What Temperature Should A Freezer Be (& How To Set It)?

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I absolutely love my freezer. It’s great for helping me store meat safely when I stock up during the sales, and perfect for storing ready meals that allow me to throw something quick and easy into the oven on a busy evening.

This appliance is a workhorse, however, it’s very easy to neglect it or not optimise it to maximise its results. Especially when it comes to setting and monitoring the appliance’s temperature.

0°F (-18°C) is the ideal temperature for freezing food in a chest freezer or traditional front opening freezer. This was set by the International Institute of Refrigeration in 1964. However, you can freeze foods at lower temperatures than this, or even deep freeze foods at -22°F to -58°F.

The temperature of your freezer is essential to preventing food spoilage and foodborne illness.

Most of us have hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of food stored in our freezer.

As such it’s important we set and monitor the temperature of the freezer to avoid having to throw any food items out.

What Should A Freezer Temperature Be?

Whether you have a traditional front opening freezer or a chest freezer, the appliances temperature should be set to 0°F (-18°C) or below according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Setting your appliance to these temperatures removes the possibility of bacteria growth causing foodborne illnesses while also maintaining the food’s nutritional value.

It’s worth noting that you can store food in a freezer set as low as -22°F to -58°F (-30°C to -50°C). This is known as deep freezing, and is used for storing food long term (one year or more).

While storing foods at lower temperatures can help maintain nutritional value, it will also result in your freezer having to work harder and a significantly higher draw on power.

Personally, I set my freezer to -5°F and rotate the food in my freezer regularly to ensure everything is consumed within one year of being frozen to maximise the nutritional quality.

While defrosting food from -5°F can take slightly longer, there’s no significant strain on the appliance and not a drastic increase in power consumption.

I’ve also found that storing food at -5°F gives me a small window of time before foods naturally defrost should my freezer fail at any point – more on how I’m alerted to this later in post.

How To Find The Temperature Inside Your Freezer

By this point, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of – well, what temperature is my freezer set to now and do I need to adjust it?

Some freezers have built-in digital thermometers that show the appliances tempreature at any given time.

However, in some cases you may have to manually check and monitor the tempreature of your freezer using a thermometer.

If you’re on a budget then these basic fridge and freezer thermometers are perfect.

However, if you’re looking to be able to monitor the temperature of your freezer with ease and have alarms sound if your freezer goes above a certain temperature then investing in this slightly more expensive thermometer may be the way to go.

Once you’ve purchased the thermometer of your choice you’ll want to go ahead and set it up so it can monitor the temperature inside your appliance.

To do this place the thermometer into your freezer and set an alarm for at least two hours.

Once the two hours are up, go back and read the temperature shown on your thermometer.

How To Monitor The Temperature Inside Your Freezer

As I mentioned back in the introduction, you’re likely storing hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of food in your freezer.

As such it’s important to monitor the temperature inside your freezer to minimise the amount of food spoilage or loss and of course, minimise the risk of any food-born illnesses that could cause food poisoning etc.

While placing a basic thermometer into your freezer and setting an alarm or reminder to check the temperature every day or couple of days is an affordable way to help minimise any loss it’s not the best way.

For this reason, I highly suggest investing in a slightly more expensive freezer thermometer that works with a Bluetooth monitor and alarm that will sound should the freezer reach above a pre-set temperature.

This way you’ve never got to remember to check the temperature of your freezer (let’s face it we all have enough to remember!) yet, you’ll still be alerted if there’s an issue with your appliance.

How To Set A Freezer Temperature

If you’ve noticed your freezer’s temperature is set incorrectly, or have purchased a new freezer then you’ll need to set / adjust the appliance’s temperature settings to ensure it can function correctly.

To do this you’ll want to find the freezer’s control panel.

This panel is located in different locations for different freezer manufacturers/models, as such if it’s not clear where it’s located it’s worth referencing back to the appliance’s manual.

Once the control panel has been located you’ll want to adjust the dial to your preferred temperature.

Digital control panels are often easier to set since they display the desired temperature in either fahrenheit or celsius and can be adjusted using an up or down button.

Budget-friendly freezers or older appliances often have a control dial and no display.

A freezer control dial will often have numbers ranging from one to five. In this case number five is colder on a freezer than number one.

