How Long Can A Refrigerator Stay Unplugged?

Finding ways to conserve energy throughout your home is always a good idea. Are you thinking of unplugging your refrigerator during an extended vacation or at night but don't know how long is too long? Well, we've done plenty of research and have all of the answers here for you. Let's get right into it.

In general, you don't want to leave a refrigerator with food inside for more than four hours. Leaving your refrigerator unplugged while items are inside can lead to them spoiling, as well as harmful bacteria forming.

That said, if your refrigerator is empty and you won't be home for a week or so, you are completely fine to unplug it from the wall.

As we begin, we will cover all things refrigerators and discuss when it's safe to unplug one. Whether you want to cut down on your energy bill or want to travel the world, we're here to offer some help. With that said, let's dive into this post!

A double door refrigerator with white aluminum paneled cabinets, How Long Can A Refrigerator Stay Unplugged?

Is It OK To Leave My Refrigerator Unplugged?

Although turning off the fridge during the night or if it's cold out may seem helpful, doing this isn't always a good idea. Besides the fact that food will begin to spoil inside a refrigerator after four hours, plugging and unplugging your appliance too often can lead to it needing to work harder.

Luxurious modern white and stainless kitchen

This essentially means you'll end up using more energy, thus a larger monthly bill. However, if you won't be home for a few weeks and have an empty fridge, we think it's fine to unplug it.

Again, this comes down to your situation and the amount of food in your fridge.

How Long Can You Keep A Refrigerator Unplugged?

Typically, you can safely have a refrigerator unplugged for 3-4 hours. Like we said, after four hours, bacteria will start to form and multiply on your food.

This can be problematic for meat, fish, and dairy, as they will spoil. On the other hand, if you don't have food stored inside your appliance and decide to unplug it, you could keep it turned off for months on end.

Furthermore, frozen items should be able to last about 24-48 hours in an unplugged fridge, so they can hold out much longer.

This can come in handy if you experience power loss, so count on four hours for the fridge and up to 48 hours in the freezer.

What Happens If You Unplug A Refrigerator?

When you unplug a refrigerator, you essentially stop it from actively cooling your food. Doing this will increase temperature, becoming a breeding ground for harmful pathogens.

Moisture will also start to increase and become trapped inside an unplugged fridge. This can create an even worse situation for your food, as bacteria thrive in warm, wet conditions.

Additionally, you may even start to notice a bad smell or odor develop in an unplugged fridge. This can be spoiled food and mildew from the excess moisture, so unplugging a refrigerator isn't usually worth it.

Does It Damage A Refrigerator To Leave It Unplugged?

No. In general, it won't damage a fridge to unplug it. As we mentioned earlier, unplugging a refrigerator while you're away can be a great way to cut back on energy usage.

As long as there isn't food inside, leaving a fridge unplugged for a few weeks (or months) won't negatively affect it. However, plugging and unplugging a fridge too frequently/quickly could cause damage to its internal systems, so that's something to be mindful of.

Will Unplugging A Fridge Reset It?

A refrigerator socket

For those wondering if unplugging a fridge also works as a reset, this is true. Generally, unplugging your refrigerator and waiting around ten minutes will work as a reset.

This can be useful if your appliance isn't functioning correctly. With that said, it is important that you leave your refrigerator unplugged for several minutes, as this is the only way a reset will successfully happen.

Plugging and unplugging a fridge too fast can damage it and won't reset anything at all.

Should I Unplug My Refrigerator If It Isn't Cooling?

If your refrigerator isn't cooling down, unplugging it could work. As we covered, unplugging your appliance for up to ten minutes will reset it, which may fix your cooling issue.

However, a refrigerator that won't cool usually means something is wrong with its condenser coils, so that's a good place to check. Typically, these coils will become clogged with ice or debris, which you need to clean for your fridge to cool down again.

Furthermore, there could also be something wrong with your refrigerator's motor, compressor, or fan, which in that case, requires a replacement or repair.

