10 tips to keep your freezer running strong all summer long

How to set and maintain the ideal freezer temperature for peak performance

Freezer summer temperature: Key tips to remember

  • How cold should a freezer be? At or below zero degrees Fahrenheit.
  • How cold should a refrigerator be? Between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • If you suspect inaccurate temperature readings, use a thermometer inside
  • Avoid freezer burn by adequately sealing all food packages before freezing
  • Don’t overfill your freezer, and save at least 25% of space for circulation

Wondering what temperature a freezer should be set to? If your freezer isn’t not freezing, you may want to check out our guide to refrigerator maintenance. Since you’re here, you’re probably dealing with an old freezer and wondering if it still works properly, or maybe you’ve just purchased a new freezer and want to learn about appropriate settings. Maybe you’re considering a full-size freezer purchase to augment your cold-storage options, or maybe you’re searching for a few best practices for getting the best freezer performance possible. Whatever freezer-related decisions you’re facing, we’ve got all the helpful “temp for freezer” guidance you’ll need.

Target temperature

What temperature should a freezer be set to? The North American consensus, which includes the public opinions of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its Canadian counterpart, Health Canada, is to set the typical home freezer at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit. This might seem counterintuitive and lower than expected because water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this colder setting ensures that all foods are fully frozen, preventing bacteria growth and food deterioration. If you’re not already keeping your freezer this cold, you might notice a slight hardening of your ice cream, but it’s worth it.

Accurate readings

If you suspect that your freezer temperature readout is inaccurate, you might be right. Some older models don’t even have an actual readout and instead only feature general settings, like high, medium and low, or a range, like between 1 and 5. It can be tough to tell what temperature the freezer reaches. The solution, thankfully, is an easy one. You can use an inexpensive thermometer left inside the closed freezer for about 20 minutes to find out the temperature. Once you know, you can adjust accordingly to be sure you’re hitting the desired number.

Freezer burn

Freezer burn can negatively impact the flavor and texture of frozen foods. The first thing to know about freezer burn is that it’s not something that occurs because your freezer temperature is set too low. Instead, it is caused by air exposure when food is wrapped inadequately before freezing. Make sure to wrap your frozen foods carefully and use airtight containers. Also, thoroughly thawing any frozen foods before cooking can help avoid the burn.

Air circulation

Once you’ve determined that you have the right temperature and take the steps to prevent freezer burn, you need to consider air circulation. Your freezer requires sufficient airflow to maintain steady and consistent temperatures throughout its available space. When you’re trying to stock up, overstuffing your freezer can be counterproductive, especially if you block the fan and prevent airflow. For best results, try to use no more than approximately 75% of available space.


Today’s freezers boast an automatic defrosting feature, so many of us don’t have to worry about ice building up inside the freezer. However, ice buildup can become a real problem for those of us who still use older models. It can also be a leading indicator that your freezer setting is too cold. If regular defrosting and temperature adjustments aren’t solving an ice-buildup problem, it’s probably time to upgrade to a more modern freezer system that doesn’t accumulate ice (except in the ice maker).

Cool first

Don’t ever add warm food to your freezer (or even to your refrigerator). Doing so puts a strain on the system that requires a spike in energy usage and expense. It also runs the risk of unwanted bacterial growth and unnecessarily adds wear and tear to the appliance. Simply let foods cool before putting them into the freezer or fridge.

Closing doors

If you want to get the most bang for your utility-bill buck, don’t stand there with the freezer or refrigerator door open as you actively wonder what might be nice to eat or drink. All you’re doing is making it harder on the appliance, requiring it to use more energy to reorient its temperature settings. This causes it to wear out faster and you to spend more money. Get out of this habit.

Rotating stock

Speaking of habits, a great one to get into when using your freezer is to rotate stock, just as you’d do in the fridge, or even in your pantry or kitchen cabinets with dry foods. You always want to use the older stuff first, so rotate your stock. Simply put, this means that when you buy new versions of something you haven’t run out of yet, put the new stuff behind the old stuff. This way, you use up the old stuff first and keep yourself well within all your expiration dates.

Checking seals

If you’re having any problems maintaining your freezer temperature or have noticed a spike in your electric bills, you may also want to investigate the gasket seal around the door. Over time, door seals can become brittle or damaged. Without a proper seal, your freezer isn’t going to function as intended. Maintaining this gasket seal is important, just as it is on your refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer. Replacing a gasket seal on a freezer door is an inexpensive, DIY fix that you can take care of in a few minutes.

How long will it keep?

There’s technically no limit to how long you can keep food frozen in your freezer at home. Assuming ideal conditions — with no leaks, air exposure or technical malfunction — food could keep indefinitely. The thing is, taste and texture will never improve over a long haul in the deep freeze. Inevitably, these two arguably essential qualities are going to decline over time.

Thanks for reading our post on freezer temperature tips. If you’re still wondering about what’s wrong with your freezer or whether a home warranty covers your refrigerator, we have plenty more posts on these and a wide variety of other useful home-improvement topics. Thanks for stopping by!

The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.

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