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How Long Does a Freezer Take To Get Cold?

When you buy a new freezer or when you plug yours back in after defrosting, the question that will naturally cross your mind is “how long until it gets cold”. When can you start placing things in the freezer, and what do you need to be mindful of? What can you do to help your freezer get colder sooner?

Here’s everything the impatient among you need to know about the amount of time it takes for a freezer to get cold. 

How Long Does a Freezer Take To Get Cold?

On average, it takes a freezer about four hours to get cold, that is to reach the recommended temperature of -18°C (0°F). However, the cooling time depends on several factors, including the freezer type, brand and room temperature. 

An upright freezer takes about four to four and a half hours to get cold. A chest freezer will get cold in about five hours, while a fridge-freezer combo will need about 12 hours to reach the proper temperature.

If you want to find out the specific cooling time for your freezer, check your instruction manual or Google the brand and model and find the installation guide or product manual. In it, find the Cooldown Period section and see what the recommended cooling time is. You can also call the manufacturer’s customer service line, and see what they recommend.

How Long Does a Freezer Take To Get Cold After Being Off?

After a freezer has been turned off, it can take anywhere from 4 to 24 hours for it to get cold again. It will depend on freezer size, room temperature and the initial internal temperature.

Whether or not you planned to turn the freezer off, or whether you had to do it due to a power cut will also impact freezer cooling times. Make sure to keep the freezer door closed during power outages to allow it to retain cold air, especially if there is still food inside.

How Cold Should a Freezer Be?

Keep your freezer at -18°C (0°F) to ensure your food remains frozen and safe for an extended period. If the freezer temperature gets above that temperature, it can jeopardise the safety and quality of frozen food, while temperatures lower than this range may unnecessarily increase energy consumption and potentially affect food quality. 

Maintaining the recommended temperature helps preserve food quality, texture, and flavour and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria.

How Long Does a Freezer Take To Get Cold

Factors That Impact Freezer Cooling Times

You may be wondering why your freezer is taking such a long time to cool down, or why some freezers take longer to cool down than others. Here are the different factors affecting the time your freezer needs to reach the recommended temperature:

  • Size. Bigger freezers take longer to cool down. The more space it provides, the longer it will take for the freezer to reach the appropriate temperature. There is simply more space to cool down. 
  • Standalone vs. fridge/freezer combo. Standalone freezers usually cool down faster than their combined counterparts. They take about 4 hours to reach the recommended temperature, while a combined fridge-freezer can take up to 24 hours. This is because a combined fridge/freezer has two jobs, while a standalone freezer only has one, so to speak. 
  • Starting temperature. The temperature of the freezer when it was first plugged in also affects cooling time. If it was previously stored in a warm space, it could take longer for it to reach the recommended temperature, because the initial temperature inside was higher.
  • Room temperature. If your freezer is in a warm room or near sunny windows, its cooling period can be extended due to the surrounding heat. It’s best to store it in a room with no heat sources to ensure it cools down as fast as possible.
  • Age and condition. As freezers get older, they become prone to malfunctions, become less efficient, and take a longer time to cool down. As the appliance’s condition worsens, its performance degrades as well. For example, freezers with faulty thermostats or evaporator fan motors, or ones with leaky seal systems and damaged gaskets can take a long time to cool down.
  • Empty vs. stocked. It is recommended to keep the freezer around 80% full to ensure the temperature inside it is stable. An overstocked or understocked freezer may take a longer time to cool down. Overstocking a freezer can cause airflow restrictions, while understocking it means there is less thermal mass (i.e. frozen items) to help maintain a consistent temperature.
  • Door-opening frequency. Try to keep the door closed while the freezer is cooling down. Each time you open the door, warm air enters the freezer and prolongs the time needed for it to cool down to the required temperature. 
  • Brand. The cooling period also depends on the brand of your freezer and the technology used in the manufacturing process. High-quality freezers from reputable brands may have features that facilitate faster cooling and better temperature maintenance, such as advanced insulation and efficient compressors.

