Maybe you got a new freezer, or perhaps you recently lost power in your home. It can be challenging to determine how long you should wait to put food in a brand-new freezer after plugging it in. You don’t want your food to spoil, after all.

It takes around 4 hours for a freezer to get cold enough to reach the FDA-recommended temperature of 0º F (-18º C) after plugging it in. The average time it takes for a freezer to reach recommended temperatures depends on its type and size, but generally, most take 4 to 5 hours.

The estimates above are based on averages, and actually, freezer-refrigerator combos take much longer than that. The rest of this article will discuss this topic and its related subjects in-depth, like how cold a freezer should be, when you can put frozen food in it, and more. Let’s dive in! 

How Cold Should a Freezer Be?

Refrigerators and freezers help consumers keep perishable groceries at the proper temperature to reduce the chance of spoilage and waste. However, how cold does it need to be?

A freezer is considered at a safe temperature when it reaches 0º F. The FDA recommends these temperatures to help prevent bacteria growth on your food since these harmful microorganisms can cause foodborne illness. 

Lower temperatures help reduce and slow the growth of bacteria. However, when the temperature in a freezer is too high, bacteria can grow and increase the risk of spoiled food leading to food-borne illness if consumed.

So, you shouldn’t ever put food in a lukewarm freezer. Using a thermometer to measure the temp is usually the best way to keep you and your food safe.

When Can I Put Frozen Food in a New Freezer?

With the possibility of food spoilage and bacteria growth in mind, you may be curious about how long it will take before you can put food into your new or recently plugged-in freezer.

You can put frozen food in a new freezer after waiting a minimum of 4 hours after powering up the device. After the 4 hour mark, you should touch the inside of the freezer to ensure it feels cold before storing food inside the unit.

If your freezer unit feels cool but not cold, you may want to wait several more hours before adding food to make sure that it will keep your perishables safe and free of contamination. 

General Electric (GE) recommends a four-hour wait time for upright and chest freezers. However, if you have a freezer-refrigerator combo unit, you may need to wait up to 24 hours from plugging it in before adding food.

If you plan on purchasing a new refrigerator or freezer, keep in mind that there is a wait time before you can put it to use. Try not to buy groceries in bulk until your unit is ready to store them to prevent bacteria growth and food waste. 

Will an Empty Freezer Get Cold?

If you’re trying to think of tricks to get your new or recently plugged-in freezer appliance to get to temperature faster, you might be wondering if keeping it empty will help it cool down more quickly.

An empty freezer will get cold, but not as fast as a stocked freezer. The truth is, a full freezer retains cold more efficiently than an empty freezer. In addition, a supply of frozen food inside a freezer helps keep the unit from having to work harder to keep the space cold. 

However, if your freezer is new, you don’t want to jam-pack it with food to get it colder faster.

Without the proper temperature, food can quickly become spoiled and gross. In addition, consuming food with bacteria growth can lead to food-borne illness, so it’s essential to follow all safety instructions provided by the manufacturer. 

Also, leave adequate space inside your freezer to ensure proper air circulation. 

Do Freezers Need Time to Settle?

If this isn’t your first time purchasing a freezer or fridge freezer, you’ll already be familiar with the advice about letting it settle after you put it down again before turning the appliance on. However, ever wondered why or if this is even a necessary step?

Freezers need time to settle after transport. If you transport a freezer on its side, you must let it sit upright for the same amount of time as it was on its side, up to 24 hours max. However, if you transport a freezer in the upright position, no settling time is required before turning it on.

According to GE Appliances, the best transportation method for freezers is to keep them upright. However, if it is impossible to get the appliance to its final destination, then transport it on its side as a last resort. 

If you have to transport your refrigerator on its side, it’s vital to make sure to place it on the same side as its compressor.

Why Do You Have to Let a Freezer Sit Before Plugging It In?

So, maybe you’re moving your appliance, or you just installed a new one. Either way, you might find yourself wondering why you have to wait so long before you can use it.

You have to let a freezer sit before plugging it in because liquids such as coolant and water can move inside the device’s frame when the chest is tilted. Running it while the internal fluids are displaced can damage the freezer’s electrical components.

Your freezer can be damaged if it does not settle after being on its side. Usually, waiting 24 hours before powering up ensures that the device is safe to use.

When you transport your freezer, it’s recommended to keep the appliance upright. If this isn’t possible, you should lay it down on the same side as the appliance’s compressor. Also, ensure that you secure the door to prevent it from opening during transport.

Once you have your freezer in its final location, allow it to sit upright for the same amount of time that it was lying on its side, or up to 24 hours minimum.

This settling period is recommended to keep your freezer in proper working condition. If you fail to let the appliance sit after transporting it on its side, this could cause costly damages to your machine. 

During transport, oil or refrigerant can leak inside the device, which will create blockages and malfunctions if you plug it in prematurely.

However, if you allow adequate time for the appliance to settle, the device’s internal components will likely stay in proper working order. So, don’t turn on your freezer until it has settled for the same amount of time it was on its side.

Still, you should always read the manufacturer’s instructions before installing or moving your unit. 

What Happens if You Plug a Freezer in Immediately?

As previously mentioned, plugging in a freezer immediately after it’s been delivered, installed, or moved, is generally okay if the appliance has remained in the upright position during the entire transport. However, if it was on its side, then the question of when to turn it on gets a little complicated.

If you plug in a freezer immediately after delivery and installation, compressor oil leakage can occur, creating costly damages to the internal components of the appliance.

Most refrigerators and freezers are supposed to remain in the upright position. However, if the unit simply has to be transported horizontally to get to its final location, it’s crucial to take some considerations into account before turning it on.

Some models warn consumers not to put their refrigerators or freezers on their sides at all because doing so could put the compressor brackets under extreme strain that the design wasn’t intended to absorb. 

Laying a refrigerator flat on its back can cause significant damage to the unit’s internal mechanisms. Thus, you must do it on the same side as the unit’s compressor if you transport the fridge or freezer horizontally.  

Transporting these types of appliances can be a daunting task. In addition, these units are expensive, so you want to maintain the unit’s integrity without damaging it. To do so, it would be best to follow the manufacturer’s guidance and instructions, usually available on their website. 

For detailed transporting instructions, check out this article from GE Appliances. 

Some models of refrigerators and freezers cannot be transported horizontally, though. Those models include french-door, bottom-freezer, compact, and built-in models. These units must remain upright at all times to prevent drain water from flowing into the appliance.

While the models listed above should always remain upright, it is okay if they are slightly tilted in transport, for example, on a dolly, but should otherwise remain in the standing position. 


Before you transport your current or install a new freezer or fridge, make sure to plan. You’ll need to wait a few hours for your freezer to get cold, and you might have to wait even longer if you tilted your fridge during transportation.

If you realize that you will have to transport the unit horizontally, let it settle before plugging it in. From there, you’ll have to let the appliance get to the proper temperature before you begin using it.

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