What is the Correct Refrigerator Temperature?
The proper refrigerator temperature is usually set by a national authority. Then local authorities can set a lower temperature requirement. Some chains set even a stricter requirement.
The United States Food and Drug Administration set the maximum refrigerator temperature at 41 Degrees Fahrenheit.
That temperature is the maximum for the actual product being refrigerated. This is often confused for the air temperature. The air temperature may fluctuate but the product temperature must remain at 41 or lower.
The colder the product, the longer it will last. That makes 38 Degrees a more optimum temperature. A unit set at 38 Degrees might come on at 38 Degrees and shut off at 35 Degrees. Temperatures below 35 Degrees require a forced defrost cycle. You can learn more about this on the Freezer Temperature page.
Three Things That Can Make a Properly Operating Box Too Warm
The air must be able to flow throughout the whole box to cool the entire product. If the box is overloaded the air will re-circulate without cooling everything. A good example of this is putting a baking sheet on a reach in shelf. Everything below it warms and everything above it is at the proper temperature. The unit is operating properly, it is being misused.
Placing too much hot food in the box will cause the box and other product in the box to warm. Most restaurant coolers are made to hold product at the proper temperature. Blast coolers have about 14 times the refrigerating capacity as holding coolers and cost much more. Food can be cooled in an ice bath before placing in the refrigerator.
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A Box That is too Warm is a Potential Disaster
When a box is too warm for a long period of time, it runs constantly. It may be running all the time because of the reasons above. Maybe it is doing it because the thermostat is turned too low or the condenser is dirty. In any case, the same disaster results.
In normal operation the evaporator (10 degrees colder that the air) builds up frost while the compressor runs. When the box reaches proper temperature, the compressor cuts off and the box air defrosts the evaporator.
If the unit never reaches proper refrigerator temperature, the compressor never cuts off and the evaporator never defrosts. Soon the ice on the evaporator makes the unit run all the time even if the original problem is corrected. If the process is not stopped, compressor failure will result.
For much more detailed information about refrigerator temperature visit the cold food storage page. cold food storage
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