With outdoor temperatures exceeding 100° this summer, you may experience problems with your most important household appliance: the refrigerator. During the hotter months, we always see an increase in refrigerator failures. Problems can range from refrigerators not cooling properly to complete breakdowns. Don’t let yourself be a victim of sudden refrigeration loss—follow these simple summer refrigerator temperature settings and maintenance tips.
What is the Ideal Temperature for my Refrigerator and Freezer?
Your refrigerator temperature setting should be 35°F for optimal performance. Anything below 32°F will cause your food to freeze, and anything above 40°F will allow harmful bacteria to grow. To ensure your temperature is set properly, consider purchasing a digital thermometer for your refrigerator. Monitor the temperature, and adjust the settings until the refrigerator holds at 35°F.
If you find that your vegetables are freezing in the refrigerator, move them into the drawers (crisper). If you don’t have enough room in the drawers, keep them as close to the front of the shelves as possible. Cold air circulates down the back of the refrigerator, so it tends to be the coldest place. A general rule of thumb: keep meats and perishable items near the back, and keep fruits and veggies in the front.
Your freezer temperature setting should be below 0°F. 32°F may be freezing, but it’s not enough to create a solid or deep freeze that you need for your food. It’s a good idea to keep foods that have reached their ‘Use By’ date (such as meats) stored below 0°F to ensure dangerous bacteria doesn’t grow.
Tips for Keeping Your Refrigerator Efficient During the Summer Heat
Ensure the Coils are Clean. Make sure your refrigerator coils are clean. Dirty coils can cause your refrigerator’s compressor to work harder than necessary, which can result in a sudden breakdown. The coils are located in one of three places: 1) on the back of the unit (completely exposed); 2) under the front toe panel; 3) accessible via the rear access panel. Locate your refrigerator’s coil, use a brush to remove any debris (being careful not to jar or damage the coils), and then vacuum the coil and fan to get rid of the dust, lint, and debris. This is something you can do on your own, but most appliance repair companies offer refrigerator maintenance at a reasonable cost.
Keep the Refrigerator and Freezer Full. It might sound crazy, but keeping your refrigerator and freezer full can reduce the amount of work it takes for your compressor to re-cool the unit’s temperature each time you open the door. An empty refrigerator won’t cool properly. You don’t want to over cram it, but keeping it about ¾ full of food will help it run more efficiently. Using jugs of water in lieu of food works great!
Maintain Your Garage Refrigerator. If you keep a fridge in the garage, and it is 100 degrees outside, it is going to work really hard to maintain temperature. Make sure the coils are clean and the seal is good. If the refrigerator feels hot to the touch on the exterior, or the metal strip between the refrigerator and freezer side is hot, you have got a problem that needs to be addressed before it goes kaput!
Purchase Drinks That Are Already Cold. When you’re shopping, purchase juice, water, and soda that is already cold (when possible). Putting warm food in the refrigerator/freezer heats up the temperature, which requires more work from your compressor to re-cool it down.
Ensure the Seal Works Properly. A refrigerator door that doesn’t seal properly can cause lots of problems. Make sure your refrigerator and freezer seals are working by placing a piece of paper in the edge of the door. Close the door. You should experience some resistance when you try to remove the paper. If you don’t, contact an appliance repair technician to replace the seal. A properly functioning seal will save you from more expensive breakdowns in the future.
Most importantly, ensure that you’re having routine maintenance on your refrigerator each year. This includes changing the water filter every six month, cleaning the coils annually (or every 6 months if you have pets or live in the country where there is generally more dust), and checking the temperature settings frequently. Preventative maintenance can save you from costly breakdowns and expensive food loss.