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Refrigerator Runs Every 20 Minutes? (Read This First)

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Last updated on August 14th, 2022 at 01:27 pm

A refrigerator is the number one household equipment for preserving the food in any modern-day home.

However, most homeowners would like to believe that the fridge is not just any impassive equipment meant to be placed unchecked in the corner of the house.

A fact that has not gone unnoticed by many refrigerator owners is that the fridge seems to trip on and then off after some time. Therefore, it is only natural to know the reasons for this occurrence.

A refrigerator runs on an average of 20 to 30 minutes for each cycle. A series of processes occur during the operation of a fridge. Newly designed refrigerators can have refrigerator cycles 90% of the time, while older versions can have these cycles over 50% of the time. During these cycles, the compressor turns on and cools the air in the refrigerator compartment.

Why Do Refrigerators Turn On and Off Frequently?

The event in which a refrigerator turns on and off frequently is called a cycle. Cycles happen because the fridge is trying to maintain its temperature.

For a refrigerator to perform its function ideally, its internal temperature must be lower than the temperature outside the fridge.

Therefore, cycles result from the fridge trying to regulate the difference in these temperatures.

Although an estimated time a refrigerator cycle runs, it is not perfectly uniform. This is because the duration of refrigerator cycles might vary from one refrigerator to another.

In addition, various factors can increase or decrease the frequency with which a fridge turns on and off.

The following are a couple of such elements.

#1. Frequency of Door Openings

Naturally, the air inside a refrigerator is a whole lot cooler than the air outside it.

However, when opening the refrigerator door to take out or put in something, air from outside seeps into the refrigerator compartment and saturates the cold air.

This means that the temperature inside the fridge has shifted from its ideal point. This triggers the compressor to begin another cycle to make the air cooler.

In homes with many family members, they would open the refrigerator door more frequently, and the air in the fridge would get even warmer as a result.

The more times the refrigerator door is opened, the less remarkable the air in the fridge gets.

The refrigerator goes into cycles more frequently to make the air colder to cancel this effect. This factor increases how a fridge in this situation goes into cycles.

On the flip side, there are fewer cycles in homes where the refrigerator door does not open as frequently.

This is because the cold air inside the refrigerator compartment does not get saturated by the less cool air from outside.

#2. Empty Refrigerator

Contrary to popular belief, the refrigerator requires more power to cool the air in an empty compartment than a packed fridge.

Therefore, when the refrigerator is empty, there is more room for cold air to escape at the slightest chance.

The refrigerator then tries to make up for this loss by going into more cycles to maintain a low and stable temperature.

In a full fridge, less air escapes because food items retain the cold air in them. This means the refrigerator cycles are less frequent.

#3. Warm Surroundings

In hot and humid areas, the air outside the refrigerator is hot and this, in one way or the other, gets into the refrigerator compartment.

As a result, the fridge constantly works to keep the temperature low, which means the cycles will be more frequent.

In cases where the refrigerator is exposed to direct sunlight, the surrounding heat would drastically increase. As a result, it will require even more power and cycles to keep the refrigerator cold.

#4. Obstructed Air Vents.

A full fridge keeps the air within cold, but cold air could block the air vents when the refrigerator’s contents are cramped.

When this happens, the air in the fridge remains warm, and the compressor goes through many cycles to lower the temperature.

This does not solve the problem, as the cold air never reaches the fridge compartment because of the blocked air vents, no matter how frequent the refrigerator cycles are.

Continuous running of the compressor could lead to overheating. Overheating could, in turn, escalate and cause many faults in the refrigerator.

#5. Hot Food.

Storing steaming hot food in the refrigerator drastically heats the air inside it. In response, the fridge increases the frequency of its cycles to stabilize the temperature to a cooler point.

As a result, a refrigerator always full of hot food is more prone to frequently turning on and off, and eventually, other faults.

#6. Interior Light.

The light in the refrigerator is a source of heat. This is why it turns off the moment the refrigerator door is shut.

If, as a result of faults in the refrigerator, the lights remain on even when the fridge is closed, it begins to warm up the air in the food compartment.

To dispel this heat, you should trigger the refrigerator into going into cycles more frequently to cool the air.

On this note, even a minor fault like malfunctioning lights can be a factor that affects the cycle frequency of a refrigerator.

Typical Refrigerator Duty Cycle?

The typical duty cycle for a refrigerator is 50 percent for a steady difference between the temperatures of the internal part of the fridge and the external surroundings.

For a nonsteady temperature difference, the duty cycle is 40 percent. A duty cycle is when a load is on compared to the time it is off. It is shown as the percentage of the time it is on.

For example, this means that when the duty cycle of a refrigerator is 50 percent, it can provide power and stay on for half of its cycle time.

The duty cycle of a refrigerator heavily depends on the temperature of its surroundings.

For example, the duty cycles of a refrigerator in a hot region would be vastly different from that of a fridge in a cold area.

How Long Does a Refrigerator Run Before it Shuts Off?

A refrigerator typically runs between 8 to 12 hours straight before shutting off.

A refrigerator as a whole is designed to remain powered 80 to 90 percent of the time, so this applies to the compressor. 

After cooling for a prolonged period, ice begins to form in the refrigerator. In some refrigerators, the compressor automatically stops for melting of the ice to take place.

While in older refrigerators, it has to be done manually.

How Many Hours Does A Refrigerator Run Per Day?

A refrigerator can run for 12 hours per day. A 90 percent run time is usually guaranteed with newer designs of refrigerators. Within this time, it would complete a minimum of five cycles.

Anytime the refrigerator notices an adverse change in temperature, it is forced to go through a process.

How Long Should A Refrigerator Run Between Cycles?

A refrigerator should generally run for four hours between each defrost cycle.

In this cycle, the icicles formed from the cooling processes begin to be melted off due to the heat generated as the compressor shuts off.

As long as the stable temperature within the food compartment is maintained, there should be no cause for a shorter period between cycles.


Like any other household equipment, Refrigerators should be dutifully monitored and observed. You can easily ignore changes in cycles until it becomes a recurring problem.

Factors like dirty coils in the refrigerator and air leaks can also massively affect duty cycles and destabilize the cooling temperature in the food compartment.

However, you can easily prevent these by keeping the refrigerator coils clean and opening fewer fridge doors.

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