How Long Should a Refrigerator Run Before Shutting Off?

How long should a refrigerator run before shutting off? Typically, a refrigerator should run for about 4 to 8 hours before shutting off. Then, it goes into the defrost cycle.

How long should a refrigerator run before shutting off?

It helps to keep in mind when the appliance runs too long so that you can tell when your fridge is overdoing it

Newer model refrigerators have a design to run for 80 to 90 percent of the time. In this article, we will give you the 411s of how long refrigerators run, factors that affect the run time, and what to do when your refrigerator keeps running. 

How Long Should a Refrigerator Run Before Shutting Off? What You Need to Know

While an existing refrigerator should run for about four to eight hours before shutting off, a new refrigerator is different. When you install a new refrigerator, you must allow it to run for about 24 hours before it cools enough for food storage.

So, you will have to wait that long, especially if the refrigerator has an ice maker. The same rule applies if you are wondering how long a freezer should run before shutting off.

If your refrigerator is already cold, it will take less time to run before shutting off. It will run for about thirty minutes to one hour to cool even more and shut off.

It might interest you to know that your refrigerator does not draw the highest amount of energy when running. Instead, it draws the highest when it turns on after a defrost cycle or you put it on for the first time. 

The duration your refrigerator runs varies due to several factors. These factors can be internal or external. 

In several cases, refrigerators will not shut off for days due to these reasons. And while you may think it is nothing serious, it helps to pay close attention and seek solutions. 

If your refrigerator runs too often and is worrisome, then you need the DIY tips and fixes that this video offers. Check it out!

How Long Does a Refrigerator Run Before It Shuts Off? Determining Factors

Here are the main factors that affect how long a refrigerator should run before shutting off:

  • Ambient temperature
  • Internal temperature
  • Weak or damaged door gaskets
  • Interior light

1. Ambient Temperature

 If you’ve ever used portable refrigerators, you would know that they work slowly under warmer conditions. 

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Just like these portable fridges, the running time of most refrigerators is also affected by the ambient temperature. 

This is why it is not uncommon to see refrigerators that run all the time in warm environments. 

This makes ventilation in such areas a necessity. So, just as experts advise, allow inches of space between your refrigerator and wall, cabinet or counter.  

It is also advisable to install your refrigerator in a cool corner of the house and not close to an appliance that releases heat.

2. Internal Temperature

Do you know that even if you turn the thermostat to the highest level, your refrigerator may still run longer than it should? 

How is this possible?

Firstly, the temperature of the items you keep in your fridge determines how long it runs. 

For instance, if you keep warm or hot foods in your fridge, the fridge will need to run to cool the hot foods down before chilling them. 

Moreover, because the internal temperature should be lower than the ambient temperature, offsetting the temperature of the fridge with warmer items keeps it functioning for longer periods.

What’s even more? Stuffing your refrigerator will also affect how long your refrigerator will run. 

This is why adequately spacing the items in your refrigerator is recommended because it allows better ventilation and quicker cooling. Alternatively, you may want to get a bigger refrigerator or a smaller one to support your existing fridge if it seems like you are already exceeding the capacity.

3. Weak or Damaged Door Gaskets 

A damaged door gasket prevents the refrigerator door from shutting properly. With a damaged door gasket, cold air will leak from your refrigerator. 

This may not be so obvious, but you may see moisture gathering or even water leaking from your refrigerator over time. 

Moreover, constantly opening your refrigerator to take out items will cause cold air to seep out. 

Obvious changes wouldn’t occur if you open your refrigerator once to get all the items you would need for some time. 

But remember that most times, your refrigerator only keeps running because it has not attained the desired temperature to keep your items cold.

4. Interior Light 

For every refrigerator that features an interior light, the light inside is expected to go off when the door is closed. 

If the interior light doesn’t go off when you close the door, it will produce heat in the fridge and result in your refrigerator running overtime. 

Does your Kenmore refrigerator shut off randomly without cooling? Check out the video below to learn how to deal with it:

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What to Do If Your Refrigerator Keeps Running

Here are some things you can do if your refrigerator keeps running:

  • Test and fix the defrost timer of the refrigerator.
  • Test the defrost heater.
  • Check and change the door gasket.

1. Testing and Fixing Defrost Timer 

The defrost timer is a mechanical or electronic device in your refrigerator. It regulates the defrost cycle. and is responsible for the refrigerator’s run time. If the defrost timer in your refrigerator is faulty, the refrigerator would continue running.

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To test the defrost timer of your refrigerator, turn off your refrigerator, locate the timer and remove it to test it. Using a multimeter, check for the readings from the timer. 

All readings should record zero or near zero which denotes continuity. If it gives a different reading, then you may need to replace your defrost timer.

AstroAI Digital Multimeter, TRMS 6000 Counts Volt Meter Manual Auto Ranging; Measures Voltage Tester, Current, Resistance; Tests Diodes, Transistors, Temperature

2. Testing the Defrost Heater

The defrost heater is usually controlled by the defrost termination thermostat and the defrost timer. It is responsible for the defrost process. So, if your defrost heater is faulty, you will need to change it.

