The fridge freezer wins the award for the hardest-working kitchen appliance. It is constantly in use, works around the clock to make sure our food supply is maintained, and doesn't need the same maintenance as an oven or kettle does. If you think yours might be slacking off, follow these tips to make sure that it isn't blowing hot and cold.

The Knowhow

  • A fridge should have a temperature of between 37°F(3°C) and 40°F (5°C).  Any higher and the food will go off, any lower and you’ll lose nutrients and fresh food can be ruined.
  • The ideal freezer temperature is 0°F (-18°C) which will store food safely and stop bacteria forming
  • It’s a good idea to buy a fridge thermometer and check the temperature if you are not sure it the thermostat is working efficiently
  • If you adjust the thermostat, it generally will take 24 hours to adjust the temperature

To measure the temperature:

  • Fridge: put the thermometer in a glass of water. Check the temperature during the first door opening after not using the fridge for 8 hours or more (such as overnight).
  • Freezer: put thermometer between two bags of vegetables and as above check after 8 hours or more.

If you suspect there is something wrong with your fridge freezer? Keep an eye out for:

  • Your fridge partially freezing food or food feels warm
  • Clusters of ice forming on the walls of the fridge section (this is fine for the freezer section, although the build-up should not be more than 1/4 inch)
  • Melting ice in the freezer section
  • Food going off before the expiration date given on the label
  • Condensation forming on the fridge interior (or dribbling down the outside)

If you are fairly certain there is a problem with the temperature, follow the steps below before booking a repair:

  • Check the thermostat against the 'ideal' temperature conditions listed above; the gauge is usually found on the inside compartment on the top shelf, and can be turned clockwise/anti-clockwise to turn the temperature up or down.
  • Check that the plug or electrical socket isn't at fault and the electrical fuse in your household fuse box; this may have flipped and may need switching back.
  • Listen out for the compressor fan inside your appliance (should be humming). If you can't hear a soft humming sound, then the part may need replacing and the problem may have nothing to do with the thermostat.
  • Remove any excess clutter from the surrounding area (this may clog the cooling fans and wreak havoc with the temperature gauge).
  • Defrost the fridge and freezer compartments (a build-up of ice may be clogging the cooling vents).

If you have a "frost free" freezer which appears to have stopped working, you may have an issue with the compressor pump.

You can normally find the pump at the back of your appliance - it resembles a round black "tank" you should be able to feel warmth coming from it, but be careful when touching it to avoid burns.  If there is no heat and the unit doesn't feel like it's gently vibrating it has stopped working. 

This may be caused by a faulty switch, but if the pump needs replacing it may be more economical to consider looking at a new energy-effecient model rather than repair.

Always refer to the manufacturer's manual for specific details.

Updated On:

Jan 28, 2013

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