How Long Does It Take a Refrigerator to Get Cold?

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How long does it take a refrigerator to get cold?

A full-size refrigerator takes an average of 12 hours to cool to the FDA-recommended temperature of 40°F (4.4°C). However, depending on the brand, cooling time can take anywhere from 2 to 24 hours.

You’ve just bought a new refrigerator, and now you’re wondering how long before you can add your groceries.

Or perhaps there’s been a power outage and now it’s back. You’re left wondering how long it will take the fridge to get cold again.

Both of these common scenarios can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be. In this article, I break down the specifics of how long fridges take to get cold, including the different factors that affect cooling time.

Ready to learn more? Let’s dive right in.

How Long Do You Have to Wait to Store Food Inside a New Refrigerator?

If you’ve just installed a new refrigerator, you might be tempted to load it up with food immediately. But before you grab the milk carton, there are a few things you need to know.

First, you’ll want to let the fridge settle for 2-4 hours before plugging it in. The reason is that the pipes in refrigerators contain lubricant. Your fridge needs some time for the lubricant to settle and get into the right position so the compressor cycle can work as it should.

If your fridge was transported in an upright position, this should take around 2 hours. If it was transported on its side, this process will take around 4 hours.

This is a good time to clean the inside of the refrigerator. Use water and mild soap to wipe down the shelves and interior walls. Rinse well and let dry completely.

Once you’ve cleaned your refrigerator and let it settle, now it’s time to plug it in and let it cool. The cooling process can vary from 2 to 24 hours, depending on the make and model. I recommend letting the fridge run overnight.

The FDA recommends a temperature of 40°F (4.4°C) for proper food safety, but anywhere between 32°F (0°C) and 40°F (4.4°C) should work. Use a specialized thermometer or the digital control panel to help you check the temperature.

Once your fridge has reached the ideal temperature, you’re ready to start stocking it with your favorite foods!

What is the Right Temperature for Fridges?

The FDA recommends a temperature of 40°F (4.4°C) or lower for proper food safety. Most refrigerators allow a range of temperature settings. Freezers should be set to 32°F (0°C).

Ensuring your refrigerator cools to a food-safe temperature is important. Not doing so could result in warm food at best and food poisoning, at worst.

How to Know if Your Refrigerator Is Cool Enough to Store Food

Some refrigerators have a digital built-in control panel that displays the temperature inside. If your fridge does not have that feature, you can always check the temperature with a fridge thermometer.

This thermometer will come in handy long after the installation when the temperature naturally fluctuates. And if or when various components need replacing, the temperature inside the fridge will be your first indication something is off.

How Long Does It Take a Fridge to Get Cold After Plugging It In?

Vegetables and fruits inside the refrigerator

The best way to determine your refrigerator’s cooling time is to consult the user manual or installation guide. That being said, there are also some general guidelines that might help you.

The larger the fridge capacity, the longer it takes the refrigerator to get cold. In general, full-sized fridges take 12-24 hours to reach the proper temperature, whereas a mini fridge can reach the right temperature in as little as 2 hours.

Refrigerator Brand/Type Cooling Time

You may have a general idea of how long it takes a refrigerator to get cold, but what about specific brands or types of refrigerators? The cooling times of popular refrigerator brands are listed below.

Mini Fridge

  • Galanz- 4 hours
  • Frigidaire- 4 hours
  • Magic Chef- 4 hours

Top Freezer Refrigerator

  • Magic Chef- 4 hours
  • Frigidaire- 8 hours
  • Whirlpool- 24 hours

Bottom Freezer Refrigerator

  • LG Electronics- 2-3 hours
  • Samsung- 2 hours
  • Whirlpool- 24 hours
  • GE- 24 hours

Side-by-Side Refrigerator

  • Samsung- 2 hours
  • Frigidaire- 8-12 hours
  • Whirlpool- 24 hours

French Door Refrigerator

  • Samsung- 2 hours
  • LG Electronics- 2-3 hours
  • GE- 24 hours

As you can see, brands like Samsung and LG cool faster than Whirlpool or GE fridges. In the same vein, a mini fridge will reach the right temperature faster than a full-sized fridge.

Factors That Influence Refrigerator Cooling Times

You might be wondering which variables determine cooling speed. There are several factors that can make a difference. Let’s take a closer look at some of those variables:


Perhaps the most obvious variable is the size of the refrigerator. The larger the fridge, the longer the average cooling time.

Storage Area Temperature

If the refrigerator was stored in a warehouse without air conditioning or a hot truck, the fridge’s temperature will be higher to start with, taking longer to get fully cool.

Ambient Temperature

The room temperature can also affect a fridge’s cooling time. If you’re storing your fridge in a 68°F (20°C) kitchen, you won’t have any issues. But if you’re storing your refrigerator in a garage or outdoor kitchen, the fridge has to work harder to keep cool.

A hot room not only lengthens the cooling process, but the fridge could get overworked trying to cool food.

