The Best Temperatures for Refrigerators and Freezers

Updated February 21, 2017

Regulating the temperature settings of your refrigerator and freezer is important. Higher temperatures will allow bacteria to grow. Bacterial growth causes food to spoil and can cause serious illness if unnoticed. Lower temperatures can make fresh food freeze. Freezing may make fruits and vegetables mushy and ruin flavour in other foods. Setting temperatures too low can also impact energy consumption.

Proper Temperature Setting

The standard required setting for a freezer is -17.8 degrees Celsius, or -18 degrees Celsius, or lower. This will ensure that food is kept frozen solid. For example, at proper temperature, ice cream should be kept brick solid. For a refrigerator, the temperature should be set between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or from 1 to 3 degrees Celsius. This temperature will inhibit bacteria growth without allowing fresh food to freeze.

Setting the Temperature

Most consumer model refrigerators and freezers do not come with a temperature selector. They have a knob or dial that lists a number scale or Low/Mid/High settings. These are usually preset to a medium setting at the factory. Refrigerator/freezer combinations usually have separate dials for each compartment.

Regulating Temperatures

Consumer model freezers and refrigerator units don't typically come equipped with thermometers. Good-quality thermometers can be purchased in most houseware sections of department or grocery stores. When placing thermometers, avoid locations near where the cold air enters the compartment. This air is typically colder than the average air temperature and will give a false reading. Remember that the temperature of the air offers an easy measurement, and it is the temperature of the food that matters.

Energy Usage

While the drawback of setting the temperature of a refrigerator is made obvious by the freezing of fresh food, the drawback for a freezer is harder to see. Once food is frozen solid, there is little damage that can be done with lower temperatures. However, keeping a freezer set to as little as 10 degrees lower can increase energy usage by 25 per cent. Food storage is one of the most energy consuming areas of our homes. Reducing this cost by 25 per cent will make a visible impact on your energy bill.

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About the Author

Emily Taylor has been writing professionally since 2001. Her work has appeared in "The Observer," the student newspaper for Notre Dame. She works as an instructor in English at Brown Mackie College. Taylor holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature with a minor in professional writing from Saint Mary's College.