As such I recommend setting the temperature to number three on the dial and checking the temperature of the appliance after two hours (or longer if your appliance is new and your setting the temperature for the first time).

If you’re unhappy with the temperature of your appliance after this then you can go ahead and turn the dial to four, and monitor again before going up to five if required.

What To Do If Your Freezer Temperature Goes Above 0°F

With all that then, what should you actually do if the alarm sounds alerting you to the fact that the temperature of your freezer has gone above 0°F (-18° C).

Well, from this moment onwards you’re on the clock. Your food will begin thawing out and the quality will begin to diminish.

As such it’s important to find the cause of the issue and fix it as quickly as possible.

If fixing your freezer is not something you believe can be resolved within two hours then you’re going to need to consider how you store your frozen food safely until the appliance can either be repaired or replaced.

If you have another freezer then the quickest and easiest solution is to move as much food as possible there.

However, if you don’t have this luxury you’ll want to rely on cool bags, ice blocks and ice bags to keep your food as cold as possible.

Depending on what you have available it may also be worth considering what foods are worth saving and what foods you’re happy to let go of to ensure you preserve the most valuable foods.

For example, a family pack of chicken breast has a significantly higher value than a loaf of bread. Yet, when stored correctly they both take up a similar amount of space in the freezer.

As such in my personal opinion it’s best to let go of the bread (which could be replaced for $1 – $3) and find space in the freezer for the family pack of chicken breast (which would cost circa $20 to replace).

Common Causes Of A Freezer Temperature Going Above 0°F

Given that time is of the essence when it comes to repairing your freezer, here are some of the most common issues I’ve found cause the temperature of the appliance to go above 0°F (-18° C);

Opening The Freezer Door Frequently

Opening your freezer allows warm air to enter and cold air to escape. As such it’s no surprise that your freezer may rise above 0°F (-18° C) during these times.

To minimise the amount of cold air lost, make sure you only keep the freezer door open for as long as necessary and securely close the door once you are finished.

Faulty Temperature Control

A faulty temperature control will not be able to trigger the appliances fan circuits and compressor, causing temperature fluctuations.

In most cases, a temperature control (sometimes referred to as a thermostat) can be replaced either as a DIY or by a trades professional (depending on the age, manufacturer and model of appliance)

Faulty Door Seal

A door seal does exactly that. Seals the door shut to prevent any of the cold air from the freezer from leaking out.

However, over time this seal can get damaged and worn. Luckily, this is an easy and affordable freezer part to replace either as a DIY or by a trades professional.

Clogged / Dirty Compressor Coils

This is a common fault you see in freezers that have been set to temperatures significantly below 0°F (-18° C).

Clogged or dirty compressor coils will no longer be able to absorb the heat cycle in your freezer.

Cleaning them should fix the issue, and luckily this can often be done safely as a DIY.

Where the compressor coils are located inside your freezer will be dependent on the make and model of the appliance but should be shown on the instruction manual (which you should be able to find online if you no longer have the paper copy).

Blocked Sensors / Vents

Blocked sensors are unable to detect higher temperatures, while blocked ducts will prevent any warm air from leaving the freezer.

As such when this happens the appliance is unable to control its internal temperature.

Luckily, you can clean a freezer’s sensors and vents yourself, and doing so should fix the issue.

Where the sensors and vents are located inside your freezer will be dependent on the make and model of the appliance but should be shown on the instruction manual (which you should be able to find online if you no longer have the paper copy).

Defective Evaporator Fan Motor

If your freezer’s evaporator fan motor becomes faulty then it will be unable to circulate the cold air inside the freezer.

This will then lead to a temperature spike.

This is a bigger issue than some of the others on this list and as such, you’ll need a qualified tradesperson to help fix this issue.

This may be something the manufacturer of the appliance can help with if the freezer is still under warranty.

However, if your freezer is old (more than eight years) then it may be more economical to replace the appliance rather than fix it where possible.

Faulty Defrost Timer, Thermostat, Or Heater

The three components are responsible for maintaining a normal defrost cycle.

If defective, they’ll cause a prolonged defrost period, raising the temperature.

This is a bigger issue than some of the others on this list and as such, you’ll need a qualified tradesperson to help fix this issue.

This may be something the manufacturer of the appliance can help with if the freezer is still under warranty.

However, if your freezer is old (more than eight years) then it may be more economical to replace the appliance rather than fix it where possible.