How Often Should a Freezer Cycle On and Off?


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We hear the sound most of the time without even realizing it: the hum of our freezer. But how often should it actually be running? 

A fairly new freezer should run about 80-90 percent of the time. An older freezer may only run about 50 percent of the time. The average cycle time is 30 minutes. You can control this through varying factors such as the temperature of the room and what is stored inside your freezer.

Throughout this article, you will find out why a freezer cycles on and off, and contributing factors to a freezer’s run-time. You will also learn when you should be worried about your freezer, reasons for an unusual run-time, and how to fix possible issues. I will also discuss ways to decrease run time and conserve your freezer’s energy, cutting your energy bill costs.

How often should a freezer cycle on and off

What Is a Compressor?

The reasoning behind your freezer running has to do with its compressor turning on and off. The more it turns on, the harder the compressor has to work. 

Every time your compressor turns on, it draws in cold refrigerant vapor and puts pressure on it. When the gas is compressed, the temperature rises. This hot gas is then pushed into the refrigerator coils. 

When the hot gas reaches the coils, it cools, turning into a liquid. The liquid gas then heads to the expansion valve, where it is forced through a small hole and converted to a cold mist, cooling down the freezer.

The gas then draws heat out of the freezer and heads back to the compressor to start the cycle over again.

Contributing Factors to Freezer Run Time

Although the average cycle for a freezer is about 30 minutes, the run time can fluctuate depending on certain factors. Here are five factors that contribute to a freezer’s run time:

  • The temperature of the room. Where you place your freezer in your house can affect how often it will need to run. The hotter the area, the longer the run time. If you place your freezer in a very hot or humid area, the run time can be almost 100 percent of the time, so try to place it in a cool area.
  • Amount of food in the freezer. You want to keep your freezer about ¾ full at all times. This way, when you open the door, the cold air that the food emits will keep the freezer cool enough so that the freezer won’t have to cycle on again. If you leave your freezer empty, it will have to cycle on to reach the designated temperature. If you overstuff your freezer, you may block the air vent, causing a longer run time.
  • Warm or hot food. Putting warm or hot food inside a freezer will decrease the temperature inside, therefore causing the compressor to turn on.
  • Amount of time the freezer is left open. The more you leave the freezer door open, the more it will run. 
  • A broken part. A broken gasket or coil, or a blocked vent can also contribute to run time. A broken part may cause a freezer to run constantly.

How to Know if Your Freezer Is on the Fritz

Most of us have probably gotten used to the dull hum of our freezer by now, but paying attention to your freezer’s on, and off-cycle is an important first step in diagnosing an issue. It may be cause for concern if:

  • Your freezer is constantly running. Your freezer should be running about 80-90 percent of the time. If it’s running 100 percent of the time, then something’s wrong.
  • Your freezer cycles on and off every few minutes. Your freezer’s compressor should, on average, turn on every 30 minutes. If it’s more than this, you may have an issue.
  • Your freezer has stopped running. Something may be wrong with your compressor or another part of your freezer, and it will not get cold.

Reasons for Unusual Run Time (and How to Fix Them)

If your freezer is constantly running, running too often, or not running at all, something may be wrong with a part. Here is a list of possible causes for the issues in run time:

  • Dirty or broken door gaskets. If something is wrong with your freezer’s door gasket, cold air may be escaping, and warm air may be seeping in. If the door gasket is dirty, you can clean it with a toothbrush dipped in a mixture of vinegar and water. If the door gasket is broken, you may need to replace it. You can buy a brand new Frigidaire Freezer Door Gasket here.
  • Dirty condenser coils. If your condenser coils are dirty, then your freezer will have to cycle on more frequently. The condenser coils are usually located on the bottom of the refrigerator in the back. Once you access them, you can use a vacuum attachment to suck out any dust, or you can use a Brushtech Refrigerator Coil Cleaning Brush.
  • Blocked air vents. Air needs to circulate in your freezer in order for it to work properly. Check your freezer’s air vents for any crumbs that may have accumulated. Once you rid your freezer of the blockage, it should run less.

How to Decrease a Freezer’s Run Time (and Keep Your Energy Bill Down)

The more a freezer’s compressor has to turn on, the more energy is expelled. Since about 16 percent of your electrical bill is from your freezer, you’ll want to conserve your energy as much as possible. Besides the ones mentioned above, like replacing your door gasket, here are five ways to keep your energy costs down:

  • Don’t put uncovered liquids in your freezer. Putting a liquid in your freezer that is uncovered will cause excess moisture, making your freezer cycle on more.
  • Check the temperature. Setting your freezer at the right temperature will help keep costs down. The best temperature to set your freezer at is 0 to 5°F or -18 to -15°C.
  • Arrange and organize your food. Not only will it improve the appearance of your freezer, but keeping your shelves organized will help to improve your energy costs. If you keep your food arranged in a certain way, you will spend less time with the door open.
  • Leave a few inches between the wall and your freezer. This will provide a constant stream of fresh air for your freezer’s condenser.
  • Keep an eye on your freezer’s frost accumulation. Some freezers have a built-in defrosting cycle, but if your freezer doesn’t, make sure you defrost it if the frost builds up to 1 cm (0.39 in) or about a quarter inch.

Defrosting Cycle

Between the normal on and off cycles of a freezer, there is a defrosting cycle. The purpose of this cycle is to melt any excess frost that has built up in your freezer.

After the freezer has reached a certain temperature, the compressor turns off completely. The heating coils turn on and remain on for 20 to 40 minutes.

Final Thoughts

Paying attention to the hum of your freezer is vitally important to its maintenance. You need to make sure that your freezer’s run time is normal, that it is cycling on and off about every 30 minutes, and is running about 80-90 percent of the time. This will not only extend the life of your freezer but will actually help to cut energy costs. If your freezer’s runtime is unusual, however, don’t fret. There are many ways to ratify this yourself without breaking the bank.

Alanna Greene

Alanna is an avid traveler who lives in Michigan. In addition to writing for Temperature Master, she also sells crafts on Etsy and takes long walks through the forests near her home.

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