If you plan to keep your refrigerator in the garage, you might consider investing in fans, fridge insulation, or air conditioning to keep the fridge working properly. It’s also a good idea to avoid direct sunlight.

Open or Closed Fridge Door

How often you open the refrigerator can significantly affect the cooling time. It’s important to keep the door closed while the fridge cools. A fridge door left open lets in warmer air, extending the cooling time.

If you must open the door for some reason, keep it quick!

Empty or Full Refrigerator?

It’s best to allow a refrigerator to cool the first time without food inside. There are foods you can safely store in a cooling fridge (think eggs, ketchup, certain vegetables like bell peppers, etc.), but I would wait before putting food inside until the fridge is cold.

Once the refrigerator is cold enough to store food safely, keeping food cold is easier in a well-stocked fridge. There is less space for warm air to circulate inside the fridge.

Age and Condition of the Fridge

It may not surprise you to learn that a new refrigerator will cool faster than an older fridge, due to a difference in energy efficiency.

Refrigerators with dusty or dirty coils will take longer to reach the proper temperature. If there are faulty parts, it could also have an effect on how long it takes the refrigerator to get cold.

A blocked air vent, damaged door seal, or faulty fridge thermometer, compressor, condenser fan, fridge coils, or evaporator coils can all wreak havoc on a fridge’s cooling ability.

How Long Does a New Fridge Take to Get Cold After Being Off?

The initial cooling time can take up to 24 hours, depending on the model. A mini-fridge will take 4 hours to cool, on average. Of course, the time it takes to cool depends on the make and model of the refrigerator.

If there is a power outage for a few hours, it can take the same amount of time for your refrigerator to cool again. Obviously, the longer the outage, the longer it will take.

You should throw out perishable cold food after 4 hours without power, according to the USDA. Keep the door closed as much as possible to hold in the cold air, and place food toward the back of the refrigerator.

How Long Does It Take for a Fridge Freezer to Get Cold After Defrosting?

Unless you have a frost-free fridge freezer, you’ll have to defrost your freezer from time to time. Defrosting can be a long process, and that’s without considering the time it takes the refrigerator to get cold again.

How long it takes your fridge freezer to get cold depends on several factors. First, smaller fridges and mini-fridges will cool faster than large refrigerators.

The amount of frost also plays a role. If there was a lot of ice on the back wall, it will take longer to cool down.

Lastly, the temperature outside can influence the refrigerator’s cooling time. Obviously, the warmer it is outside, the longer it takes for the freezer or fridge to get cold.

If in doubt, you should estimate anywhere from 24 hours up to 48 hours for a working fridge to reach the right temperature.

How Long Does It Take For a Refrigerator to Reach Temperature Inside?

A new fridge will take longer to reach a cold temperature than an already cold fridge that loses power for a few minutes. Initially, a plugged-in fridge takes anywhere from 2-24 hours to get cold. After a brief outage of a few minutes, it might not take that long.

How to Speed Up the Cooling Process

If you have groceries that need a cold fridge stat, use the following tips to help your fridge cool faster so you store food sooner.

Keep Cold Air In and Warm Air Out

In other words, keep that fridge closed! When you open the door, cold air seeps out and raises the temperature inside. It may sound simple, but it’s one of the best ways to help a new fridge to get cold.

Keep the Coils Clean

Cleaning the coils is important. Dirty or dusty coils can impede a fridge’s ability to stay cold. I recommend cleaning the coils every six months to get the most out of your refrigeration appliance.

Check out the video below for a quick tutorial on how to painlessly clean refrigerator coils:

Ensure Good Airflow

When installing a new refrigerator, place it a few inches away from the wall. Leaving space around the fridge allows air to circulate and the condenser coils to dispense hot air freely. Good airflow will help the new fridge get cold faster.

Make Sure Your Fridge Is Plugged In Properly

Okay, this one may sound obvious, but it’s a matter of safety as well as efficiency.

A refrigerator should always be plugged into its own electrical outlet. That means no power strip with other appliances.

Additionally, the voltage rating must match what’s on the fridge’s rating plate. Using an outlet with the incorrect voltage is a fire hazard.

Manage the Room Temperature

Make sure the room temperature is not excessively hot. You might consider using the AC or a fan to reduce heat while the new fridge is cooling.

Use Ice

You can also help your fridge get ready quicker by using a bag of ice cubes. Place the ice on the refrigerator shelves and check on it periodically, as the ice will begin to thaw. Remember to close the door quickly to keep in the cool air.

Tips you need to know to speed up cooling process

Final Thoughts

Although I recommend checking your fridge’s user manual for specific times, you can plan to allow anywhere from 2-24 hours for your refrigerator to get cold.

For a mini fridge, you can allow 2-4 hours. For smaller fridges, you can estimate 12 hours, and for bigger fridges, you might need up to 24 hours.

If you’re looking for the perfect fridge, check out my articles on the best under-counter refrigerator, the best retro fridge, and the best mini freezer.