With your refrigerator being one of the most important appliances in the kitchen, refrigerator efficiency matters. You want to do everything you can to make sure it keeps working the way it’s supposed to. You want to make sure that your refrigerator temperature is working. There has long been a debate as to whether you should put hot food in the fridge. The FDA’s stance is that leftovers need to be refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours to prevent spoilage. This would mean that you would need to put leftovers away hot, or at best, warm. But, what is the real cost of putting hot food in the fridge?

Cost of Putting Hot Food in the Fridge

Impact on Your Refrigerator

One common misconception is that if you put hot food directly into your refrigerator you will damage the appliance. The reality is that with most modern refrigerators, you won’t actually damage the appliance. However, you will cause the energy efficiency of the appliance to go down while the food cools.

The energy efficiency of your refrigerator is affected as a result of the temperature spike that occurs by putting hot food inside. Because your fridge is warmer, it needs to work harder to bring it down to the set temperature. This puts stress on your refrigerator’s compressor. Over time your compressor can fail if you put hot food in the fridge repeatedly, leave the refrigerator door open for long periods, or overfill the fridge.

Older Models

Even though it’s safe to put hot foods in modern refrigerators, it’s not the case for every fridge. As mentioned, refrigerator efficiency also depends on the model. You should exercise caution when putting hot food in older refrigerators. Older fridges simply aren’t as powerful as modern ones. This means it can take them longer to cool back down and even cause them to reach unsafe levels. A warm refrigerator could mean trouble when it comes to food safety, essentially compromising the hot food you put into the fridge as well as anything else that was inside. Therefore, if you have an older fridge it’s still a good idea to cool leftovers before putting them inside.

Food Safety

Ideally, your refrigerator should be 35°- 38°F and your freezer should be 0°- 3°F. Keeping your refrigerator at these temperatures will help ensure your food remains safe. When you have temperature spikes, you run the risk of getting out of those temperature ranges. This is problematic as it puts food in the “danger zone.” The danger zone is between 40°-140°F, which is when bacteria can thrive. You want to minimize the amount of time (less than 2 hours) your food spends in the danger zone to minimize the risk of food poisoning. Remember to always consider refrigerator safety as it impacts your food safety.

How to Minimize Hot Food in the Fridge

Split Your Leftovers for Better Refrigerator Efficiency

So if you have hot leftovers what should you do with them? If you have a newer refrigerator, you could simply stick them inside. However, for the sake of its efficiency, consider splitting your leftovers into smaller containers. You could even go a step further and place these containers in an ice bath in the sink to cool off leftovers quicker to keep their time in the danger zone to a minimum.

Improve Your Kitchen’s Efficiency

Your kitchen is likely one of your most used rooms in your home, so it’s important to consider how you can improve the overall efficiency of your appliances used in the space. Simple steps like avoiding placing hot food in your fridge and leaving enough space inside for air to circulate can go a long way in easing the stress on your fridge’s compressor, improving its overall efficiency.

If you’re looking for more ways to save energy in your kitchen or have any other questions feel free to reach out to our team of qualified, professional electricians at 206-542-0208 or request an appointment today!