How long does it take a refrigerator to get cold?

Purchasing a new refrigerator or moving an old one can bring up a crucial question: how long does it take for a refrigerator to get cold? Understanding the cooling process is important to ensure your food stays fresh and safe. This article explores the factors that influence how long it takes for a refrigerator to reach its optimal temperature and provides tips to expedite the cooling process.

General Cooling Time

On average, a refrigerator takes about 24 hours to reach its optimal temperature after being plugged in. However, this can vary depending on several factors including the brand, model, size, and whether it’s a new unit or has been moved recently.

Factors Influencing Cooling Time

1. Type of Refrigerator

  • Standard Refrigerators: Most standard household refrigerators take between 12 to 24 hours to reach the ideal temperature of 37-40°F (3-4°C) for the fridge compartment and 0°F (-18°C) for the freezer.
  • Mini Fridges: Smaller units generally cool faster, often within 4 to 12 hours, due to their compact size and reduced internal space.
  • Commercial Refrigerators: These can vary widely but generally take longer due to larger capacities and more complex cooling systems.

2. Initial Temperature

If your refrigerator was stored in a hot environment before being plugged in, it will take longer to cool down. Conversely, if it was stored in a cool place, the cooling process will be quicker.

3. Ambient Temperature

The temperature of the room where the refrigerator is placed significantly impacts its cooling time. A refrigerator in a hot room will take longer to cool than one in a cooler room.

4. Refrigerator Size and Contents

A larger refrigerator with more cubic feet of space will naturally take longer to cool down than a smaller one. Additionally, an empty refrigerator cools faster than one filled with warm or room-temperature items.

5. Frequency of Door Opening

Constantly opening and closing the refrigerator door lets warm air in, prolonging the time it takes to reach the optimal temperature. It’s best to keep the door closed as much as possible during the initial cooling phase.

Tips to Speed Up the Cooling Process

  1. Initial Setup:
    • When setting up a new refrigerator, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Some models might have specific guidelines for the initial cooling period.
  2. Optimal Placement:
    • Place the refrigerator in a well-ventilated area away from heat sources like stoves, ovens, or direct sunlight.
  3. Leave Space Around the Unit:
    • Ensure there is adequate space around the refrigerator for air circulation. Most manufacturers recommend a gap of at least a few inches on all sides.
  4. Minimize Door Openings:
    • Avoid opening the refrigerator door frequently during the initial cooling period. This helps maintain a consistent internal temperature.
  5. Gradual Loading:
    • If you need to load the refrigerator immediately, do so gradually. Adding a large amount of warm food at once can significantly slow down the cooling process.
  6. Check the Temperature:
    • Use a refrigerator thermometer to monitor the internal temperature. This can help you ensure that the refrigerator reaches the optimal temperature range.

Understanding Refrigerator Settings

Modern refrigerators often come with digital displays that allow you to set the temperature precisely. For older models, you might have to use a dial. Regardless of the method, the ideal settings are typically:

  • Fridge Compartment: 37-40°F (3-4°C)
  • Freezer Compartment: 0°F (-18°C)


The time it takes for a refrigerator to get cold can vary, but generally, you can expect it to reach its optimal temperature within 24 hours. Understanding the factors that influence this cooling period, such as the type of refrigerator, ambient temperature, and initial setup, can help you better manage your expectations and optimize the cooling process. By following the tips provided, you can ensure that your refrigerator cools down efficiently, keeping your food fresh and safe.

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