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What Number is The Coldest Setting On a Fridge?

Last updated on November 9th, 2023

TL;DR:  For 95 percent of fridges, turning the thermostat clockwise makes it colder.  Ignore the triangles, the numbers, the min and max.  Turn it clockwise to make it colder.  If you want to be 100 percent sure, read on for a more in depth test.

The Basics of Fridge Thermostats

It helps if you have at least a basic understanding of how a fridge thermostat operates when trying to figure out which way you want to turn it. 

  • On/Off Switch: The thermostat is essentially an on/off switch governed by the fridge’s internal temperature. It activates the compressor when it’s too warm and shuts it off when it’s cold enough, preventing short cycling.
  • Differential Temperature: The trigger temperature for turning off the compressor is not the same as turning it on, preventing short cycling, which can damage the compressor.
  • The 0 setting isore often found on mini fridges or bar fridges that operates a bit differently.  It’s essentially an off switch, and the warmest setting is 1, located right next to 0.

The coldest setting - min or max, 0-8 up or down?

You’d expect setting your fridge temperature to be straightforward, but manufacturers often throw in confusing labels.  Min and max.  Is it max temperature or max cooling?  Sometimes they are numbers. Is number 1 or number 7 setting hottest or coldest?  Is this degrees celcius?  Does 7 mean hotter than 1, or does it mean more cold? Little triangle pictograms are also common where it gets bigger and bigger.  We can’t begin to fathom what the designers of these fridges were thinking but here we are to see it through.  But as above, we can tell you to ignore all of it and just turn the thermostat clockwise to make it colder.

A Toolless Test (That Requires a Good Ear) To Be 100% Sure

  1. Max to Min: Start by turning the thermostat to what you believe is the hottest setting.
  2. Patience is Key: Wait for 2 hours.
  3. Listen Closely: Pay attention to the fridge compressor. When it’s silent, proceed.
  4. Twist and Listen: Gradually adjust the thermostat from the hottest to the coldest setting. You’ll hear a little “donk” from the thermostat when it triggers, and at the same time you should hear the compressor turn on. Wait a minimum 30 minutes between tests, if you want to retry, you can’t go again straight away, because of the thermostat’s differential temperature trigger, and the compressor overload switch.
  5. Reverse Psychology: If it’s not working, try the test in reverse, going from what you believe is the coldest to the hottest setting.
  6. The Final Check: If all else fails, consider that your thermostat may be faulty
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