How To Make a Freezer Cool Down Faster

While the freezer needs a certain amount of time to cool down, there are some things you can do to make it reach the desired temperature somewhat faster:

  • Avoid opening the door. The best thing you can do to speed up a freezer’s cooling time is to keep the freezer door firmly closed. Wait until the suggested cooling period is over and only then open the door to check if said temperature has been reached. Place an appliance thermometer inside for an easy temperature check.
  • Match the voltage of the outlet to the freezer’s needs. A freezer will use a lot of electricity while cooling down. This means that the voltage of the freezer needs to match the voltage on your outlet. Make sure that the freezer is plugged into its own power outlet, and not into an extension cord or a power strip. 
  • Make sure the room is cool. A colder room means that the freezer will cool down faster, but the difference isn’t as noticeable. However, make sure that the freezer isn’t in a hot room or a  room with a heat source, as the cooling period will then extend significantly. Try not to place your freezer or fridge next to the oven, as that will just make it more difficult for them to maintain the proper temperature. 
  • Ice cubes. Put ice cubes or dry ice in the freezer to help it cool down faster. It will help increase the thermal mass and speed up the cooling process. Don’t do it when you first plug the freezer in, as the ice will melt. Wait for it to get cool, and place the ice inside after 3 hours of working time have elapsed. Try to minimise door opening times while doing this. 
  • Ensure the right temperature setting. Make sure that the freezer is set to the right temperature. If you set the temperature too low (below -18°C), it will take longer to cool down, while also increasing the possibility of freezer burn on your food later.
  • Last but not least – be patient. Wait for the freezer to reach its operating temperature and don’t open the door until at least four hours have passed. After that, check the appliance thermometer or the built-in thermometer to see if the temperature is where it should be.

Will An Empty Freezer Get Cold?

An empty freezer will get cold, but not as fast as one with items in it. This is because there is less thermal mass to maintain temperature. 

When you open the freezer door, warm air enters and heats up the empty space more quickly than it would in a stocked freezer. As a result, the freezer’s compressor must work harder and for a longer period of time to lower the temperature, which prolongs the cooling process.

Note that you shouldn’t put frozen food in a semi-cool freezer. It can either melt or spoil. Instead, use ice packs or dry ice to fill it up until it gets cold enough to put food inside.

When Can You Put Food in a New Freezer?

Only put food in a new freezer after it reaches -18°C (0°F), but you can also wait a bit longer to be on the safe side. This is especially important if the food isn’t already frozen solid. 

Check the temperature on the built-in digital control panel that displays the temperature if your freezer has one, or buy an appliance thermometer and place it in the freezer to make sure the temperature is right.

If you put food in the freezer before it gets cold enough, it can spoil or start to melt. 

Can You Put Food In a New Freezer Straight Away?

You shouldn’t put food in a new freezer as soon as you get it. You should clean it first, then allow it to reach its operating temperature, which is at -18°C (0°F). 

While it may be tempting to stock your new freezer as soon as it arrives, plan to start putting food in it the day after. This will give you plenty of time to clean it, plug it in and give it plenty of time to cool down and get used to its new home. 

How Long Can a Freezer Remain Cold Without Power?

In general, a closed, well-insulated and tightly sealed freezer can keep food safely frozen for about 24 to 48 hours. However, the time frame depends on multiple factors, such as the freezer’s insulation, the outside temperature, how often the door is opened, and the initial temperature inside the freezer.

During a power outage, it’s crucial to keep the freezer door closed as much as possible to retain the cold air inside and prevent warm air from entering. Food can last in a freezer without power for quite a long time, if you follow this simple tip. In case of a prolonged power outage, consider transferring perishable items to a cooler with ice packs or dry ice to extend their safe storage time.

Wrapping Up 

Now that you know exactly how long you have to wait for your freezer to get cold, you can plan its defrosting and cleaning schedules better. You can also try speeding things up with some of my tips, but always make sure the temperature in the freezer is where it should be before you start placing any food inside. 


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