it should be safe for you to put your food and groceries into the refrigerator. 

The Maximum Time For The Refrigerator To Get Cold

If you are wondering what the maximum time you should wait for your refrigerator to get cold is then you should likely leave it a day. That’s right, give your refrigerator the full 24 hours and it should certainly be cold enough by then. 

This should be enough time to remove the heat from the insulation, plastic, and the metals that form the interior. That is the same time to consider for the refrigerator to get cold whatever the circumstances, whether it is brand new or lost power for over a day or so after a power outage. 

On average, a full-size refrigerator should take 12 hours to cool down sufficiently as some designs can take a lot longer. 

A general rule is that the smaller the fridge, the less time it will need to get cold. For instance, mini-fridges have a reduced cooling time of only four hours. Once the freezers have gotten to an ideal freezing point for your frozen food, the rest of the refrigerator should follow. 

How Can You Tell When The Refrigerator Has Gotten Cold?

This may sound simple yet there are certain ways you can tell when your refrigerator has got cold. The first is sensing the cold air that comes from the refrigerator whenever you open the door.

Another method does not even mean opening the door as you can trust a digital display to show you the temperature that the refrigerator is running on. 

How To Find Out What The Cooling Time Of Your Refrigerator Should Be

An easy way to determine your refrigerator’s cooling time is to check the brand and model number. The information should be available from the manufacturer either online or in the user manual that comes with the refrigerator. 

The Ideal Refrigerator Temperature

When a refrigerator is turned on, you should expect it to start at room temperature which is around 70 °F (21 °C). Once the refrigerator has reached its ideal temperature for storing your food and groceries, the individual compartments should hit the magical 40 °F (4.5 °C) mark. 

A significantly warmer temperature than that and you are at risk of spoiling your food, especially dairy products and meat. While that is for your fridge, your freezer should be at 5 °F (-15 °C)

Final Thoughts

It can take your refrigerator at least three hours to get cold though the time can vary between designs and depending on certain factors. The cooling time can take into account the size of the refrigerator, how efficient the cooling unit is, and how often the door is closed. 

The room temperature can also have an impact on the cooling time, as well as how much power the refrigerator is getting.

If you were considering a maximum time for a refrigerator to get cold then a full day should suffice. Whether this is your first time with a brand new refrigerator or recovering after a power outage. The full 24 hours should be enough time for warm air to be displaced so you are ready to stock up the refrigerator.

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