To test the defrost heater in your refrigerator, turn off the fridge. Then, locate the heater under the refrigerator evaporator coils. Remove the heater carefully without cutting the wires. Then, take the readings with your multimeter. You should get a value between zero and infinity. If that’s not the value you see on the multimeter, it means your defrost heater is faulty and needs to be replaced. 

3. Changing the Door Gasket 

As mentioned above, when the gasket of your refrigerator door is faulty, your refrigerator would lose cold air and run for longer periods. Moisture would also build up around the shelves and the refrigerator door.

To check if your door gasket is bad, place a piece of paper between the refrigerator and the edge of the door. Then, pull the paper. If the paper slips out easily without any resistance, it means the gasket is bad and needs to be changed.

There are many other processes you can carry out when your refrigerator keeps running without stopping. They include testing the defrost termination thermostat and checking the condenser and evaporator fan motors.

Frigidaire 241872513 Gasket

For How Long Can an Auto Defrost Function Be Off?

A fridge’s automatic defrost function can be off for as long as 12 hours as the defrost runs for about thirty to forty-five minutes. The defrost cycle depends on the fridge brand, but it typically starts from thirty minutes. Afterward, the cooling cycle resumes its functions and the fridge can cool again.

Quick Recap – How Long Should a Refrigerator Run Before Shutting Off?

A refrigerator should run for 4 to 8 hours before shutting off and going into the defrost cycle. However, there are several factors that determine how long your refrigerator would run before shutting off. They include internal and ambient temperatures, as well as, how often you keep warm foods in the refrigerator or how often you open the refrigerator door. 

Related FAQs – How Long Should a Refrigerator Run Before Shutting Off?

1. How Long Should a Fridge Run When First Plugged In?

Usually, a refrigerator that is plugged in for the first time will run for about 24 hours. The reason a refrigerator will run for 24 hours after the first startup is to reach a stable cold temperature.

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However, before you plug in a refrigerator for the first time, it is good practice to leave it unplugged and upright for 4 hours before you start to load it with your food items. Also, ensure that your food items are cool and not warm before you place them in the fridge. This will preserve the efficiency of the fridge because the compressor won’t need to expend so much energy to cool the items down.

2. Why Does My Refrigerator Never Stop Running?

Here are 10 possible reasons your refrigerator will never stop running:

  1. You keep warm foods in the refrigerator frequently.
  2. There is direct sunlight on the refrigerator.
  3. The door of the refrigerator is opened often.
  4. The door gasket is defective.
  5. The temperature in the environment is warm.
  6. The condenser coil of the refrigerator is dirty.
  7. There is a foreign object on the condenser fan motor blade.
  8. The condenser fan motor or the evaporator fan motor is bad
  9. The defrost heater or defrost timer is faulty.
  10. The main control board is defective.

3. Do Refrigerators Run Better Full or Empty?

While it is true that it will take more energy for a refrigerator to cool down as more items are added to it, once a full fridge is cooled down to a set temperature, it will use up less energy to maintain the temperature.

The cold food in a full refrigerator will take up the space of the cold air that will be abundant in an empty refrigerator. This means there is relatively less air to rush out of the fridge when the door is open. It also means that the fridge will do less work to cool down to the set temperature after closing the fridge.

So, it only makes sense to run an empty fridge if you have no intention of opening it ever. However, it makes much more sense not to run a fridge if you don’t plan to use it at all.

If you do use your refrigerator occasionally but you don’t like to fill it up, then you can place bottles of water in the fridge. The bottles of water will act as ballast to ensure that the fridge expends less energy to maintain a set temperature.

So, when it comes to making a choice between a full fridge or an empty one, it is better to run a refrigerator full than empty.

4. Can I Turn Off My Refrigerator at Night?

You shouldn’t turn off your refrigerator at night. This is because you will be putting the safety of the food items at risk if the temperature in the refrigerator goes below the FDA-approved 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Moreover, refrigerators are designed to stay on all the time and run for 80 to 90% of the time. So, you really won’t be saving energy when you turn off your refrigerator for a while because the fridge will only consume more energy to cool down when you turn it on again.

4. Should a Fridge Be Silent?

A refrigerator should not be silent because the compressor should produce some sound when it runs. However, a refrigerator should be quiet.

That said, for a good number of modern refrigerators, a noise range of 32 to 47 dB is considered normal. A refrigerator with a noise level that is lower than 40 dB is a really quiet one.

However, what someone may consider quiet may be loud for another person. So, it is better to confirm the noise level of your refrigerator by checking the technical specifications in the refrigerator manual.

If a refrigerator is silent such that you can’t hear as much as a low gentle hum, it is very likely that the compressor or some other component is bad.

That said, a clanking, scratchy, or any other unusual noise should also not go unchecked.

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