The mystery of the fridge setting seems to have eluded some people well into adulthood. If you think 1 is the coldest setting because it’s the lowest number, you’d be forgiven because hey! That makes sense, doesn’t it?
The number on a refrigerator’s setting dial indicates the amount of refrigerant used and circulated. So for fridges with temperature settings 1-7, 7 will use the most refrigerant, thus being the coldest setting.
That’s right, the higher numbers are colder on a refrigerator.
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Understanding Fridge Settings
Coldest is not always the best when it comes to your refrigerator. Each number on the settings dial is used for different fridge needs.
The 1 and 2 setting will use the least amount of refrigerant and will cause the “warmest” internal temperature, usually around 39 F or 4 C. For a new fridge, setting 1 is a great starting point to begin cooling the interior.
Afterwards, if the fridge is lightly stocked and rarely open, the number 2 setting can be used to keep things at the perfect temperature.
This is considered the optimal range for most household refrigerators. An average-sized family who opens and closes the fridge daily and has it moderately stocked shouldn’t need a higher setting than this.
Note: Some refrigerators only go up to 5 instead of 7. Consider setting 3 to be the midline for refrigerators whose settings only go up to 5.
The higher settings should be used if your fridge is packed to the brim or has several items that will spoil quickly. But remember that most manufacturers don’t recommend running your fridge on the highest setting for too long as it could lead to frost build-up.
More items in the fridge means there is less space for the cool air to circulate around, which is why the higher settings are safe to use in these instances.
Note: This would be setting number 5 on some fridge models.
Finding Your Optimal Fridge Temperature
While the above recommendations are considered the norm, they really are simply suggestions. Your fridge may behave differently, especially if it’s older. Try these tips to figure out where you should keep yours set at.
If you keep your milk in the fridge door and notice condensation on it every time you open your fridge, don’t assume you need to change the setting. The fridge door is going to be the warmest area of the fridge.
Instead, move dairy and meat products near the top of the fridge. The top back is going to be the coldest section. Reserve door space and bottom shelves for condiments, fruits, and vegetables.
Space out your items and try not to cram too much at the top. This will hinder the airflow.
Check For Frost/Condensation
Condensation on your milk carton isn’t much cause for concern, but visible condensation on your drawers or fridge sides means that you need to set it to a colder/higher setting. If you notice excessive condensation, you should check the seal to make sure it’s closing right.
Alternatively, you may need to lower the setting if you notice frost on the top of your fridge or on any items you’ve kept on the top shelf. Too much frost or ice buildup will prevent proper circulation.
Invest in a Thermometer
If your fridge doesn’t have one built in, buy a magnetic thermometer to stick on the inside. Your fridge should be between 33F – 39F or 0C – 4C.
Because older refrigerators may not run as efficient, sometimes the highest or lowest settings can make the internal temperature go beyond this range.
If you have a temperature readout on your fridge but aren’t sure if it’s correct, purchasing an extra one is never a bad idea just to double check. They are fairly cheap & easy to use.
It can be confusing to know which is colder on a fridge, 1 or 7. But be assured that higher numbers indicate more cooling. You may need to play around with the settings on your fridge to find the perfect temperature that works for you and your household.