Should I Unplug My Garage Refrigerator In The Winter?

If the temperature inside your garage drops below 35 degrees, it is a good idea to unplug the fridge. That said, this applies to those who aren't actively using their appliance, as food can still spoil inside.

On top of that, you want to unplug your refrigerator if you only plan to use it for the water dispenser/ice maker. Additionally, if you have water running to your fridge, unplugging it during the winter could result in a burst water line, so this isn't always the best thing.

Considering that a refrigerator won't function correctly if the temperature outside is below 30-40 degrees, unplugging it is sometimes the only viable option.

How Do I Keep My Garage Refrigerator From Freezing?

For those with a fridge in the garage, there are a few ways to keep it from freezing. First, you want to make sure your refrigerator is near a heat source.

Placing a space heater a few feet from your fridge will help it continue working. Doing this can also keep its water line from freezing/bursting.

You can also try purchasing a secondary winter thermostat system for your refrigerator and placing it near the space heater, as this will trick your fridge into working through freezing weather.

How Do You Store An Unplugged Refrigerator?

Woman cleaning the tray of the refrigerator

The best way to store an unplugged refrigerator is to empty it and make sure you leave the door slightly open. Like we covered, moisture will begin to form inside an unplugged fridge, which can lead to mildew.

A good way to prevent this is by giving your refrigerator doors about an inch of opening during storage. This will allow the moisture to escape rather than breed bacteria, so we recommend it.

Furthermore, you want to make sure and clean your refrigerator thoroughly before unplugging and storing it to prevent rodents and bugs from making it their new home.

How Do You Keep A Refrigerator From Molding While Unplugged?

An easy way to prevent molding in an unplugged fridge is by propping the door(s) open. Like mildew, mold will also form and multiply in an enclosed, damp space, so the more fresh air, the better.

You can do this using tape, a chair, or any heavy object that will keep your fridge open and circulating air while unplugged.

We also think it's a good idea to keep an unplugged fridge somewhere dry and protected from the outdoor elements for storage. The garage or a storage unit will work best, so consider those options.

Will A Refrigerator Work After Being Unplugged For Years?

Two single door refrigerator in the kitchen

As long as your fridge was working before you unplugged it, you should be able to turn it back on after a few years. Of course, this can vary depending on how well you maintain your unplugged appliance, so everyone is different.

That said, your fridge could need a minute to reboot itself, so once you plug it back into the wall, wait about 30-60 minutes. You also want to inspect your appliance before powering it on, looking for any exposed wires, damage, or signs of exterior/interior moisture.

Plugging in a defective or damaged fridge can be dangerous, so if you aren't 100% sure everything is in good working order, we don't recommend turning your refrigerator back on.

Is It Bad To Leave A Fridge Unplugged?

Although it isn't necessarily bad to leave a fridge unplugged, this can depend. In general, you don't want to try unplugging a refrigerator for more than four hours.

After that timeframe, food will start to expire inside an unplugged fridge, which you'll have to throw away. However, if you remove the food from inside your appliance and want to store it long-term, unplugging it is entirely safe.

To Wrap It All Up

A double door refrigerator with white aluminum paneled cabinets

Whether you want to save some energy at night or have a long trip coming up, knowing how long a fridge can stay unplugged is essential. From what we found, you can typically leave a fridge unplugged for up to four hours with food inside.

If there isn't food present, you are safe to unplug your fridge for months, even years. We recommend placing a space heater nearby for those wanting to keep their fridge on through winter. Doing this will allow your fridge to operate, even in freezing temperatures.

Regardless, make sure to prop open the door(s) of your refrigerator while storing it, and don't forget to give your appliance a deep clean before unplugging it.

Made it to the end? Check out these helpful related kitchen posts below!

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Can A Refrigerator Be Transported On Its Side Or Back?

Does The Refrigerator Water Maker Affect The Ice Maker?

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